What Covid Has Done Unto Us and What We Need to do

Since January, 2020 human life is flowing in a different course. Not a single one of our celebrated astrologers or intellectual and spiritual giants had no clue to this, let alone to predict or foresee it. Godmen are now standing in the ‘Q’ for vaccination. In just one and a half years everything went topsy turvy. History has never witnessed such a drastic and far-reaching upheaval of this magnitude. All previous catastrophes that the human race was subjected to, be it in the form of pandemics, cyclones, floods, famine, wars or whatever, had been limited by time and space. But this virus transcended everything in its effect and devastated human life, reaching out to every nook and corner of the world. Millions of souls have since departed and thousands are fighting for their breath. Quite astonishingly, superpowers like the United States and China who claim to have the latest scientific knowledge and technology were the first to be taken by the throat and driven to the wall by the deadly virus. China has managed to come out, the parentage of the virus is still in question, though. The world economy was in for a wild skid at the sudden and unexpected U-turn. Millions who lost their jobs are sitting back at home, not even able to step out on the street to look for a fresh job.

At a personal level, meetups with friends and relatives have become scarce. Those who had no flair for digital methods of banking or merchandise have already learned to create User IDs and passwords. Beggars have disappeared from the streets. Alkies have stopped drinking without any withdrawal symptoms. Other diseases are less now and many of them are getting cured at home itself.

Sad enough is the plight of the Covid positives who are hospitalised, with none of their dear ones near to stand by. Their families have the least clue as to what is happening inside the hospital. Added to the stress and strain of their sickness and isolation, they are exposed to the stark realities of life inside the wards. Helplessly witnessing the death throes in the adjacent bed and souls departing from around…the situation is no better than hell. Many must have died of depression and fear too. And once it is all over, if the family of the dead is not willing to receive the dead body for fear of getting infected? Yes. That is also happening. 

With the deaths happening everywhere, it seems people have come to terms with death.  At least, they have learned to take it lightly !!

And those who somehow managed to grab their life back from the virus, are still in the grip of post-covid complications. Depression drives many of them to end everything by themselves. I have no intention of horrifying the readers. But many survivors of the disease would vouch that their experience was worse.

As for everything, Covid has some positive side effects also. Children who were living far away and not expected to stay with their parents for long again, came back to their houses and revisited their childhood joys. Those who are fortunate enough to keep their jobs, found their expenses coming down having no luxuries to indulge in; Many have experimented cooking and relished healthy and long-forgotten dishes. Even those who live in cities were lavished with pure air; Marriages have become less expensive affairs.

We have been anxious about our health, jobs, money and what not? Some of us have had irretrievable losses too.  And the threat is not over yet.  But the world is not us human beings alone. Look at Nature. Isn’t the Sun keeping its time as before? Winds blow, rivers flow and plants grow. Snow and rain come down unfailingly. Animals and birds are not affected. Everything is as usual.

I believe fear is the main reason for the spread of the virus. There is no need for us to panic if the vaccination is delayed by a few days. Could be, the virus is not as deadly as we are made to believe. Corona scared us like anything in the first wave. But it did not cause casualties as we expected. In India, the second wave started at a time we thought the scare was over and started taking it lightly. But it was deadly and took away thousands of lives. So, in both instances, what happened was  contrary to what we feared. Now, administrations and media foretell a deadly third wave. Since fear will not improve any condition, we need not worry. The third wave is not a certainty. Hopefully, there will not be a third wave at all. 

We have to be aware and not panic. Get vaccinated. Psychologically also it would do good. Wear quality masks, keep social distance and wash hands frequently. There isn’t anything else that we can do. Don’t believe everything the social media says about the virus and the pandemic. Rather than being locked indoors indefinitely, try to understand to what extent you can get outside and indulge in external life. Go for a short walk outdoors, if it is permitted.  Nothing stays permanent. This too shall pass.

Minus Pass:

In my native place in north Kerala where fish is the staple diet, when people first meet in the morning, instead of saying “Good morning”, they ask, “What fish did you get today?” Like that, people all over the world now ask:

“Got vaccine?” 

The intention is either to make it known to the other that you have already got it or to get worried that you did not yet. Isn’t getting vaccinated something personal? I would rather say, we should respect privacy.

