BALANCE YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

For all the kids who are soon going to be entering adulthood, I just have this one advice. If you learn the art of balancing your circle of influence, you will grow up to be a really strong and mature adult.

This is something I learnt over the years of entering and maintaining adulthood. The range of emotions and experiences that an individual goes through while growing up is quite complex and the art of deriving learnings out of those experiences is not an easy task.

What is a circle of influence?

A circle of influence is a circle that constitutes all the things that can be controlled by an individual. When a baby is born, the circle of influence of that baby is really small – it constitutes crying for every survival need. That is all a baby can do. As the baby grows to be a child, the circle of influence grows. Now a child can control when he wants to walk or run or crawl or play. As the child grows up and starts going to school – he can further control his schedule, his habits, his relationships and many more things. The same child later has the freedom to choose his career and later his profession and his life partner. Life goes on and on increasing the circle of influence. 

The bigger the circle of influence, the higher are the stakes. Your circle of influence also depends on the kind of work you do. Shri Narendra Modi definitely has a much larger circle of influence than me because he can control the nation to a large extent. A number of social activists, politicians, industrialists have a big circle of influence. One must strive to increase his/her circle of influence to an extent that he/she can handle it peacefully. 

A mature human being knows two things 

  1. He has a defined circle of influence. He knows exactly what is within the circle and what is outside of it. He plans for the stuff that is inside and doesn’t stress over what is outside. This distinction is the key to happy and mature life. One who has the wisdom to understand the boundary of his circle of influence lives through every situation blissfully. When I was growing up, I was a much-stressed child. Everything used to make me nervous. The exams, my result, my image in front of people, my looks, my confidence and everything else. This is very obvious for a young adult. But over the period of time, I realized that I can only control what I can control. I cannot control people’s opinion about me. I can change myself in any direction but I need to decide the direction myself. Only this attitude turned me from a people pleaser to the person that I am today. 
  1. He knows how to grow his circle of influence at a slow and steady pace. He doesn’t want to grow his circle just in a day, if he does that – he knows that he won’t have the resources to control all that is inside the circle. He plans for it and slowly steadily expands his circle. While I was growing up, I was always in a hurry for making my circle of Influence larger. I was not aware of this concept but unconsciously I was trying to do the same. Many times I even made mistakes because I was in a hurry to influence the world. I lost friends and damaged relationships because I was in such a hurry to be a responsible person who is looked up to. These things take time. If we take our learnings and failures in stride, what we want will eventually happen.

People who fail in balancing their circle of influence usually make following mistakes:

  1. They don’t know how to control their circle. I have seen grown-ups who cannot handle their professions or their studies or their relationships. They get just too overwhelmed by things that they are expected to control. This is generally a disaster and leads an individual to all sorts of frustrations in life. These are typically the people who are depressed or have suicidal thoughts because escaping is eventually the only route they are left with if they don’t learn to control their circle. 
  2. They want a huge circle in a very short period of time. Have you heard of celebrities who grew up too fast and got too much media attention too quickly? Eventually they land up in some or other controversy just because they grew their circle too quickly and never learnt the art of controlling their circle.
  3. They cannot distinguish what is inside and outside of the circle. This is a very common problem that most of us suffer with. I know of few of a people who stress over every negative news that is sold to them on the News Channels. They get sleepless nights if our Indian Army men are getting killed at the border. They worry when they hear of robberies happening in broad daylight. They love the “crime patrol” kind of shows. I don’t want to say that you should not be aware of what is happening around the world or not have compassion towards people. But if you have over-compassion, it doesn’t help. It is something that is outside of your circle and it is best to let go off that feeling.
  4. They believe the emotions that they feel are outside of their circle. This is one of the key problem, many of us believe that a negative emotion that is stirred inside of us are caused due to something outside. “He made me angry or mad” or “She makes me feel really happy” – when we say such things, we give the responsibility of our emotions to others. We allow them to control something that should be inside our circle. The emotions that arise inside my head are supposed to be controlled by me. If I hand over my emotions in somebody else’s circle of influence – then I am practically like the baby with almost negligible circle of influence. 

Balance your circle and if you can do that well enough – people are going to appreciate your maturity wholeheartedly. 

