How much we take for granted!

Take for grantedLife is like a game of chess. We are constantly trying to outwit nature as we make our killer moves. We have such grandiose plans of “making it big”, “living with purpose”, “doing something useful”, “giving back to society” or whatever plan we come up with. We are so desperate to make a life based on our conditioning, our definitions, social mores, cultures and what not, to give our lives meaning.

But when you really really sit down to think of it, life is nothing but the dots that connect one human being to another and everything that transpires in the lifetime of that connection and the journey of that dot from one to another.

I realised all this because of something unexpected that happened. Just a week ago, well almost, my youngest maternal aunt contracted dengue. She collapsed at the General Practitioner’s clinic, my uncle rushed her to the hospital and we all rushed as family to provide the necessary support. We gave our time, physical help, moral support, food, kept watch over her and prayed. During the course of this episode in my life I saw something unfold. It was like a story being woven out of the cocoon of a life that had taken ill. As a niece, sister, husband, daughter or son, I saw how all these varied and multiple relationships take on a different hue when something sudden, unexpected and disturbing and drastic happens to our loved ones. We are shaken to the core. Life as we know it stops for a heartbeat, a heartbeat that’s longer than a lifetime. Between one inhale and exhale our lives come to a standstill. We pray for health, we think of life without that loved one, we face fear of regret and are afraid to confront the truth of our lives and holding on by a tenuous thread. Yet when the Earth is firm beneath our feet, we live life without a care in the world about the people we care about. They’re there, we’re there, and everything in life will continue forever. It’s like wearing stilletoes for 25 years believing that varicose veins will never compel us to discard them heels. Hah!

What do we go through when news of some imminent danger hits our emotional antennae?
For the son who is tens of thousands of miles away, there is worry, there is hope, there is prayer, there is a certain detachment(perhaps) as it’s the sheer distance that makes danger seem not so profound or fatal. “Everything will be fine” is perhaps the underlying mantra.
For the husband, he’s worried about how life will continue. Who will feed, clean, take care of all the nitty gritties? “Will everything be fine” is his underlying query.
For the daughter away on work in another city, the sheer paranoia perhaps mixed with hours, days, weeks, months and years of piling on the stress of her slightly dysfunctional life and the hidden guilt (my assumption here of course)  creates a tsunami of emotions that unleashes itself in the form of heart wrenching sobs when she sees her mother.”God I want everything to be fine” is her underlying hope. Relief, guilt, fear, anger, hope – it’s like a Molotov cocktail, fiery and dangerous.
For the sisters, there’s genuine worry and fear and offering of prayer that all will be well.”Hope everything will be fine” is their underlying emotion.
For the niece, it’s about pushing away fear and taking charge of a situation and somehow trying to bring about normalcy and control – burying worry and fear deep where no one can see. “It will be fine” is her underlying belief.

We take our lives and of those around us so much for granted that the mere whiff of an aberration – illness, a sudden accident, a death, moving away from a city, a fight leading to permanent “blocking” out of the person, “unfriending” on FB, ending of a relationship /marriage, bankruptcy, natural disaster – anything, just about anything related to those we know and love puts our lives in complete disarray.

I remember when I was moving from Bombay to Bangalore 15 years ago, I felt my heart would leap out of my chest with pain and fear as I had no idea what I was heading towards, and I knew what I was leaving behind. My friends, familiarity, a way of life. Many of those friends and colleagues I no longer keep in touch with. I have moved on as have they am sure. Many of those people I thought would be my besties for life had milestones in life – marriage, babies, promotions, new property investments, cars, new colleagues, new friends – that old friends like me weren’t on the radar. After all out of sight is out of mind. I tried in my own limited way to keep in touch and somehow keep the intensity of friendship alive. Today it’s dead. While I say I don’t care about those who don’t care about me, it still hurts. Why? Because a bond that was sacred to me and which I took for granted that it’d be alive and well and kicking, could not withstand a wee bit of geography playing spoilsport. Therefore the rest is history.

It’s frightening to feel the ground slip from under your feet when a loved one who was there like a rock suddenly seems frail and mortal. The possibility of leading a life without that pillar suddenly hits you in the solar plexus. Panic sets in and all hell breaks loose. In that instant when one’s entire life flashes by and when you sink your head in regret, shame, fear, guilt and helplessness, you resolve to make it good, all you need is one more chance. Please.

And then your loved one is home. You can exhale. The ground beneath your feet isn’t as slippery as before. Life is pink and rosy and you can make your plans once again. Your pride, ego and “life is hunky dory” belief snaps into place. It’s yesterday once more. Time to take things for granted once again, until the next time. Human nature is funny isn’t it? And oh so foolish!