A tribute to fathers

Half of everything about us belongs to our fathers. Fathers’ love is perhaps the most unsung topic ever. Although his love and care for children do not abate over time, children see him in different faces as they grow up.  From a childhood hero, he might appear a dictator in the teenage and then even an enemy thereafter.  But to me, fathers in general seemed to confine themselves, especially as the children mature. Retirement from job will accelerate this estrangement. Disagreements and conflicts, usually labelled as ‘generation gap’, settle down into silence and the responses get reduced to a mere grin. Feelings will be suppressed by a glance out the window or a meaningful sigh. Perhaps this is the point in life where the father finds his own identity, albeit mentally.  This indifference  could be the reason for the rest of the family’s complaint that the elderly father ‘does not listen’ to them.  Father, who had been compromising a lot to please his family and others, turns adamant about everything now.  With full conviction that some of his actions and opinions are wrong, he sticks to a logic that nothing can be changed now.  In a way, amidst the noise and celebrations in the house, he feels lonely and isolated. Husbands even fall victim to the psychological problems that wives face in their middle age. Surprisingly, I have not heard anyone discuss this much.  Another factor is that when boys grow up, mothers give them all the priority.  Even daughters have been heard complaining about this neglect, not to mention the father. I think this could be one reason many fathers end up in loneliness or turn to other more ‘entertaining’ habits.  One thing is for sure. No man will be mentally upset and feel secluded if he is sure that his wife will stand by him always. Don’t take it in the sense that I am blaming mothers;  But one thing; Self esteem is the most important thing for a man and he never likes it to be questioned.  So, it is the duty of everyone in the house, especially the mother, to see that it is kept intact.  Happiness and peace in the family can only be achieved if the father and mother complement each other.

A mother can easily find joy in the new worldviews and experiences that her children introduce her to. Amidst any amount of personal sorrow and anguish, a mother is capable of that.  That’s the way God has designed her mind.  In any situation, regardless of logic or reason, a mother will stand for her children.  But the father, who was once a man full of energy and courage, who took care of everyone in the family, recedes as the shadow of his wife as the pace of life slows down.  Not being able to word his opinion, watching the silly drama of shadows on television, taking sides in political debates, and raising blood pressure with moral outrage, father awaits his fate like the dusty picture hanging on the wall.  That very personification of distress is sitting in the living room of your house or your neighbor’s. Just stop and look to see.

Playing to the tune of others in the family, it is saddening to see the father degenerating into a clown at times. Right from the days he was a son, father has been living for others. Haven’t there been many moments when the father, who has become a little  rough bearing the hard yoke of family burden, had turned his head away not to show him wiping his heart-wrenching tears? Haven’t  we children conveniently tried to believe that the eyes of the smiling father were filled with tears of joy?  Father should not cry! Because the family stood up in the courage of that mind.  We all grew up eating, playing and sleeping in the shade of that overgrown tree.  When the aging father seems to be an obligation, how many of us remember the father who was once healthy, energetic, and young? If at all we did, have we ever told it to him? Father was our guide to the outside world.Whenever he took us out, wasn’t his grip on our fingers that made us feel safe? When playing with him, was it not our trust in him that made us ask him to throw us up in the air again and again?  When we first left home for study or work, did we hear the throbbing of that heart next to the weeping mother?  Could we have imagined a father who was tossing and turning on the bed without sleep thinking of us? No, because we believed that father was not a person who could be shaken by feelings. Doesn’t  the affection of the father often fall secondary to the more conspicuous love of the mother? When the grown up son or daughter hugs the mother lovingly and says that they love the mother most, just like the mother there is one more person in the world whose joy knows no limits ! How many of our mothers knew and acknowledged this by pulling him also close to her at such occasions? A father loves his wife as much as his own children, perhaps even more.  But for a mother, nothing is more dear than her children.  And the father knows it best!

Father as the first man in his daughter’s heart steps down when she gets married leaving only love in her mind. But he is making a return to the son’s heart. No matter what his age is, the son  cannot deny the spell of control and authority the father exercises on him. They are inseparable souls, so to say. The son will come to recognise this, but on the day father departs from this world. When the son becomes a father, he understands the intensity of his father’s struggles in bringing him up. Then onwards, he understands that he is gradually becoming like his father in form, habits and deeds. Departure of the father is a big turning point in the life of a son. At least for a few days he stands embarrassed without any support to lean onto.It is only now that his intense childhood desire to ‘become like a father’, which was abandoned somewhere, comes back. Death of the father shakes not only the mother but the son too.  As the shade of the big tree moves, everyone in the family begins to experience the wind, the rain and the heat of life’s realities. 

Times have changed.  Like everyone else, fathers also have changed.They are now friends to their children. Can a father ever become a friend? Hard to understand. Whether it is father, mother, children or friends, there is a bond of love that binds them all together.  It is a chemistry between hearts.  There is no point in trying to get away from it.  We just need to be ‘us’ in any relationship.  Because Human beings live with their hearts.

