ENLIGHTENING STRANGERSHIP

Blogging has always been a source of joy for me. It has not only helped me in sharing my thoughts with unknown people but has also opened the folds of my brain to a new world of ideas and emotions. Through blogging, I have had a few great online acquaintances but this one deserves a special mention.

Probably, a year back when I was active on WordPress, any article of the spiritual genre always caught my attention. Also, I have had a habit of reflecting back on any piece of work that touch my heart and so there was this article from a wise Indian blogger which drew my attention. We had an argument basing on my comment under his article and this argument went on for a couple of days until I accepted his point of view. Well I need to say that I was swayed by his level of knowledge and awareness.

In no time we started exchanging mails through which I tried to seek as much knowledge from him as I could. What I really learned from him that each time I came up with a problem, he never provided me with a solution. However, he strengthened my belief in God that I was able to move ahead with a bit of clarity and faith.

After probably exchanging a century of mails, I requested his number which he resisted for a long time in sharing. But one fine day, he somehow agreed for an early morning call. I was really excited and nervous at the same time just to talk to a man whom I did not even know completely. We talked for a long time over the phone and as expected I could feel his simplicity and elevated thought process. 

As time passed, the frequency of our conversations decreased for we got busy in our own schedules but  yes we had a fair idea of where we were heading. Surprisingly, once after a long time I called him to update him of my results and before I uttered a word, I could sense discomfort in his words. He was going through a bad phase in his life. Moreover being reserved, he resisted telling me his complete state however I got it all. It was then, that my good results didn’t seem important to me and my momentary joy vanished. Somehow I could relate to his pain, his ambiguous state and his dilemma.

For a moment it seemed to me as if everything has crashed but if I showed my deep down broken emotions, then how could I give hope! Well after hearing his few more words, I decided to act strong and used the same words to console him which he often used to say to give me strength when I felt weak. Well never before have I felt so concerned for a man whom I had never even met. It was a strange kind of connection I felt maybe because I could count the number of similarities between us. Since then I made a point to connect with him daily to ensure he doesn’t sink in depression.

As he wanted to interact less at that time, so eventually we lost touch for a while but anyway I made it a point to drop a mail as frequent as possible while praying daily for his wellness. This was the kind of bond that developed invisibly unknowingly wherein I was sending peaceful vibrations to a stranger!

It took him some time to get over that negative state of mind but I am glad he made it. Today he is back in the race again striving for something good. Whenever we talk I get to learn something from him. It is because of him that I realize the importance of praying and make an effort to connect with God religiously. I explored many theological concepts after our interactions that have somewhere sown the seeds of spirituality in me. I am always amazed by his marvel character when he says he doesn’t  work to do something big but everything that is good.

As he always tag interactions between us as strangership, I often teasingly ask him with a grumpy face that don’t I hold any value in his life! To this he always replies which brings a smile on my face and that is :- “Every star has its own position in the galaxy with which it is incomplete and so do you.”

Well I need to mention that he is invincible when it comes to analyzing and exploring depths of any concept! And I feel really thankful to God for connecting me to such a rare kind of talented man. I hope the so called strangership lasts forever and one fine day I am able to meet him!

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TIME WASN’T HEALING; HE WAS!

I never knew that morning when I logged in to Yahoo, restless and in dire need of some interaction, some distraction, that it was my lucky day and it will bring me to someone who was going to become a pivotal indispensable part of my life.

I was going through the darkest of patches of my life, living every day as a mannequin goes through life. I ate without hunger, without taste. I slept with no sleep in my eyes, the medicines inducing sleep. I smiled a plastic smile with tears in my eyes for the sake of my mother. Chronic and Acute Depression had me it’s claws, and there was no way out of my misery. I had practically closed my heart to every kind of emotion, letting it turn to stone, so it feels nothing at all. I had lied enough times telling everyone ‘I am Fine’ that it became a habit for me, never letting anyone share my agony and melt my icy heart.