 

Jurassic World and a sigh!…

So I suddenly decided to watch Jurassic World today. I had time and I had completed all my work for the day, perhaps for the week and maybe for the month. I generally do go to see movies alone, I quite enjoy my own company :).

I saw, I yawned, and I was left wondering why the hell are people making this the biggest blockbuster ever? I mean, hey it’s not just about the children and dinosaurs, but the movie hall was so full of adults it seems we’re really crazy about mad, evil, killing dinosaurs and end-of-the-world fatalistic dysotpian films. God! It was boring for me. There were no “OMG” moments in the film for me. And whatever anyone might say, the first Jurassic Park was really a chilling film. I remember actually feeling afraid. But this one was slightly antiseptic for me. Or maybe dinosaurs aren’t just my thing, he he!

Well, post movie at the multiplex I window shopped and then went to the parking lot, got my car and was in queue to pay my parking charges and leave. There were two lanes and so naturally two boom barriers. I paid up, the barrier pivoted open and hardly had I got past it when I almost had to slam my brakes hard as there was another car that was upon me. But surprise surprise, the car waited. Now in many countries around the world this might seem so normal, to wait, be polite,  show some courtesy. But in my country, er…to be honest, nope, nobody waits for anybody. Everyone is constantly honking even if there’s a lapse of a second between a green signal and you. And if someone does wait patiently, those instances are so rare you can actually count them on the fingers of one hand. In my country the intense desire to be first and take shortcuts, to lose one’s temper, to be verbally abusive, to not stand in queues, to basically do everything that is uncouth comes naturally, even to me. It’s very natural for me to curse, use expletives on the road, basically be prepared for a good fight. We’re on the defensive almost all the time and what is the best form of defense? Yup, offense, so we’re offensive all the time. Get it?

Anyway, to get back. The car waited, I turned to look and found a charming man at the helm. I nodded my acknowledgment and thank you for allowing me to pass and he smiled and nodded back. Sigh!

He was charming. I drove out and I was hoping he’d be right behind me and probably have the same route as mine. I was wondering if I should actually get out of my car at the signal and say, “hi, you’re really cute. Would you want to go out for a coffee?” but I knew these kind of scenarios play out only in movies, books, or fairy tales. Sigh!  And I was so much older. My time for romance and fairy tales was so done. Sigh! I wasn’t dressed to kill, I wasn’t attractive, and well, who’d care about an old hag like me eh? Sigh! (the narrative changes so quickly from a ‘what if’ to a ‘oh no, never ever’). Well, obviously none of my 5-second orgiastic fantasies were going to come true. So, in my typical, cynical, skeptical, hardened-middle-aged manner, a shrug of the shoulder, a little turning up of the volume of the car radio, I turned the corner. There wasn’t any black car with a charming young man at the helm. I wasn’t at the movies.

Well, Jurassic World might have been a bore, but kudos to Michael Crichton, the original author, dreamer, thinker, imaginator. The movie certainly had my imagination on the move, all because of a shared thank you, a little bit of etiquette without T-rex or Velociraptor like monsters.  Oh well, life is such. It’s real. Sigh!

 

3 ways you can press ‘pause’ now!

The alarm rings. That sound sets off your day and the mad rush of the day envelopes you. From that moment on when you rub the sleep off your eyes (waking up) to the time when you’re trying to rub the sleep off your eyes (trying to keep awake), Life is in a hurry. It’s become fashionable to be busy. So much so that people actually fake it. Wow!

Soon the juggernaut of life rolls on. While we ‘want to’, ‘think of’, ‘dream of’, ‘wish to’, ‘sigh’, and various other expressions in between, we are just waiting to exhale. I’ve lived a life of breathless anticipation – God alone knows of what. All the tension, excitement, ticking off the ‘to do’ list in your head before heading to work, going over dreaded incumbent telephone conversations, replaying confrontational scenarios with colleagues, feeling nervous and anxious at the presentation, with the sweat making your palms slide off the steering wheel, yes, been there and done that. I gave it all up. I knew I couldn’t live like this (or that, from where I am now at) anymore.

Today, living a more sedate but more fulfilled life is important to me. I remember being fascinated by a TED Talk by Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness. Of course in the world where I come from, it did seem to me far fetched or an indulgence, but I was left wondering what it would be like to savour life slowly. So I’ve tried in my own way to build a life which is not a blur and I share that with you.

Wake up early and pause: everyday when I wake up, I consciously put in an effort to just sit on my bed, and go over and think about how I’d like my day to be for at least 5 mins. Earlier I used to use this practice as an excuse to go over my day in my head and would end up feeling agitated. Now I just close my eyes and pause before I get into the day headlong. 5 mins is all it takes. It helps me ease into the day rather than rush into it. I feel calmer, more relaxed and somehow more grounded and ready to take on whatever the day throws at me.