Not everyone may agree with my taking sides with the father.  I agree that mother’s sacrifice and love are beyond comparison. But, fathers should not be left to stand alone and feel inferior. Maybe my thoughts are a bit old-fashioned.  Today’s ‘cool’ newgen fathers’ predicament may have changed a lot for the better. But basically, I believe,  they are all still a bit the old type. 

Anyway, if the foregoing article is reason enough for the children to remember their own father and get a little annoyed at it; if the fathers and mothers chanced to look back at their own lives , I did not intend anything more.

Being Responsible

The Blame Game

“That’s not my job” is definitely the most and oft-used phrase that has been reverberating in the corridors of any office. We never want to do a pinch more than what we are paid for. But not that strict when somebody else does part of our job too. “He did it” is another common phrase used not only in office and in school but in life at large. When something goes wrong, our natural instinct is to find an excuse or to blame someone for it rather than thinking of a solution to set things right back again. Haven’t we all been deft in this ‘passing the buck’ game? Did you use any of these phrases to escape your responsibility ever? I did. I started it even before I was old enough for school. Whether others believed my excuse or not was not my concern. This practice was carried on in my school and college. Things went well except for a few untoward incidents as my classmates were not as forgiving as my siblings. I don’t know why, by the time I started working, somehow, I had stopped doing it. But still, I am not sure whether my family would agree if I say that I don’t play this game at home anymore.

Just out of interest, I tried to pick up from memory some of the common excuses that we all habitually make. There is an array of them that suit different situations.

The first one is, “I was busy, that’s why I did not call you”. We seldom say “ I forgot to call you” for fear of the other person feeling unimportant. We know how much time it would take to make a call. If you did not call someone for some time, it’s not because you were busy or did not have time. It means, either you did not need his help of late or you did not consider him to be important enough to be kept in touch. How many of us would dare to tell our wives that we did not call them because we forgot to, even if that happens to be the truth? Never, Something dreadful is almost sure to follow !!

“Why should I do all the work? Let someone else do it.” A presumption that you have been doing everything and others were merely sitting, enjoying. But In reality, the one who uses this excuse often is normally found to be a shirker.

“I am like this, I cannot change”. It’s not because he or she cannot change, but they find it a working slogan that would save them the trouble of taking responsibility, almost permanently. 

“Nobody understands me” is a sort of emotional shield that could be successfully held against any question or allegation. It’s just a defence. They never expect you to understand them!

”I did not do anything” is an expression feigning innocence. They are so unaware of the whole situation! No way we can blame them !!

“He started it” is more of an offensive tactic to blame the other person. But It needs a little more courage to allege something, because, in all possibility, there would be a retort of the same magnitude from the other side. Need to be well prepared with reasons and evidence for justifying yourself.

These expressions are only part of an exhaustive list. The truth is that even when we make excuses to escape our responsibility, deep in our hearts, we know that what we do is not right. Did you not feel a prick of conscience whenever you went after excuses? Yes, except for those who are adept in lying, everyone shall have felt a pull of guilt from inside. All these expressions are testimony that you’re living a life, not of your choice. Indirectly, you are asking somebody else to take the responsibility for your life. You sacrifice your power of feeling and thinking and choose to become a victim. And when you are a victim, you lose positivity and deprive yourself of the little pleasures and impetus for life. Life, in its course, presents all of us with real crises where no amount of excuse and blame would help. As Abraham Lincoln said, you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. You stand responsible for what you are in life today. 

Responsibility, in a sense, is minding the four fingers pointing at you while you point one at the other. Before you frantically look for an excuse, ask yourself, 

“In what way I can contribute to the situation?” 

“ What can I do to make the situation better?”

Whose Responsibility?

“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you suffer a lot. When you realise everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”

Dalai Lama

No doubt, we are not living in fair and judicious social entities. Your family, workplace and your immediate society may not be perfect places. Differences of opinion and complaints could be common. You might disagree with your parents. Your Boss’s attitude is irritating. You do not support the way your government is handling issues and situations. But have you ever thought you have a role, however negligible, in making things better? Couldn’t we have improved relationships and bettered situations if we were a little more responsible?

Yes, We are all capable of doing something to improve the quality of relationships and the society we live in. Of course, there would be situations beyond our control. You cannot have answers to all the riddles. But fortunately, they are very few. Don’t you think the devastating coronavirus would eventually die out if we all take care to be more hygienic and curtail our freedom a little for a few days? Without people taking individual responsibility, no government can, one fine morning, eradicate a pandemic or successfully deal with environmental and social issues. For the government it’s a big process of law making, planning, scheduling, manpower management, funding and implementation, still falling far too short of expected results. But individually, it could just be a change in our daily routine or some positive thinking but the benefits shall be phenomenal.

