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That thing we do

                                                                                Park_Path

We all keep doing things…..some are meant to be done, some we love doing, and yet some we do on an impulse. All three have their own implications. For the first category, we can’t do much about, because whether we like it or not we have to do them. I feel that we should do the second thing as religiously as the first one because whether we realize it or not it is essential for us. Actually this is for the soul….very personal, may be a little selfish too (because we do it for ourselves….) but this is, if not more, equally essential for our survival…..our growth…..our sanity. It may be as mundane as cleaning and scrubbing the house to cooking and baking to as specialized as painting or dancing. Each one of us gets a comfort, a leveller in a myriad of activities and we have to keep doing them for our own selves. It is while performing them that we may find solutions  to many problems, get new ideas and perspectives and above all they are our ‘stress busters’ as they say.

Now, it’s the third one that has a position of its own – the activities that we do on impulse. There is seldom a reason behind them. We just do them. But they can be life turners….. I cannot say that they are always correct or always incorrect (that is precisely why they are done on an impulse!) but they sure teach us a life lesson.

I would like to share one such thing that I did and which is from the third category. It happened decades back when I had just learnt driving. Me and my daughter got a little adventurous and headed for a long drive in the evening. It was during winters, when evenings turn to darkness early. It so happened that there was a traffic jam on the main road due to a VIPs visit and I impulsively decided to take an unknown route to our destination. It was a semi constructed narrow road which was just enough for a one way traffic (all these were later realizations – what would have happened if another car came from the opposite direction?). It grew dark as we moved ahead, and it was nearly double the time/distance we had otherwise taken/covered through the normal route, and the familiar surroundings were yet to appear. For someone who had just learnt to drive, it was turning out to be quite a challenge. Then, after, a long drive (precisely for which we had set out for, but which was by now turning out to be a tad bit uncomfortable), I sensed familiarity and assured myself of the credibility of the route. The implusive decision, besides perfecting my driving skills, taught me something more, which sometimes, clearly thought through decisions are not capable of – having confidence to brave the odds (taking risks is not always the correct answer, but keeping the faith is – faith in yourself! )

So, the jumpstart to do the third category of the thing we do comes from within….. in the spur of the moment. If we think too much about it, it won’t fit into the category, anyway J

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Emotional scaffolding

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The other day when my dog who is all of four years now came running to me, ears pulled back,    on hearing the loud, aggressive barks of the strays on the road outside, I had a hearty laugh and thought of him as a docile member of his species. Later, in one of those ‘thoughtful’ moments did I realize that what he needed at that time was emotional scaffolding. It was not that I would match the fierceness of the dogs outside and protect him, but his faith in me that I was by his side – with him in a challenging situation.

All of us need emotional scaffolding at some time or the other – in fact, all living creatures require it, I guess. When we are very small our parents provide us that and as we grow up we learn to create a scaffolding of our own. We choose things that provide us that – it may be music, painting, dance, a game of chess or cards or tennis, a long walk all by ourselves, a book – there can be ‘n’ number of things. Along with these, at times we may need a person to be that emotional scaffolding – our parents, a good friend, a grand-parent, a sibling (which is rare!) – the list goes on here as well. The emotional scaffolding is not a sign of weakness but the beginning of the evolvement of relationships. We look at the scaffolding at a construction site and see that gradually as the structure strengthens it is removed and finally the building stands on its own. For living beings, though, the emotional scaffolding continues throughout life – the physical scaffolding can and does come off but the emotional one stays. This is because unlike a building where the construction ends at some point, living beings keep growing throughout their life and so the  emotional scaffolding has to continue. Our choice of  emotional scaffolding may be as diverse as our needs– for kids even an ice cream cone can act as one!

We all need each other – be the emotional scaffolding for one another whenever required so that our lives stand sorted and happy because as the lyrics of a childhood song go – “No man is an island…..no man stands alone…….”

Reaching out

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The world has contracted….the world is one….no differences now…..Is all this really true? Well, maybe in some sense, maybe not in the other. Let me tell you why? Recently while on my evening walk I saw a person walking very slowly, shoulders bent and sporting a continuous frown – he seemed visibly troubled and I just wanted to put a hand on his shoulder and find out if all was well, but something stopped me from doing it ….what was that – I kept thinking for several days and later realized that I did not do so because it is not a culturally accepted norm in my country. Trivial questions like – will he like it? Will he take the gesture as an intrusion of his privacy? Who am I to ask him or be concerned for him? Will I be spurned and told to mind my own business – dominated me. On reasoning with myself some more, I found all those questions unreasonable because I wanted to do that just as a fellow human being. I felt that it may have helped him. I feel that way because of an incident that happened with me a few weeks back while I was on a holiday. I broke my spectacles and urgently needed a pair so I just walked into the first optician I saw for a new one. I was trying frames one after the other and finally zeroed on to two that I liked – to decide on one was the most difficult part. At that moment I heard a voice from behind me saying “the white one…” with a smile. A little startled I turned back to notice a sixty something foreigner giving that advice to me. I smiled back, and said “thank you” in return and went ahead and purchased the white frame. I was happy that someone just made things easier for me. He didn’t know me but he did not think twice before suggesting me and his words did actually help me. Now I know that the next time I feel like reaching out to someone I do not know, I will go ahead and ‘just do it’ like Nike says and the culture will have to follow me.