TRANSITIONING FROM UNMARRIED TO MARRIED WOMEN

Marriage is a turning point for most people in their lives. No matter the reasons for marrying, its an event that leaves a mark and becomes a starting point for many subsequent events. Religious texts and rituals all across the world have spent much time and thought dictating how and why two people should marry. Biological reasons aside, when two people come together, they are expected to think or and maintain each other as one joint unit. It encourages togetherness, tolerance, an adjustment that paves the way to cooperating and adjusting in society. Our societies do not appreciate individualism or staying alone and it’s the reason why parents trouble themselves over their single children to the extent that they are willing to sell or buy happiness for them in the name of marriage. No matter what you may name it – happiness, a financial cushion, or gifts, this practice is called the dowry system and it’s prevalent in every culture.

Historically though, only one gender has been geared up since infancy to make marriage their whole-sole occupation in life – Females.

Take any patriarchal society in the past or even in the modern world, every one of them has treated daughters as only a means of securing a connection with a ‘good family’. The prospect of shouldering the burden of a girl’s marriage is so bothersome that girls have been either aborted, murdered in infancy or married off while they were still too young. Things may have changed some but till she is married, collecting a girl child’s dowry becomes her parents’ sole occupation. She thus becomes a ‘burden’.

This burden dictates how the girl is brought up even in her own family. It robs her of identity because she is being brought up only to take on the identity of another. It robs her of agency, her claims, her voice and the right to choose because she must only belong, first to her father then to her husband. She has rights neither here nor there. Because after all, she is a burden that must be pitched onto another set of shoulders in the end.

The transition from an unmarried to a married woman becomes the only occupation of a girl’s life. She is constantly bombarded by reminders that she must soon be married off. From the cradle up, she is taught, mostly by members of her own gender, that she must learn to detach herself from her identity, her roots, her history and adopt that of another family without any backlash. A young woman aspiring to marry into a ‘good family’ is expected to excel at managing a household, being servile, anticipating the needs of others and repressing her own desires.

How many of you women were subjected to this while you were growing up? –

Don’t raise your voice.

Don’t mingle with boys.

Don’t disrespect or object to your elders.

That’s not for you to think/decide.

Stay quiet.

Don’t protest.

Society is not the only culprit of a woman. Pop culture, media and literature like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Uttaran, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Saath-Saath Hain, and many other examples exhorting the virtues of female sacrifice serve as reminders to young girls that their acceptance comes from their silence and sacrifice. Its what they are fed, morning, noon and night. Education and women empowerment have done little to efface these degrading practices because the idea of a woman being a slave to the family is deeply ingrained in our Indian ethos. Parvati, Sita, Kunti, Draupadi, Padmavati… there are too many examples to quote here of women who gave up their everything only to retain a place in history earned at the cost of self-effacement. This notion of a married woman being the epitome of self-sacrifice has become the ideal of the Indian Bahu. If she dares to want another identity than the one idolized by society, she is forced to change, shamed, shunned, divorced and called names.  

In the Indian context, the transition is defiantly skulking several centuries behind the present times. The most obvious change that comes in a woman’s life is changing her last name which is a practice observed worldwide. But in some communities in India, women are encouraged to change even their first names and it proves that our societies are not comfortable with the idea of a woman having her own identity.

The minute a girl is married she is required to bid adieu to her former way of living. Because for some reason it’s unacceptable for her new family to stomach the fact that she has a different way of dressing up, different ideas, her own preferences in food, movies, songs, clothing, ideals and philosophies. I wonder that if sameness is all that is expected out of a married woman, then why not practice inter-family marriages instead? That would ensure that the girls of the family remained and propelled the ideas and practices of the same family. There wouldn’t be an issue of painfully teaching the new bahu the ways of her new home. Right?

This isn’t an article approving incest or inter-family marriages. This is an article highlighting the unfair treatment of women who are forced to change their identities in the name of marriage.

I’m sure many women across the country have heard these barbs –

Your parents didn’t teach you even that?!

Bahus don’t laugh and cheer like that.

Change the way you dress up. Change the way you eat. Change your habits.

Change your company and don’t interact too much with your own family.

You can’t work after marriage. You’ll have to shift to our city/area. If you want to work, ensure that your chores are done before you go.

Why should we? What are you there for?

Who do you think you are without this family? Who do you think you are?

I’ve had to listen to ALL of the above. These are ALL my personal experiences. Surprised that an educated, forward-thinking, independent woman like me went through it? Like I mentioned above, education has done little to change the perception of women in this society. Education has become only an embellishment desired in an ideal bride. Often its women themselves who propagate the idea of being a slave to the married home and while out there, they might light candles and rave about unfair treatment of women, at home, they still want ideal bahus.