Why people like to be inside their comfort zones and do not want freedom is because it involves taking responsibility. Those who are responsible do whatever is possible for them to do. Taking responsibility changes the entire situation. Moreover, it makes you happier and inspires you to do more. 

Tale End:

My neighbour aunty who is 75 plus fell into a deep drainage ditch one evening. It was almost dark and nobody was around. She yelled “help, help” but there was no answer. After some time a face showed up. She repeated her cry, but the person brisked away saying that he was on his way and if he stayed longer, the shop would be closed! After some time some people came and pulled her out. Nobody was ready to take her to the hospital. They stopped an auto-rickshaw, put her in it and asked the driver to drop her in the nearby hospital. The driver did the very thing and dropped her on the hospital veranda and drove away. She had to virtually crawl in agony to the casualty with a broken shoulder.

I don’t know why this incident came to my mind now. Is there anything this has to do with what we have been discussing?

Being Likeable

“Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the worlds” – Rumi

I usually can’t help feeling flattered and a little too excited when somebody seems to like or appreciate me. To me, there is no better feeling than to be liked by others. Maybe people do not always say on your face that they like you. Some do, of course. Some try to withhold it, but only to be betrayed by their own body language. What words cannot tell, the body would convey. 

Haven’t you ever experienced the thrill of being recognised or liked? I know you have; Everyone has. Human nature being what it is, people are so too different in many respects. But at the same time, certain traits run common for all of them. Isn’t it true that we all like to be liked by others? Only that some of us want to cut a different image before others with an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. They may even behave as if their sole intention is to be disliked. They are the ones who don’t want to change and even think that likeability is a weakness. They are that ‘rough and tough’ sort who can’t smile!! Interestingly, if you can take time to go a little deep into their history, you will find that most of them are frustrated with denial of love and care at some point in their lives. Life cannot be an exclusively pleasant experience where everyone likes each other. We cannot help but be disliked for being forthright and open at least in certain situations which require to be so. Again, if you have to put across an innovative idea that involves some change or risk either in life or work, you are sure to be disliked, if at all, temporarily. But it’s a plain fact that all human beings crave to be liked by others, albeit to varying degrees.

By birth and bringing up, we are all assigned to different social groups. We belong to different ethnicities, nationality, religion, caste, families and we all take sides with one political party or the other. Associating with any such group curbs our freedom of independent expression. As part of our loyalty, we have a responsibility to defend the broader interests and activities of the group to which we belong. Since childhood, we have been conditioned to hate anything outside of our group. While being fully aware that there is only one God and all creatures are more or less the same substance and spirit, we were taught differently. We could not rise above whatever unreasonable logic that had been fed in. We found it convenient to believe that our God is better than their Gods and we should follow and support only the groups that we belong to, unmindful of what our hearts tried to say aloud from time to time. Beneath all these make-beliefs and confusions, consciously or unconsciously, we are aware of the oneness and interconnectedness of all. This is the baffling duality of existence. We cannot live in isolation without depending on others; At the same time, we have to battle it out all alone! Life is entangled in relationships. We like who likes us, They like us because we like them. There is an undeniable craving for love, recognition and appreciation in all of us. Ironically, this same craving gives rise to their very opposites also.

Being liked is human

If I want to be liked, I must become likeable first. Likeability is the ability to create positive attitudes in others. Even if we do not intend to get any profit by liking others, still, that is sure to pay rich dividends. Likeability adds value to your personality, It makes not only you but also the other person feel better. Everyone shall be likeable to someone, but it is difficult to be liked by everyone.

Why do we like some people instantly while some others never come around? Even though we can’t articulate the exact reason, we do like, dislike, trust and distrust people. Some are genetically gifted with likeable traits and disposition. Others will have to learn it.

Why are most bosses unpopular? Just because they never say they liked your work. They don’t appreciate. Leaders (not political) on the other hand, look for your talent, forgive mistakes, motivate and stand with you and protect you. Being open and friendly straight away puts you on the road to likeability. 

Communication is the life and blood of likeability. All friendly people are good communicators. Does a medicine or a doctor cure you? The doctor does, if he is pleasant and caring, I believe. Still in doubt? Ask someone who has come back from a disease.

Didn’t we have favourite teachers at school and college? What made them more likeable? They were friendly, pleasant and humorous. Teachers also have their favourite students. All such students did not necessarily secure good grades in the class. They had something that made them likeable.

