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!

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.

POWER OF REASONING SHOULD BE SECONDARY

We are all taught from our childhood to think logically. We have the IQ that is measured on basis of our logical reasoning ability. Logic is needed to win the arguments; reasoning is needed to justify our logic. Kids who are good with logic and reasoning often get into the best schools and eventually earn the best salary. Lawyers who can twist the logic cleverly and reason out of every situation are often the most successful ones.

So, logic and reasoning are important for good survival on this planet. Without such ability, a person would really struggle. Just look at how autistic kids struggle in the real world because their ability to reason is really low. Even though they are so full of love and dedication for everything around them, they aren’t enough for the world.

Our education system from ages has given too much importance to logic and reasoning just because we have always focused on earning more money, getting more knowledge, have the best IQ. Our ability to reason is our intelligence. And this intelligence many times becomes our own enemy.

How does that happen?

Have you ever gone through anxiety, depression, guilt, and anger? Well, I am sure all of us have. What triggered that state of mind? Mostly, it is due to something that didn’t happen the way you wanted it to happen. Either it was your own behavior that did not match your expectation or somebody else’s close to you. Or it could also be something happening in the world that is not happening the way you want it to. Your plans, your logic, and your reasons became so important that you forgot that this world is not supposed to work as per your wishes and you suffered terribly because your own intelligence turned against you.

The various civil wars, communal riots, world wars have happened because a few people in the world couldn’t control their anger and wanted this world to behave exactly the way they wanted. Why? Because for them their reason and logic were above all. Just look at the current Ukraine war, it wrenches my heart to see how people are dying and losing their homes but some powerful people in the world have put their reason so high that basic empathy cannot touch their hearts anymore.

A few months back, I did something similar. One fine day, I realized that nothing in my life is going as per my plans and wishes. In my head, the reason behind the havoc in my life was my husband. This reason and my anger became so strong that I started to have anxiety attacks and even worse I started dumping my anxiety on my husband. Every single day was a struggle because we would never stop fighting. I went into a deep depression and came out realizing that my logic and reasoning for blaming him was so very flawed. The same reasoning had blinded me in so many ways.

Logic and reasoning are important to earn money, respect, and have a decent life on this planet. But reasoning should never over-power our ability to empathize and love each other. Logic and reasoning should always be secondary, what should rule the world is empathy and love. If the world starts transforming in this direction, we would have no wars and conflicts in the world.

It baffles me how our logic can be so flawed and how our reason can overpower to support that logic to an extent that we can think of killing people based on community, caste, religion, or gender. This is what some powerful leaders of the world are doing now, they have flawed logic but such a powerful reason to support that logic. And they are backed by military power and millions of dollars.

I wish to transform the world in a way that new leaders lead by the power of love and empathy instead of the power of logic and reason. But alas, that’s just my wish, not something that will ever materialize.

BROKEN BUT BEAUTIFUL

I was hurt, as he turned out to be a flirt,
I was in pain, as his behaviour was insane.
All my requests and petitions to him
Were nothing but all in vain.

I was in utter loneliness,
But he didn’t care to see my brokenness.
I was crying, but no-one heard me
Or could understand my the sign.
I was dumped, but he never cared,
I touched the rock bottom, the seabed.

I decided to finish my life,
To break free from all my strife.
Why to live when there’s nothing left?’
I thought as I planned my own fate.

But then, my inner human arose
From the depth of my soul,
It showed me the beauty of a Diamond
That lays deep down in the ugly mines of coal.

The blessings of that very moment,
Always stood firm beside me till my present.
After the passing of a devasting storm,
I, the sapling survived and life took a new turn.

BEYOND THE DEFENSE AND BLAME GAME

I am quite afraid of the “we need to talk” kind of situations in my personal life and at work, I am worried to see a meeting invite from the manager with just the subject mentioned as “Connect” and no agenda mentioned. Both represent not-so-happy communication, rather, it’s self-explanatory that it’s gonna be a difficult conversation. As one grows, one witnesses such conversations and there is no escape route.

Listening to negative things about yourself is not easy. Let me put it in better words. Listening to the areas of improvement in your work or behaviour is not easy and the first reaction is the defense. Most of us try to defend ourselves even before truly evaluating what we did. This does no good and then makes the conversation even more complicated. Next comes the blame game. It’s kind of easy to push the blame. Isn’t it? But does that make you clean? Think about it.