Some may argue that if women are trained for this transition since infancy, it should be easy to adapt to the married household. I’ll counter with a question –

“Can a plant from the tropics thrive in the tundra? Sure, it may survive; it must, because its being given the essentials to survive – earth, water, sun…but will it thrive?”

We’re kinder to the foliage we import from their exotic homelands. We create greenhouses, spend on keeping them moist and warm. We invest in the right potting mixes, worry about the soil being the right pH level. We’re kinder to the pets we adopt from other countries. The pet-food should be right, the water should have enough oxygen for the fish… the list goes on. And yet for a newly married woman, no one creates a greenhouse of her past life to ease her transition into the new one. The pag-phera ceremony, where a Hindu newly married girl goes back to her previous family, lasts only a day, after which she must come back to her new family. I did the same and did not see my family again for more than a year after that. Even when I did go back, I was told that I shouldn’t make the stay too long. I went only for ten days. So much for easing my transition!

I’ll pose a searing question to the families of the husbands now –

“When she came home, how long did you tolerate her ways of living before you or someone in your family told her to change them? Or did you do a barter – change this aspect of you and I’ll give you such and such thing or do so and so? Or did you allow her to keep her ways?”

This question will ruffle feathers. Some may even counter – we adopted her ways instead, or that, we gave her enough freedom. First of all, who are you to give someone their freedom or allow them to do something? That right must remain in their own hands. But I feel Democracy doesn’t apply to married Indian women. Some may have been generous in accepting their bahus’ ways, but I bet most didn’t. I wasn’t given much choice in whether I wanted to follow the customs of my husband’s family. I had to engage in practices I didn’t approve of. I had to teach myself to change or be quiet so I wouldn’t fan any fires. This isn’t an adjustment. This is coercion.

It is true that things have changed a lot for women. We have the vote now, a voice, we can dress up beyond ghoonghats and burkas. We can make choices in partners. We can choose to divorce, to work, to raise our children our way. But it is also true that while we can do all of the above, in many cases the choice is not in our hands. Or let me just put it this way, the circumstances surrounding us enable us to either make or drop the choice of making independent decisions. Often the choice is made for us and we are only to submit. If we assert independence, it’s not without resentment. Like I was asked, “who allowed you to study after marriage?” when I independently chose to pursue LLM post-marriage.

The message is clear – a woman’s choice shouldn’t be in her hands.

When I recall my own experiences, I am left with nothing but anger at how I was expected to change to fit into the lifestyle of my husband’s family. Subtle changes like changing when I used to wake-up or go to sleep, the kind of shows I must watch, the way I talked or laughed, how I dressed, preferring the company of certain type of people, chipped away at my own personality so much so that after a while, people I knew from my past life wondered why I had changed so much. The change may not have been expected overnight but it was definitely expected and while I did earn a lot of love and respect from my husband’s family, I often wonder if I received those only in barter for my willingness to change. I am left with a lifetime of bitter experiences that I wouldn’t want for my own or for anyone’s little girl.

While marriage is a transition that impacts both genders, it must be said that it impacts a woman more than it does a man. Would it be too hard on the ego of a husband’s family to let a woman be her own self while she becomes a loving, caring member for her new family? Would it be too hard to accept her family as part of your own? Why is it unconscionable for a woman to stick to her own ideas and philosophies in life, or to carve out her own path, or to be part of major decisions in a family, or to wear the pants in the family? Afterall, she is equally responsible for the well-being of the husband’s family, if not more.

Why must acceptance come at the cost of changing herself only for a woman?

If marriage is the merging of two families, let both families change to a better way of living, accept each other’s flaws and work around the differences to reach a consensus. While adjustment is a must in all relationships, setting limits on a human being is nothing but a form of slavery.

Coercion brings only a temporary change,

but it sows the seeds for a lifetime of resentment and hate.

Should that be the foundation of the family?

You decide.

HOW TO MANAGE AN UNAVOIDABLE BARRIER IN RELATIONSHIP

We had a great week discussing the barriers in any sort of relationships, especially marital ones. As I was thinking about those barriers, I realised they are to be very common and known to all and we always can try to rectify our relationships by breaking them at some point in our life. But there are a couple of barriers that are unavoidable and unbreakable in life. I am gonna talk about one today.