What won you friends? Friends always have similarities. We instantly like people who have similarities with us. When people voice similar views, opinions, interests like ours, we readily agree with them and like them. There is only happiness and positivity when they are together. It is said that those without friends are likely to have less immunity and recovery is difficult for them.

People admire political leaders, movie stars, artists and sportspersons. This is not because of their likeability, but because of their excellence in work. Somehow, we come to a belief that all our heroes are well mannered and kind-hearted. But the moment we get an impression on the contrary, their likeability starts to wane.

Job candidates stand a fair chance to be selected if they are likeable. In case of a downsizing or lay off in a company it is the likeable ones that survive. They are even preferred over the most talented. So, you are not only to do a good job, but find ways to increase your likeability to be accepted at the workplace.

The Road to Likeability

To be likeable, we need to first like ourselves. I sometimes forget the names of people whom I talk with and so, even if I want to mention them in a conversation, I can’t do so. I regret this because I am missing a great opportunity to show them that I am interested in them. I lose midway in the path to their hearts. 

Contrary to Shakespeare’s question, “What’s in a name?”, I believe, there is no other more important word than one’s name. Everyone loves to be called by his name. If you have that habit of remembering people’s names and use them frequently in your conversation you are already half won. People are sure to remember you and they would love to hang around you. 

Use the phrase, ‘I liked it’ whenever you feel like saying it, and that would sound like music on the receiving ears. If you genuinely like something about another person, just walk up to him and word your appreciation. Unless you have some ulterior intention or you expect something from the other fellow, you are sure to edge the likeability ball in. 

Do you think people would automatically know if you like them? No. You need to make it known to them somehow. 

Liking more gets you liked more. If you don’t show any interest in others, you have no claim for theirs. So, be genuinely interested in others. Be a good listener, ask more about them, give attention and enjoy what they say. A very important thing to remember is that people are more interested in themselves, not us. And none of them are guided by reason, but by emotions.

But make sure that your attitude is real and genuine. A pretentious person shall not thrive for long and will end up unpopular. 

Nobody is perfect and if you’re willing to be frank about your shortcomings and imperfections, you shall be endearing to people. Those who made mistakes and appear to be more human are more relatable and thus liked more. Are you one of those humorous, fun-loving type who takes life easy? Do you sometimes make self-deprecating jokes and immediately agree when you make a mistake? People are sure to be drawn to you.

A smile instantly makes you likeable and gets you a place in good books. 

Let’s see how beautifully the greatest motivational speaker Dale Carnegie describes a smile:

“Your smile is a messenger of your goodwill. Your smile brightens the lives of all who see it. ….your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds. Especially when..someone is under pressure from his bosses, his customers, his teachers or parents or children, a smile can help him realize that all is not hopeless – that there is joy in the world.”

No reason to disagree with him. How long can you resist a smiling face? A smile is the best weapon of a wise man. Man has achieved more with smiles than with fighting a thousand battles. You have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain. Then, why not be lavish on shedding that sunshine on all people you meet? 

When you say “Hello” on the telephone, speak in a tone that shows how pleased you are to talk to that person.

Do something for others. Do it taking time and energy and unselfishly and thoughtfully.

As a parent or at work you cannot move forward without ever criticising anyone. And as you know, there isn’t anything like criticism that everyone hates. It can easily earn you enemies. If criticism is unavoidable, allow the other person a breathing space to save his face. Do never say, “You are wrong”. Nobody likes to hear this. Avoid getting into arguments, because nobody has ever won an argument! And when you speak, “Don’t raise your voice, raise your words”

Keeping you on check

You cannot be liked until you learn how not to be unlikable. Do you do any of the following?

In the office or outside, do you try to take credit for someone else’s work?

Do you have the habit of talking down to other people?

Do you joke and mock someone?

Take up the mobile phone or check the watch in the middle of a conversation? It will upset others as they might feel they are not important.

Behave as if you are the ‘know-all’ in a group? That would certainly make people turn their head away.

Talking sarcastically, expressing your cynicism on all that others say and the habit of complaining shall be your best bets for being instantly disliked.

As the world would always have it, there are staunch adversaries of ‘likeability’. They even go to the extent of saying that likeability is a big lie. But, having lived this life for a few decades, I believe, likeability counts, but not without you putting your heart into it. I have seen that pleasant men and women have less stress, they enjoy social relationships and are less likely to be divorced. Likeability helps them sail through tough times. 

I love being liked. How about you?