Meditate, meditate, mediate: Wherever you are, whatever you do, make this as normal and life-giving as breathing. Sit cross-legged or even with legs extended, close your eyes or keep your eyes slightly open, listen to meditative music or not, focus on your breathing. And feel the rush of thoughts. Don’t panic. It’s okay to have a million thoughts colliding like neutrons in a Hadron Collider. It’s called being human. And then slowly as your breathing gets into a rhythm, your thoughts get feebler, there’s a possibility you go into deep wakefulness. Yes, it’s sleep, but you’re acutely aware of ambient sounds, birds chirping, the sounds from the kitchen, the honk of a car, your body slouching, your neck hurting (maybe), but you’re resting. It’s peaceful somehow. I do this everyday, though there are Sundays or some Saturdays where I miss it. But meditating has helped me feel so centred, so calm that I am reveling in this new found spirit of ‘can do’. I suddenly feel so empowered and feel, unafraid. As if all my fears (well not all), have been dissolved. And when you experience that, you suddenly feel unconstrained and the ability to explore, do, be is simply phenomenal.

Mid-day breaks: I am self-employed and so when there’s work, there’s a flood of it and I work to meet my deadlines through the day. But earlier I used to go at it non-stop with lunch breaks. Now I deliberately go slow, I pause wherever I am at in the course of my work day and browse the internet, go to the living room, watch some TV, go watch the world pass me by as I stand in my balcony, basically, take a break. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel pressured to see the advancing hands of the clock, I don’t feel a sense of dread or panic. I have committed to deadlines and have by and large met them. But while I’m big on commitment, I realise not meeting a deadline isn’t going to kill me. All clients are by nature suspicious, angry, and somehow think it’s their birthright to be extra cautious about money (clients and their misplaced caution about budgets merits another post), feel an insatiable need to somehow have the last word, always rub it in that you’ve made a mistake, and feel really proud of their really sad ideas. Yes, they pay you money to get their job done, but in the bargain make you feel like they’ve done you a favour. So I’ve stopped questioning their motives, and am not fazed by all this anymore. If they can’t wait, well, here’s your money, thank you, but no, thank you.

Life is here and now. It’s true that all we have is this moment. So don’t rush through it. Take a moment, take a break, because as far as I know, YOLO. Pause~

 

 

Gone are those days when…!

Gone are those days when birthing babies was simple.Today we have “maternity packages” in specialised maternity hospitals called Cloud 9, Motherhood, Nest, Cradle and other such gimmicky stuff.

Gone are those days when people looked at you when they spoke (as against having their noses buried in their mobile phones nowadays).

Gone are those days when a sanitary napkin was just that, a napkin. Today we have long, extra long, with wings, tampons, dry, and more.

Gone are the days when people smiled, laughed and actually had emotions. Today we have emojis.

Gone are the days when letters were written, put in an envelope and stamped and posted in a postbox. Today we see the time:stamp on an e-mail in our Inbox.

Gone are the days when kids played hopscotch, hide and seek and 7 tiles. Today they play Warcraft, Battlefield, Hotline Miami on their XBox or whatchamacallits.

Gone are the days when reading a book meant lovingly thumbing the pages, feeling the texture of the paper, breathing in the smell, dog earing it, bookmarking it. Today we have the Nook, Kindle and well, does it matter?

Gone are the days when we valued money, be it 10p, 25p, Re.1/- or OMG Rs.10/-. Today we can’t wash our bums with Rs.1000/-.

Gone are the days when dining out was about choosing a restaurant carefully and poring over the menu for minutes imagining the smells and taste before placing an order. Today we have mega brunches and mass confusion.

Gone are the days when there was an unspoken rule that adult children could lean on their parents when things went wrong, for comfort, for support, for unconditional love. Today there are unspoken laws: don’t ask, don’t tell.

Gone are the days when divorce was a last resort. Today it’s the first.

Gone are the days when there children used to be taken to lakesides or beaches or national parks for a picnic. Today, malls are the thing or how about Bangkok?

Gone are the days of neighbourhood stores with glass jars full of peppermint candy in zebra stripes. Today it’s Kinderjoy or nothing.

Gone are the days when friends came over for a sleep over. Today, friends book themselves into a 5 star hotel for a ‘weekend’ package.

Gone are the days when life was simpler.
Gone are the days when life was a joy (not a chore).
Gone are the days when life was at peace (not an everyday battle of wits).
Gone are the days when life was about humanity.

Where are we headed?