Usually, a sickness enhances any sort of relationships. How? When someone is sick in the family, all others in the family display their love and care for that sick member and that exchange of loving emotions enhance the bonding between each member in the family. This happens when the sickness is temporary and short term. But in the case of prolonged sicknesses, the exchange of emotions take a different turn.

The whole world now knows I am born with a cardiac issue. Being so, I was the centre of attraction, love and care in the family. But for how long? There were frustrations, bitterness, impatience and irritation that I had felt in my family members along with their immense love and care. Their love and care for me were supreme but they did feel negative emotions creeping in, at times.

My Mom, for example, had to stay back from all the family functions or travels all because of me. I used to be sick and she used to be taking care of me all the time sacrificing all her fun and joy. She never showed it, never made me feel. But at times, it did show up through her anger and behaviour which were natural and unavoidable though I was just an infant to understand those feelings at that particular stage of my life. I heard the stories of her sacrifice later when I grew up.

In schools and colleges, generally, boys and girls rely mostly on their friends. My friends didn’t have that reliance on me when it came to any physical activity, helping someone or in sports. In that regard, my health condition became the biggest barrier to establish friendships with many. I never had the guts or condition or state of adrenaline rush which define teenagers or young boys and girls. This is the foundation of my bonding with peers at that stage of human life. I missed or rather failed to either build or even sustain a friendship basing on it.

The unavoidable barrier of sickness which I was carrying with me was still manageable or can be ignored in all the above relationships or friendships at those stages of my life but when I became a man and there was a need for the higher level of relationship, I faced a real challenge. I reckon I missed out on establishing many possible relationships in my life when I became an adult. And probably for my sickness, many have fallen out after falling in for me. That’s an assumption, I don’t know it correctly, so let’s cut it out.

When I actually got into a bond, a marital knot, I realised how my sickness became such a deadly barrier in my relationship with my better-half.

I remember, we went on a trip to the mountains. And at one point we had to climb up to watch the sunrise on Kanchenjunga peak (Part of the Himalayas). She had to stay back because I can’t climb up. She did it for the sake of love but there was a tiny trace of frustration and unfulfilling desire that remained in her heart. I encouraged her to go up with others later. She climbed up with others but there was a trace of not being together or being alone imprinted in her heart. In my case, I had that anger and frustration within me for not being a man for my woman when she needed me to be the one. And there were many such incidents that brought bitterness into our relationship.

Was there a shortage of love between us? No, not at all. But the charm or the glow of our love was missing. Blame it on the barrier, the unavoidable barrier called, sickness.

Almost all the time of our life till now, she has been doing the outside work, household work as well as taking care of me. Her love and sacrifice for me add so much value to our relationship but the bitterness, frustration, stress out of doing everything all alone and being deprived of a few of joys in a relationship suck off all the juices out of our bond. Blame it on the barrier, the unavoidable barrier called, sickness.

Individuals like me, who live with chronic sicknesses are always very aware of how much our partners do for us. I often feel very selfish and guilty for being such a burden to others, to my wife. One husband says, “My wife lives with the illness, and I live with her. So, in a way, I live with the illness, too”. And these reactions of our partners hit us all the more as we can’t do anything about our own illness. Although if we think from their point of views, we understand how hurting it is for them as well. Again, blame it on the unavoidable barrier called, sickness

How to deal with this barrier in a relationship if we can’t avoid it or break it forever? I can share TWO major ways how I deal with it, though I struggle a lot at times even when I apply all my own tactics.

ACCEPTING the fact
It is applicable for both the sick partner and for the healthy partner. A sick partner should not feel bad or feel guilty of being a burden to his or her partner and the healthy partner should accept the fact s/he has to live with it. Instead of grumbling s/he should find ways to live with it happily otherwise it becomes more taxing for both of them. Accepting also means, keeping the communication channel open to talk about each other’s deepest and darker feelings considering the vulnerabilities of the relationship they both are in. Due to ill health all the time, a couple often feel sad, angry and overwhelmed and it is of utmost importance if they both open up and encourage each other to talk about their feelings without being judgemental.  Accepting is also knowing and understanding the painful thoughts and emotions that pop into our heads due to the presence of chronic sickness of one partner in a relationship. I haven’t seen her treating me as a sick person but have always considered my ill-health by doing things before even I ask her to do. That is her way of accepting me and my share of responsibility on her shoulders.