Zest for Life

It’s a shiny, pleasant day out there and life is in full swing. Sky is clear but for a few clouds here and there. I have been here on this wonderful planet for…yes… it’s a little more than half a century now. There have been days of sunshine as well as those in which rain lashed out as if it would never allow the Sun out! But no, Sun came again, making the flora and fauna rejoice. Flowers bloomed, birds sang out their joy, warmth and happiness everywhere. When Sun’s heat became unbearable, we prayed for Rain ! Life is like that. Just as it needs sunshine and rain for a a plant to grow and a flower to bloom, life cannot, but be a mixture of smile and tears.

In my journey so far, like everyone else, I too have met and interacted with so many other human beings. Some of them are with me since birth, some were there for a few years, some for a few days and some only for a few moments. There are significant people in my life whom I have never met.  Looking back, I see that time has erased off some faces who were very much part of my life at some point or the other. To be open,  If I chance upon some of my classmates on the street,  we might not even recognise each other. The reality that we had been sharing time, space and emotions shall not matter at all. At the same time,  some faces with whom I had very short acquaintance are still green in my memory. I have witnessed people passing away, including some family members and some very close bosom friends. Although dear ones making their exit is really painful, I could manage my grief almost all the time with only one exception, the death of my computer instructor whom I had very few days’ acquaintance with. But even in that short time we had developed some bonding. The night he died of a heart attack I had dropped him in the bus stop with absolutely no idea anywhere in my mind that it was going to be our last meeting. Death was prowling around and had reached just about four hours away from him. After two days, unaware of his leaving this world, I  called his number to ask about the next class, only to be struck dumb with that unexpected news. It instantly devastated me. I sat in my bed, broke down and wept for half an hour unmindful of my surroundings. That was one of the rare moments in my life I was very much myself. I never imagined a soul could pass away so swiftly without giving any clue! He was only 37. His face and memory are still fresh in my mind, but recollecting that incident now, after 22 years since then, I can’t remember his name!!

I have always been a person blessed with very good friends. Each one of them likes and loves me and keeps me close to their hearts. As for everyone else, it’s always a joy to be among friends, any time.  God deserves a special thanks for giving me such great companions. Even my family has no difference of opinion regarding my friends. I also have been a good friend to all of them and that could be one reason we built great friendships. I cannot imagine a person who never had a good friend. A man or woman without a friend is either not interested in life at all or is living as a recluse, in an egoistic shell of his or her  own. A friend is a testimony that you are a social being. Your mother apart, he is perhaps the only person always by your side, knowing all your drawbacks and limitations and still supporting you.

In my journey so far, I have been to many places and lived in and out of the country during these five decades. While I liked and longed to be in some places, I wished I could escape some other. To my surprise, when I visited certain places for the first time, I felt no unfamiliarity. It was as if I had been there before. Some other places made me uncomfortable with wrong vibes. But it dawns on me now that, in life,  you can’t be anywhere permanently. We all are moving from place to place frequently. Your yearning might, sometimes, take you back again to a particular place, only to find the place no longer the same as you left it. What excited you in that place previously may not be there any more.  I tend to believe that one place is not different from another, but for its geography and our own experience with it. Still, I am of the view that we should travel to as many places as possible and look for different climates, geography, cultures and experiences. The world is a magical place where you get to see the same thing in different lights and forms from different angles. Putting ourselves in a broader perspective will help us understand where we stand and how insignificant but unique specks we are in this Universe and how intricately interlinked with all other things. Most importantly, by putting ourselves in different places, we will be open to different possibilities, both materially and spiritually.

Fifty odd years on this globe is no trivial time for a human being. He or she must have had many experiences, both good and bad. I’m no exception. Being human, I love and hate and is being loved and hated, aware or unaware. Usually grown-ups talk of childhood as the best time in their life. Could be because it was a carefree period where you did not want to worry about money and dependents. Parents took care of all  that.  But for me, although nothing dreadful happened in my childhood, I studied well, played a lot ( Thanks we had no mobiles and internet access at that time), I have never been nostalgic. No sense of loss either.  I always wanted to grow up fast, stand on my legs and experience freedom. Once out of the house and into the world, I saw different dimensions of life on play there with equal importance. Life out there was fascinating, frustrating and nauseating at times. Personal liberty opened up many colourful and alluring bylanes before me, but I was never tempted by them and took the straight road. May be because of my upbringing.. 

A major share of population in this world just live on because they are not dead. They are left with no hopes, rather, they are not aware of a brilliant world outside their comfort zone. I am surprised to see the retired people, relatively young at the age of 56 or 58 believe that they had their day, and idle away time by discussing politics, taking sides, watching  ‘soaps’ on the TV or being social media addicts. These Idle minds are busy doing service to the devil. Only a few people know that there is a purpose for life. They seek to find it and go after it. They enjoy each day, doing something they like to do. What they do  eventually becomes a service to others. 