I had our first conversation, and I felt I am meeting an equally closed and cold person and it suited me well. I was in no mood to be an opening for someone to dump their pain in me by sharing it. Initially, we chatted on and off, some days for hours then none at all. But after years there was a curiosity in my heart to know this person more, to be with him and to tell him everything. With time I shared things about my father and my pain with him, and although I was scared of being called a “Whining.” person and to my surprise, he listened, he listened to everything. He never once wanted me to shut it out or keep it to myself. He heard and was smart enough to voice his opinion without sounding empathetic or overtly emotional. I remember often asking him if my talks bored him, the answer was always “No, tell me more.”

I shared everything, again and again, and he heard them, over and over without a single complain or sigh on his lips. He shared things about his life, his troubles and his problems. I have a fear of Doctors, and he turned out to be a Doctor, which had me thinking how can he be so different from my expectations. I could not even think of letting him go because he was a doctor and over time I must say he has changed my opinion of Doctors. He wasn’t that clinically detached person to human suffering like I had expected, a cliched image I made for all doctors. He was warm and kind and helpful. The rarest of rare things was he saw both sides of a coin while putting himself in other’s shoes to see things from their POV, and taught me the same. I, unlike him, was quick to act on impulse and often got triggered by something small and insignificant. He brought stability to my life, telling me that every battle must not be fought then and there, every war isn’t mine to fight, and I am not entitled to win every time. Some must be overlooked, some I am bound to lose.

Holding his hand as my support, I walked into the light from my darkness and once again, I was hungry, I was sleeping, I was smiling, genuinely. And my heart started to melt once again, turning back to that loving and warm heart it was meant to be. Laughs came back to my lips, and happiness found the way to my door once again.

After that, every day was a gift. A gift from him. He gave me many presents, abundantly. My writing is his most beautiful present. Something that makes me fortunate and feels accomplished and proud. I had just told him of my dream to be a writer one day, and he just evoked enough confidence in me to propel me to start writing. Being here, writing for Candles is his gift too. He surrounded me with enough people in my life, so I am never lonely ever again. He gave me enough reasons to stay busy, and I had no time with me to sit and brood over what’s lost to me. My depression and anxiety and panic attacks went down considerably.

We acquired many things from each other. He adapted the flair to write from me while I imbibed the love for English music and animation films from him. I am at loss of words when I speak of his greatness because, amid everything, he is unaware of his potential and his goodness.

I was hiding in my house; you knocked on my Door
With healing hands you touched, Banishing pain in my Core
You filled in the gaping void in me; I couldn’t ask for More
A forgotten Island I was, and you were out to Explore
Your footprints in the sand by me, on a lonely Seashore
You changed me for the better; I am not what I was Before

UNIQUE ONLINE FRIENDSHIP

Sits in the quiet of the room, going back in my mind to December 2015.

How do online connections happen? To me it is quite simple, God, our Creator, hears the prayers of His children and begins to move things around in our lives for us to connect to certain people. Sometimes that connection is only for that moment while others could last a lifetime.

His name came up on my Facebook profile one day, as a friend suggestion. Now, usually I ignore such things since we did not have any friends in common. But something about his picture caught my eye and I felt a strong compulsion to send a friend request without even looking over HIS profile. A day or two later he accepted my friend request. We didn’t speak right away as I was working so didn’t get online again until a few days later.

One day, we finally said hello to each other. Something in my heart sparked and I felt an instant connection. For the next few weeks we talked off and on since we were literally on opposite sides of the world. Our bond grew just a bit stronger every time we chatted. We kept the conversations light and happy but something told me deep in my heart that all was not quite as it seemed.

One morning, he came online and said his usual hello but I knew instantly something was very wrong. It took a little time but he finally opened up about what was going on in his life.