Over the years, I have been in such situations many times, and the journey from being a naive individual or professional to a mature and experienced one has given me a lot of learnings. And now, I have learned to look beyond the defense and the blame game. What do I exactly do?

While discussing the negative feedback the first and foremost thing that I do is accept the mistake. It’s hard but it’s the best to do! Then I talk about why it happened and what can I do to improve it. Trust me, this makes the conversation easier and short. Post this discussion, I reflect upon myself and disintegrate the feedback. I pick up what is useful and let go of what is not. Remember that not ALL that you get to hear is right or useful. Make your choice. Negative feedback or areas of improvement are not always a bad discussion if you learn to decide which part to keep and which part to let go of. Thus, you can actually turn these difficult conversations into something good.

But what if there is no mistake done by you and yet you get a mouthful from your boss, spouse, or parents? It happens, right? And what’s the immediate reaction of most of us? Yell back? Or revert in an aggressive way? Does it help? Definitely not! What do I do then?

Again, this didn’t come to me naturally but I have learnt it on my way to growing up! I stay calm! Sometimes so calm that it calms down the other person. We all know that one word leads to another and in no time an argument can flare-up. So, staying calm really works in these situations. The next thing that I do is the person what makes him believe that needless to say, in a very controlled tone. Once you know the source, it’s easy to clear the air. In most such situations, the misunderstanding is cleared but not all situations and people are the same. So, after considerable effort, if I feel that the other person DOESN’T want to understand, I end the discussion by saying “LET’S AGREE TO DISAGREE”.

Now, what I do after that is even more important. I shed off all the inhibitions about how good or bad I am in the eyes of that person. Again, this didn’t come naturally to me but I have learned this over the years. Someone has truly said that don’t let the negative feedback DEFINE YOU. You are much more!

So, take it with a pinch of salt and move ahead. Negative feedback can actually help you only if you learn how to deal with it. How do you cope with negative feedback and difficult conversations? Do you reflect upon them? Does it drive you to do better or do you break down? Do share your experience and tips and tricks!

OF SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

“I wish I was a deaf and dumb person! If I was deaf, I wouldn’t have to listen to all the derogatory things said to me. And if I was dumb, I wouldn’t talk stuff that irritate others. Better still, I think I should die. That would be the end of all my problems.”

An excerpt from a 10-year old’s chat which I received last week after she received a mouthful from well-meaning, but frustrated parents.

As adults, many of us have learned in the course of time to give a deaf ear to the harsh words of others or to mend our ways after getting a dose of constructive criticism which might not necessarily be music to the ears. But, is it the same for children?

There were times when spanking wasn’t really frowned upon. Rather, it was considered to be one of the corrective measures needed to discipline children. There were times when severe scoldings from parents, teachers, and elders made children rethink their actions and mend their ways. At least it was true for a majority of the population, with only a few scattered here and there who took the rebel route.

But, times are different now. We have highly observant children now who don’t hesitate to talk back. Call it genetic evolution or the influence of media or civilizational progress, children today are sharper, argumentative, rebellious, curious, independent, and thoughtful than those of the previous generations. They are not as compliant and submissive as most parents would want their darlings to be. To top it all, they are so very touchy!

There are numerous pieces in newspapers of late, of suicides by children who were either reprimanded for a wrong or refused access to gadgets – all which parents thought are measures of disciplining their children. But, the consequences proved to be disastrous thereby imparting strong messages to society and numerous amendments in Child Laws at the cost of precious lives.

So, what do we do? Give in to the whims and fancies of our children? Stop disciplining them? Use only sugar-coated words and ignore their wrongs? Keep worrying about their feelings and emotions all the time without caring for their holistic development? If our children are always kept in an aura of positivity, how will they learn to take negative feedback in their stride?

These and such other questions are bombarded by worried parents. Well, the approach to negative feedback is different for children and for adults. I will not dwell on those in this write-up. While adults are not expected to be childish in their response to negative feedback, children must also not be expected to behave in overly mature ways in response to criticism.

‘Sensitivity’ and ‘sensibility’ are the two words I want to leave behind for all to ponder upon. Criticisms, negative feedback, reprimands – all are parts and parcels of life. The way they are accepted depends most of the time on the way they are delivered and the outcomes they generate.