While still our eyes are open to the world, we do not know what to see. So we peep into the privacy of the neighbour with unbecoming interest. We want to have all that he has. We scoff at him if he doesn’t have what we have. The world has a habit of labelling people with material gains as successful. If you get a chance to look into the eyes of some so-called  ‘successful’ people at close quarters, you will not fail to see that the kindling shine in their eyes is already gone. At a very early age, their body language might be projecting a fallen image. Having achieved materially, they do not know what is next and what to live for. They have lost the zest for life. While winning on one side, they are constantly losing on all other aspects of life. 

The day we are able to see the spark inside us, start to be grateful for all that we have, stop being overly interested in others’ matters, start following our passion, recognise that the reason for most of our problems lies within us only, learn to smile to the world and be genuinely interested in fellow beings, cuts our ‘wants’ list to the ‘needs’ list, and finally accept the person you are with all your drawbacks and disadvantages, that gleam shall come back to your eyes. In other words, the zest for life shall regenerate in yourself. My life tells me that It’s a sin if we do not find our purpose…. A disgrace to God who has created us in his own image.

Being Mindful

Stumbling on Mindfulness

Sitting in my balcony, sipping the early morning tea, a flurry of thoughts rushed through my mind. The day was only fifteen minutes old for me. I had the least idea from where all these thoughts suddenly surfaced and filled up the empty spaces of the mind! One thought led to the other and I can’t even remember what that first thought was. It is said that a man thinks at least fifty thousand thoughts a day. I was lost in the entangling thoughts, but I knew that amidst all these hurrying thoughts, I would finish my tea, do yoga, take a bath, eat breakfast, dress up and drive to the office without much of any conscious thinking. It’s the routine and things just fall in place at their fixed time. The same thing would happen in the office also. Repeating the same actions and coming across almost the same set of people I will live out one more day. Yes, it’s my subconscious that does all the work. It has been fine-tuned that way. Rather, life is set in an autopilot mode. Isn’t this the way that things happen in your day too? I am pretty sure it is so.

Circling back to the present, I simply engaged my thoughts on what I have been doing and delved a little into the present. How does my tea taste? Nice…it’s good. The next sip of tea stirred me from inside. It was instantly invigorating. Never before I had experienced what the morning tea was doing to me. Suddenly my eyes got stuck on the picture of a small butterfly painted on my teacup. Was this picture there before? It was a beautiful butterfly painted in red and yellow. I have been using this cup for a few days now. How come that I missed the butterfly all these days? And this cup. Although I could recognise my cup even in the dim light I had never known what its exact shape was. My eyes then took my attention around. A hummingbird is sitting on the windowpane, very conscious of my presence and ready to take off at my slightest movement. Every morning that bird sits there but now only I noticed the colour of its feather and the shape of its beak. A quiet breeze sneaked past my face, lightly caressing my hair and inviting me to the sights and sound of Nature around me. The breeze murmured to me that it’s a little colder today. Over the lush green paddy fields and yonder coconut grove, the Sun has already shown its red and gleaming face, promising a beautiful morning. I am now conscious of the birds chirping and the chantings from the nearby temple. All those special and pleasant morning sounds filled my ears. I have rarely experienced such a lovely morning, at least after I am grown up! I am very much aware of what is happening in and out of myself now. It is as if I am transformed into a whole new world. Life has begun to show up in a new light bringing with it a lot of peace and happiness.

While my experience in the first case was negative, the second one is positive and enlivening. My whole perspective and attitude changed by being more attentive. I just tried to look at what was happening ‘now’ in and around me. A little awareness was injected into the present moment. And that played the magic. Instantly my disturbing thoughts about the past and concerns about an unsure future was gone. 

Delving more into Mindfulness

There is all chance that you have heard or read about mindfulness before, as it has been fast gaining currency in a world which is stricken by unrest and stress. Mindfulness practice is rooted in ancient Buddhist traditions. It is nothing but a small conscious act of being present in what is happening now. You pay attention to your life’s activities with compassion, curiosity and acceptance. You learn to live in the present unmindful of the past and the future. As we know, all that we have is in the present only. It’s the only point in time where we can create, decide, listen, think, smile, act or live. It is the “here and now” experience. It is an amazing revelation that you are alive! 