At first he was a bit uncomfortable and that is when I opened up my own heart completely. Now I don’t know how it happens but I could actually FEEL the pain and heartache he was going through. I have always been able to feel another person’s emotions and pain as my own but for it to happen with someone on the other side of the world? And over an internet connection??  How could that be??  I was a little shocked but then I saw God’s hand in it all and I smiled and said “Ok God, as you will.”

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

As I look back over these last 2 years and 4 months, I am so very grateful to have someone like him in my life. We have cried together, prayed together, teased and picked on each other. We have helped each other get through some difficult times. He was the first one I called, after the ambulance came, the day my mom had her first seizure in May of 2016. He prayed for me and my family right in that moment and the bond between us grew even stronger. We don’t talk daily like we use to but he knows that he can reach out to me at anytime and I can do the same.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

The love we share seems to go beyond any other I have experienced in my 52 years of life. He and I are soulmates, not in the husband and wife sense, but as friends but even that seems like an inadequate description. Whatever this connection is, I am so very thankful that it exists.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

BEWARE WHAT YOU SHARE

Picture this…

A theft committed at a residence, after a family tweeted their family vacation plans;

A teenage girl commits suicide after she was harassed by followers of on FB ‘hate page’ targeting her;

Sexual assault on minors who unwittingly befriended unknown people online, who later bullied them into having ‘consensual’ sex with them;

Private photos shared with friends ending up on commercials or on porn sites….

These are all actual, real cyber and personal crimes, not something I’ve cooked up to grab attention. But the sad fact is, we all are contributing in some way to these incidents.

No, you don’t think so?

How many of you are guilty of this?

So we went to a new place to vacation? Let’s post as many selfies as possible and let them know exactly what the interiors of our hotel looked like.

We bought new merchandise? Gotta tweet, instagram or snapchat about just how much we love it!

We went for the movies? Gotta post about it, with location.

We’re getting bored? Let’s start a live video, at home, sitting in our bathrooms!

Oh, is that a new shopping website that we haven’t checked out yet? Let’s start by first making an account and connecting it to all our networking sites AND our bank/PayPal/Paytm accounts.

Oh, and let the whole world know that ‘home’ means ‘XYZ’ building and road ‘coz we’ve got GPS. Oh yeah, baby!

You still think you aren’t oversharing? Think again.

Here’s my very own experience.

I shop a lot online, and even though I’d like to say I’m generally careful about what information and how much of it I divulge online, I’ve had my moments of stupidity. So there was a phase when I was doing a lot of online shopping and sharing my information on this and that site. Ditto with my husband. Then it happened to us.

I got a call from my bank asking me if I was trying to do a foreign transaction. When I denied it, they told me someone was repeatedly attempting to use my account information to shop from several international or foreign websites, and that they’d have to block my online account. My card was hotlisted too, and I was saved in the nick of time, but two weeks later, exactly the same thing happened to my husband.

We raked our brains about why and how, inspite of all the safety measures we take, all the reviews we read about the sites we shop on, and routine checks on our accounts, did this happen to us. The answer was – we overshared and we were unlucky.

It’s scary to think how an absolute stranger can just stumble across your name on social media and then hop from one site to another, gathering details about you, sending you requests from each networking site, or mapping your activity, unless you’re very careful, all because you shared your personal details on social media. FYI, that too has happened to me 😦

More often than not, the real culprit behind every cyber crime is our propensity to overshare and self-advertise on the internet, particularly on social media.  We may think what we are sharing is only limited to our friends and family, but the truth is, there are several ways in which you may be exposing personal information unknowingly, to third parties and even third party marketing websites.

This list consists only a few examples of potential sources of cyber threats to your privacy:

  1. Unsecured Personal Details on Social Media (includes your real or full name, age, date of birth, residence, phone numbers, your relatives and friends and their details).
  2. Sites that use cookies to save browsing information.
  3. Online games/puzzles/quizzes etc. that require you to share it with and/or add friends.
  4. Sites that require you to ‘agree’ to access to your contacts list, friends or pictures.
  5. Search engines where you stay logged in and/or authorize saving passwords.
  6. Having the same password for every site and not frequently changing them.
  7. Keeping predictable passwords.
  8. Posting pictures on sites that allow them to be publicly available.
  9. Not optimizing or using your privacy settings on social media.