ALLOWING unthinkable space (or grace)
These kind of relationships are rare and should be managed differently as well. A person like me who suffers almost all the days of the year needs space to regain my strengths, joys and happiness to live further. And this happens almost regularly as the sickness is a regular affair. Similarly, the other partner, who does everything for his or her sick partner needs an enormous amount of mental space and strength to stay encouraged. Instead of terming it as Allowing Space, I will call it Allowing Grace to each other to pacify the barrier of sickness in the relationship. I’ve learnt to just eat whatever she cooks. That helps her not to be so worried about what to cook and how to cook. I don’t even interrogate her about where she goes and what she does. That is my way of allowing space or grace for what she has been doing for me all these years. Allowing that grace to her is in my hand and I do it wholeheartedly. When I shout or don’t talk with people, she makes others understand the reason and they understand it. She doesn’t look into my mobile or inspect what I do all day. This is her way of allowing grace to me.

Have I overcome this barrier forever? No, I can’t. But I am still managing to break a hole in it to keep my relationship with her alive and kicking.

It will be amazing when we take responsibility of managing to break through any barriers and make each of our existing relationships a sanctuary where each person can be seen and loved for who they are. 

Stay Blessed!

MAKE SOME SPACE FOR LOVE

Set the alarm for the next day, have put the kids to sleep, hand cream ✔️, moisturizer ✔️, time to hit the sack and before calling it a day one important ritual to perform. Praying ❎, Reading a book ❎, Writing diary ❎, it’s a ritual followed more religiously, relentlessly – social media surfing. Yes, this is my confession laced with a teaspoonful of embarrassment and gallons of regret. What is so embarrassing and regretful about surfing the social networking / media sites, the world is on it. Yes it is but somehow it is not being utilised the way it was intended to. I understand this is becoming quite a confused narration and preachy by miles. Let me make it more comprehensible, let me give you a detour of my state of mind few days back.

Scenario 1: I have a moderately right leaning ideology when it comes to political view. So when I find material vis a vis reflecting or condonig the same, I proceed further to check the comment section. That’s the trigger point!! I find people disagreeing, that is still fine but people abusing particular ideologies, preferences, religious beliefs hurts and anguishes me the most. The level of discord within reaches to an extent of leaving me fuming within myself. Be it Twitter, Facebook, Youtube – the content I am consuming is giving me information but the anger /resentment it fans is unmatchable. Looking at disturbed me even my husband expressed his fear of me being overtly getting effected or absorbed by sort of lunacy that seeks validation of viewpoints.

Scenario 2: Due to my family issues I have no social life whatsoever. And a peek into others’ lives via Facebook or Instagram made me feel “what a life!!” (Others’ life) and “what life😔” (my side of the fence). This emotion is not a regular affair though, yet been quite an acquaintance.

So in the first instance it’s the anger and resentment and in the second scenario it’s self pity that filled my heart. And these strong negative emotions are nothing less than weeds that once start yielding can empty our hearts of its rightful owner – LOVE. Anger left unattended turns into hatred, self pity whereas have many cousins like dissatisfaction, jealousy, pessimism. And together they are toxins of higher order that engulfs our wisdom, dwarfing us to mere numbers for government records.

So what did I do? I deactivated my twitter, uninstalled my Instagram, Facebook (account still active, me not so ), unsubscribed from many channels on YouTube and watching roast, reviews, creative stuff for entertainment and otherwise

Did it help? Yes, to a great extent. Mind is slowly decluttering. I don’t see countries falling Left, Right and Centre the way it was being projected. I have no idea about the mood swings or brawls taking place before or after that rosy picture that’s being posted on Facebook, then why I am losing out my mind and peace instead of enjoying the knitty bits of my life. My mental detoxification trial period has given me an important realisation :

There’s more to life than lifestyles and a set of ideologies.

Then what is impeding us from loving our life? Probably consuming the content without filter and discretion. Be it propaganda, entertainment or simply brand endorsements, vulnerable minds are the targets. Conscious and continuous efforts are put in to fine tune our minds sometimes to an extent of us belittling and putting down ourselves (and others too). This slow poison slowly drains out the logic and love out of her head and hearts. This is one of the prime reason for so much discontent, dissatisfaction, disorientation, hatred, abuse we see around. Respect and love for the most precious gift of life is lost!! This calls for a caution:

Consume the content, don’t get consumed by it.