Be your own raddiwala

What happens to anything in the house that is in excess – not wanted anymore…..not of use anymore – a raddiwala is called for and all that is religiously handed over to him. In fact some households have a fixed periodicity too for the same – i.e. he visits once every month, or once after two or three months as the need be. After each visit of the raddiwala the house looks cleaner and spacious because all the ‘excess baggage’ has gone and it is clutter free – almost as good as new! That is the time when you usually think about changing the decor of the house or buying something new because suddenly there is space around to add new and better things! Now, this is the external scenario…..what about the internal ‘cleaning’- the cleaning of our minds? We need to do the same even there – we have to de clutter, create space. I’m sure all of us have ‘excess baggage’ inside us too, and for that clean up there is no raddiwala – we have to be our own raddiwala! We have to keep cleaning our minds of whatever is not required, not needed anymore for a fresh and new ground for exploring, experiencing and enjoying all that the world has to offer – just like buying new things or rearranging things in the house. It is very important to learn this art of being our own  ‘raddiwala’ . All of us have a limited number of days, and I feel it’s a great idea to keep playing the role of our own raddiwala regularly to lead a happy, stress free life, and making the most of the time allotted to us……

Our thoughts

We are what we think – our thoughts make us. Some of us are optimists, some pessimists and some in between the two mainly because of our thoughts. Are we in control of what we think – our thoughts? The answer is both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’. ‘No’ – because thoughts keep coming to an active human mind; and ‘yes’ – because a mature and rational adult mind can channelize them meaningfully. The terms like sensible, sorted, mature are all used to describe people who are able to control their thoughts; it may not be possible all the time, though. When we are in a position to ignore the negative thoughts and create a situation where in the positive thoughts start dominating, we are able to bring about a difference in our lives and in turn to the lives of others. There are many instances of people who bounce back after a set back – all of them have just mastered the technique of thinking right. The human mind is amazing – it only requires the right shove and once it gets that it can work wonders. So, the first step towards anything has to be the correct thought. We should let the mind think about anything under the sun but at the same time develop the capacity to filter.

 As Gautam Buddha said, “What we think, we become”. So, let’s strive to just think right.

Food for thought

   

I walked a mile with Pleasure;

She chatted all the way;

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say. 

I walked a mile with Sorrow,

And ne’er a word said she;

But, oh! The things I learned from her,

When Sorrow walked with me.

 I read these lines by Robert Browning Hamilton and they have stayed with me – they made me think about and appreciate each word….. Whenever we sit back and think about the time which has passed, I’m sure, all of us feel the essence of the poet’s words. All adversities make us stronger…..they demonstrate the real ‘us’. Therefore, in a way, sorrows are there to teach us. Had there been none, perhaps we would remain ‘illiterate’. The time that we spend with ‘Pleasure’ is a gift that is given to us to have borne the time spent with ‘Sorrow’ with faith, grace and dignity.

These lines gave me plenty of wisdom – spend some time with them and see the result for yourself!

 

Sparing a thought for others

Life these days is extremely busy for everyone. People have time only to think about themselves and their loved ones. They are too involved in tight rope walking their lives! In the midst of all this, the other day, the lady who comes to work at my place told me how while cooking meals for herself and her family of five one evening she saw a pregnant stray dog watching them expectantly. She then told me that she made two additional chapattis and gave it to her who gobbled them in no time and went away wagging her tail as if thanking her for the treat. This story was just a part of a casual conversation between the two of us but it set me thinking…..the lady must be making counted chapattis each night for the family, I thought, and perhaps would have gone with two less chapattis for herself (I’m sure she would have cut down on her share and not of any other family member). Sparing a thought for others – persons, animals, environment – just needs a mind set and willingness. It has nothing to do with money, resources, education or power – the lady who works at my house does not have any of these – she just felt that she needed to give the dog something to eat and she did so by sharing from whatever she had. It may or may not have fully met the need of the stray but it sure did bind them into a bond – that of humanity. Most of the times we argue about lack of time in doing something for others, but this lady is busier than most of us – she is out of her house at 6am only to return at 6pm working continuously  with maybe a hurried lunch break in between, and when she returns home she has a house and family to cater to and all the pending work to complete (and no weekend to look forward to, either!); yet she makes time for others and I genuinely appreciate her for that. Each one we meet has lessons to give us and that day this simple lady gave me one in sparing a thought for others!