Naturally, the way to avoid privacy invasion or identity theft would be to avoid doing the above listed things. However, the sure-shot way of safeguarding your personal information is to limit your presence online or carefully monitor what you share. If you won’t share details about your new dress with a stranger on the road, there’s no reason why you should share it with the public at large. Sitting behind a screen does not, of itself, give you protection from all kinds of threats. In fact, it makes you more vulnerable because of our tendency to become lax about maintaining privacy.

So next time, before you itch to share, think about whether you truly need to advertise yourself, be frugal with your information online, and beware what you share.

Pradita Kapahi

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC

I was going through a rough patch of my life and had nothing better to do. Had exploited all PC games, was bored off being creative, wanted to do nothing, even my favourite pastime, book reading too, seemed a tedious task. Nothing was exhilarating. Nothing appeared to excite me anymore. I was sitting idle when I decided to clean my room. Suddenly I realised, my cupboard was full of books, and all were kept haphazardly. So, I decided I needed to buy a bookshelf.

My aim was to purchase a bookshelf with as little nuisance as possible. I decided to peep into stores right from the sitting room, the solution was none other than online shopping. After a lot of browsing and surfing, I was able to settle for small bookshelf made in Sheesham. It was some Rs 7,500 and looked antique. I was taken by its beauty but scared to buy things online as many of my friends and family have told you are prone to fraud. After a lot of contemplation, I decided it was too good to let it pass, and I ordered it. It was delivered within a week, and I was more than satisfied with the product. And from there began two years of being a shopaholic.

imageI would buy anything and everything. From silk sarees to cutlery and from footwear to cosmetics, I bought everything online. It seemed like the most hassle-free way to get high. You can sit in the sanctuary of your air-conditioned room, leisurely browse through millions of merchandise and get it home delivered. If not satisfied they would Happily come and take it back, and get you more stuff or refund your money. What’s better than that?

My credit card became my best friend, and I went on a frenzied shopping spree. Frequenting each and every store once a day, extracting the best discounts and buying the thing for half the given rate was my dopamine rush, making me feel happy for merely a day. Next day I was back for more, finding additional reasons to buy unwanted stuff. My mother knew we didn’t need half of the things we bought, but she knew I was trying to beat depression. I would cherish the arguments I had with websites on return/refund, and more than once I have made deals that cost me money and stress. But it was all incredibly engaging.

I even told my mother not to buy grocery and bakery stuff from shops, I will do it online. Fruits and vegetables too were bought online by me. I wouldn’t say the experience was bad. Many times I got B1G1 deals and saved hard cash and got deep discounts. Beating the MRP by more than 50% was thrilling. Word spread that I am an expert at online shopping and I made countless purchases for friends and family. Gifting became an everyday habit, as it gave me a chance to shop. I would gift people things out of line and without occasion. My name became notorious with customer call executives of almost all online shopping stores.

image.jpegMy cabinets were brimming with my purchases, there was no space left. Websites made me premium member owning to my obsession of buying more. Shawls, Scarves, Sandals👠, Cosmetics💄, Perfumes🏺, Toiletries🏷, Creams & Bode Care💅🏻, Shirts👔, Sarees💃, Dresses👗Junk Jewelery💍, Bags👜, Watches⌚️, Belts, Shades🕶, Furniture, Crockery🍽, Curios, Show Pieces, Photo Frames⛲️, Paintings🌄, Curtains, Bed Sheets, Cushions & Cushion Covers, Lamps🔮, Potpourri🎊, Candles🕯, E Gadgets📱, you name it and I bought it. I even bought kids clothing though there are no kids in my home, forcefully gifting them to nieces and nephews. It became like OCD with me. I couldn’t quit it. I was addicted.