End Note: Be pragmatic precisely. Devaluing the life itself is highly unpardonable and no amount of regret can restore the time lost in drawing parallels and nursing grudges. Loving your life have varied connotations. Self love – from skin care to designing and deciding career it’s more about “me” and “myself”. And nothing wrong with that because it’s always better to be a participant in your own life than a mere spectator. Whereas the deeper and profound aspect of loving life means to respect it, to be content from within, to appreciate it, finding peace within and reflecting / spreading it to everything and everyone around. Being content doesn’t necessarily mean not driven in life but what makes a difference is what is that driving force – jealousy/competition or service/token of gratitude. If we love our life the factors mentioned later are our drivers. Spend some more time with yourself, do something that you love or always wanted to do, infuse the lost interest in your life, rekindle your love for your life.

Social media isn’t demonic or forbidden ground to foray. There is a plethora of useful information that we can very well put into use for our skill or knowledge enhancement. So many instances of inspiring lives (not lifestyles but lives) get featured on these platforms that not only touch or motivate people but capable of changing life stories of many. To say the least a good source of entertainment. But it all depends on what we absorb, what amount of restrain we can put forth, how conscious we are. The idea was to make lives better, isn’t it? Then why we are letting toxins fill up our hearts and pouring out the nectar of love – love for ourselves, love for others and love for life itself?? Something to ponder.

I have learnt my lesson, have you?

SHUN THE BARRIER

Love is a beautiful feeling, an integral emotion and a wonderful experience altogether. Yet, love isn’t everything. And people come at the crossroads where they realize that love isn’t working anymore. Disagreement, turmoil, shortcomings and other disturbances ruin love, the basis of every relation.

Ujjwala, found her love during her yoga classes. A man used to learn yoga along with her. It was love at first sight. Both got attracted to each other and became close friends. Though she was madly in love, she refused to settle down with him because his nationality was different and there were many religious and social constraints too. Consequently, they went their separate ways.

Many relations succumb to the pressure from the couples and end their relationships. But, some people also stand up against such barriers, not caring about how they will be judged and treated. However, when the people in relationships become the barrier, the relation is bound to break.

Another friend of mine was highly disturbed lately because money was being a problem in his relationship. It was getting difficult for him to live on a foreign land and maintaining an expensive lifestyle. Though his wife was earning equally good amount, she wasn’t contributing in household expenses and refused to do so. As a result, my friend has got an aversion for his wife now!

Emotional barriers also make the relationships vulnerable. Fear of rejection, lack of faith, past experiences, etc., can impact the current relation and resist the people in developing a deeper connection. 

Love is a vital energy, yet the feeling of being loved can be often taken for granted. Love knows no boundaries, yet the boundaries get created sometimes in a relation, knowingly or unknowingly.

Be understanding, forgiving and appreciating to remove the barriers to love.

“OUR Love must be TRUE and WE SHOULD shun all the barriers AND WHAT IS EVIL IN RELATIONSHIPS.”

THE SELF – A BARRIER IN EXPRESSING AND EXPERIENCING LOVE

Love, being an intrinsic human attribute and need, cannot be effectively caged behind bars. It always yearns for expression. However, love cannot always be expressed and/ or experienced sans roadblocks. Though love faces many barriers in its way, I will talk about one major hiccup to expressing and/ or experiencing love.

The fly in the ointment is none other than SELF.

A few examples –

Joy could never love his wife, no matter how hard she tried to please him. Joy knew this was injustice for his wife, but he did not want to deal with it. The emotional baggage that he was carrying was proving hazardous for his marriage. His mother had deserted him and his father when he was a child. His devoted father had raised him up single-handedly. He had often heard his father lament about his wife of few years whom he had loved a lot. When Joy got married, he decided not to love his wife so that if she deserted him (as his mother had done), he would not whine away the remaining years of his life. Joy erected HIMSELF as a barrier between expressing and experiencing love. In his desire not to get hurt by his wife, he was hurting himself and his wife and was leading a lovelorn life.

Koyna never wanted to enter into a relationship with a man. She saw her friends in stable relationships, but spurned all proposals that came her way. She had grown up seeing her mother at the mercy of her abusive father and had decided in childhood itself that she would never be with a man. There were times in which she felt lonely and in desperate need for the arm of a comforting man around her. But, she had determined that it is better to be safe than sorry. Nightmares of her childhood haunted her all the while. Koyna had erected HERSELF as a barrier between expressing and experiencing love. She chose to stay away from smelling flowers, lest she ended up being stung by a bee.