Then suddenly one day I realised, that all my excuses and pretexts to shop have ended. I can buy nothing more, come what may. There was no scope left to buy even a needle. I was now just buying things for the heck of it. I was scared, I was scared of myself and this madness I acquired. And I took a very tough decision. That I won’t shop, come what may. I won’t be named a psycho or nutcase. People were already laughing at me behind my back. It wasn’t easy. Like all additions, it was taxing to quit. There was this urge to go back and spend few bucks and buy some dopamine release. I took a few steps, you can take them too if you feel you are into compulsive shopping.

Ask Yourselves

1. Do you really need it? Not if you want it but if you need it?
2. Can you do without it for some more time without any trouble?
3. Will it enrich your day-to-day living experience in any way except that one single moment of spending?
4. Is your gifting called for? Is there any occasion? Any need to reward?
5. Is the B1G1 offer worth it? Are you going to use it?
6. Are you shopping because of a fight, argument, anger or disappointment?
7. Are you going to lie about what you bought and how much you spent on it?

image.jpegIf you find the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, then sure go for it. In my case, it was a big NO. But like I said, it’s like an itch, you have to scratch, or it won’t let you rest. So, I had to take some strict measures.

1. I gave my credit cards to my mother and told her to hide them(though I had numbers memorised, it helps, asking is humiliating)
2. I kept only cash on me and made a pledge not spend above 1,000 each month.
3. I cleared my browsing history and unsubscribed to all emails from shopping sites.
4. I made a list of the monthly things I personally need.
5. I discouraged everyone who asked me to shop for them.(they took it as personal hit)
6. Whenever I had the urge to shop, one that was radically driven, I would indulge in eating chocolates.
7. I told myself that if I want to burn money, better give it to a needy, that would be much more satisfying.

We need to realise that just like an itch if they don’t scratch it sooner or later the itch will go away. Buying a whole bunch of stuff makes you feel better about yourself. Some might argue it’s really just an attempt to bolster your self-esteem. Like other addictions, shopping fills some kind of void. The difference between compulsive buying and other addictions is that compulsive buying is condoned by society. It’s important to understand what you’re really shopping for, what are the underlying authentic needs — Are you shopping because you’re lonely? Are you shopping to celebrate? — and finding other ways to meet those pressing needs

As for me, I hate shopping now, and I haven’t shopped anything in more than one year. My mother needs to buy some stuff real bad, I tell her to go out and buy. My relatives provoke me to go to those old sites just once for their sakes, but I say “no sir”. My friends hope that I will be back to gifting and giving once again. I am happy, I don’t need to shop to be happy anymore. I found a better purpose. I wanna be a writer. I can proudly say I am Shopping Free. 😊🙏🛍

Stay Content!

LAUNCHING OF ‘FACE 2 FACE WITH CHIRADEEP’

I have a longing to understand human heart. I love people. I love human emotions and the way it reflects somebody’s inner self. Knowing or understanding a fellow human heart to heart is the most fascinating thing in the entire universe according to me.

I had a desire that I would interview people from different walks of life. And Candles Online is the best thing that happened in my life on which I thought of launching it in this web platform.

So finally, Candles Online launched a new column called, “Face 2 Face” as a new page yesterday. By clicking on that page, you will find the current interview on the top, and a list of interviews at the bottom of that page. There will be pages of different interviews under the main page “Face 2 Face”.

I chose my childhood friend Smruti who is a mother of two and a great homemaker as our first guest to be interviewed. She was amazingly honest, truthful and humorous while replying all my queries. Read her interview to understand and learn very important lessons regarding marriage, parenting and family by clicking HERE.

In coming days, I would be interviewing many more interesting personalities from all over the world including my co-authors of Candles Online.

If you have something very special to share with the whole world then you can approach me and I would love to see if I can interview you as well.

Don’t forget to click on the page: Face 2 Face… 😉

Stay Blessed!