Shikha had an avoidant attitude towards all her colleagues. No one’s hospitality could prompt her to socialise with others. She sat alone during lunch hours, never went for staff picnics, never attended official parties and never spoke beyond work with anyone whenever she spoke at all. She was fighting an emotionally draining legal battle with her estranged husband. Her health had begun to slide downhill. Her colleagues knew it all and few of them showed genuine concern and love. But, Shikha had erected HERSELF as a barrier between expressing and experiencing love. Her aloofness was killing her from within and from without as she refused to admit entry to genuine care.

Robin was a chain-smoker. No attempts by his devout parents to make him quit smoking were ever successful. He had screwed up his academics and had no fear of God or man. His younger sister had fallen off the terrace to her death when he was six years old. He had never been able to come to terms with it. Initially, he had held God responsible for not saving his sister. Later, he went on to proclaim himself as an atheist, going out of his ways to defy the existence of God and condemn anyone who spoke of God. He held his parents responsible for having built no parapets on the terrace of their new house which led to his sister’s death. Robin had erected HIMSELF as a barrier between expressing and experiencing love. He could not experience God’s love. He was bitter within and venomous without as he rejected the healing that love provides.

The names mentioned in the above examples are fictional, but the stories are not. When we hoist ourselves as barriers in the way of love, the natural inflow and outflow of love is hindered. A build up of plaque in the arteries reduces blood flow to the heart which can eventually cause a heart attack. A blockage in the pulmonary vein obstructs blood from flowing out of the heart and similarly leads to heart failure. It is only when the obstruction or the blockage is treated and removed that smooth inflow and outflow of blood to and from the heart is resumed and the person gets better gradually.

Life events are not always fair. We do not have answers to all the ‘whys’ of life. There are episodes which are within our control and some which are out of our control that leave us shattered. When we carry the baggages of these events and obstruct the expressing and experiencing of love, we start stifling ourselves towards a death of our souls.

SEEK HELP REMOVE THE BLOCKAGE

It is injustice to self, to wallow in the bitterness of life events when help is available to deal with those emotional baggages. At times, the issues are ongoing ones and a one-time cure is not sufficient. At times multiple surgeries are required to remove blockages completely. Seek constant help from the source available to you (it may be from a friend, a colleague, parents, Counselor or any mature understanding confidante) so that the blockage is removed and the barrier-less inflow and outflow of love is resumed.

HELP REMOVE THE BLOCKAGE IN OTHERS

We may undoubtedly have people around us who have erected themselves as barriers to expressing and experiencing love. Sensible sensitivity on our part would help them come out of their self-made cocoons. A hurting person would not instantly welcome your intervention or accept your suggestion for seeking professional intervention. What helps make the way in such cases is prayer. There is no barrier that is impossible for God to remove. Fervent intercession on behalf of such people would gradually make them open to work towards demolishing the impenetrable SELF that has stood tall long enough to make their lives loveless.

There are many barriers to love, but a conscious erection of the SELF as a roadblock mostly goes unnoticed or is often ascribed to other more obvious causes.

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

Days passed, I was sitting under a night sky gazing at the moon when bouts of introspection made me wonder about my attitude towards life and fellow other human beings. Developing a sense of gratitude, integrity, good values and positivity is what I have been striving for. Had love, care and affection not been into existence life would have no means. So there is a lot to be grateful for.

Considering people as the biggest asset I think back and recall my parents, teachers, friends, family and even a few strangers to whom I am grateful to. By God’s grace, there had always been somebody with me for help. Honestly, I wish to owe them everything of mine in some way or the other. To name a few, Vipul Agarwal sir is the one who had mentored me so well taking care that I learn never to give up in life. Chiradeep Bhaiya who made me a part of Candles family and had ignited my desire to write and serve others. Avinash Bhaiya who made me believe in the existence of God. Priya Aiyar Di, a good well-wisher of mine who had helped me with a big decision.

Although gratitude is not a process of give-and-take, more often than not it is misunderstood as the reciprocation of good deeds. Shiv Khera’s “You Can Win” book very beautifully explains that a good deed cannot be cancelled by a counteract. Sweet sounding words like thank you, a gesture of appreciation, a smile, handshake or a hug are not something that can be repaid or taken for granted. They too have a meaning and changes our outlook towards life.

With gratitude comes happiness, with happiness, comes love, with love, comes sacrifice and with sacrifice comes the sense of pride.

Albert Schweitzer very aptly said, “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”