Modern life is so hectic, steered and bound by ‘To-Do’ lists. Nobody wants to add one more item to the list. Mindfulness can be integrated with anything we do. When we are mindful about what we are doing, we do it better. And we enjoy doing it. Doing mindful practice is just like you sing or dance. You do it just for the fun of it. And you enjoy it. But at the same time, you can’t deny their benefits. In the same way, be mindful for the sake of enjoyment and get benefited by it.

Living in Mindfulness

Quite interestingly, mindfulness STARTS with a STOP; Stop your thoughts first. Stop your thoughts with a breath. The moment we are conscious about our breath, our thinking stops. Once we master mindfulness, we can practise mindful eating, drinking, bathing, cooking, driving etc. Waiting in line or sitting in traffic will no more be boring and irritating. Here we don’t do anything additional. We are just adding another dimension to what we do. A sort of self-discovery. We are left with only the present. The present is the only place you can create, decide, listen, think and smile or do anything. By being aware of what is happening in the present, you divest yourself of guilt, fear, anger, worry and anxiety. The present moment becomes a wonderful and harmonious moment to be in.

Practising Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be practised anywhere, any time… Studies say that the human mind is not present in 47% of what we are doing. That means a human being lives almost half of his life without awareness. Here are a few mindfulness practices everyone can try out:

Mindful Sitting: Sit comfortably. Be conscious of your breath. Just observe how air is passing through your nostrils while inhaling and exhaling. Not to get distracted, you can count your breath. Count 1 for a unit of one inhale and one exhale. Count 2, 3 and so on. Notice how you are keeping your thoughts away. If any thought interrupted you, start counting from 1 again. For many, it is difficult to do this even to the count of 10. But that’s only a starting problem. Sparing 5 minutes a day for this is not a big thing. Everyone can do this. By the time you are accustomed to this thread of breathing, you can handle any stressful situation which we thought helpless otherwise.

Mindfulness Walking: Look out of your window into the street. You will not fail to see people trotting along its length and breadth with anxiety and stress writ large on their faces. It’s very difficult to find calm and smiling faces among them. Even regular fitness walkers are no exception. The reason is that they all walk for a reason. A mindful walker walks just for the joy of walking. He is not in haste; he has no destination to arrive at; he is not competing with anyone. Mindful walking is a kind of awareness training. Each step is an arriving, a movement bringing your attention to your breath and then your foot kissing the earth. To begin with, to keep your attention undistracted, you can count your steps. This would bring the relaxed breathing in harmony with the steps. Mindful walking triggers an alert mind and aids in taking clear decisions with more insight and compassion.

Observing things: Mindfulness can be applied to any activity. Take a flower or any other object that you use daily, your pen, mobile..anything. After two or three breaths observe it curiously and in detail…the colours, design, shape, symmetry… it will pleasantly surprise you to find how wonderful creations they are.

Eating and Drinking: Similarly, while drinking tea or coffee, observe the design on the cup that is holding the drink, its colour, the refreshing aroma… Simply imagine what all ingredients and effort would have gone into its making. When you sip it, keep it a little while more in your mouth (unless the tea is very hot, of course) and fully savour the taste. The tea might never have tasted better for you before. Similar mindfulness can be applied to eating also. Mindfulness not only sets your taste buds tingling, but helps better digestion. Most importantly, you will eat less only.

Mindful shower: Turn an evening shower to a mindful bath and experience the sound of the water on the skin, that feeling of freshness when water runs down the body, enjoy the full fragrance of the soap… Let the shower take more time. Bathe in detail. Enjoy the fullness of your experience.

Now it’s possible to move on to more mindful tasks like cooking, dishwashing etc. To have a full awareness of the present, never think about anything else. Keep aside all your problems or plans. Do not think about the dessert you are going to have after finishing the meal; While enjoying the evening shower, let not the grim face of your Boss come to your mind!

This is an invitation from my side for you to pause your frantic run, have a look inward and around, rest… and enjoy what you do.Would you accept it?If you would, life is going to be fuller, worthy, peaceful and happy for you. Gift it yourself.

Being Happier…

What on earth are we looking for?

If a question “what is the goal of your life?” is casually thrown at you, what would be your response? You are sure to grope in darkness at least for a few minutes. The reason could be that we seldom allowed such a thought. Anyway, it’s more likely that we come up with a list of material goals in life as an answer to this question like…”My goal is to… pass the exam with A grade, be selected for a job from the campus, do research, get married, have children, buy a car, an apartment, get a promotion, get my children married, secure the retired life.. “so on and so forth. No end to the list.

Take it personally. Are you one of that great majority that believes in your whims and fancies and living as your feelings and emotions prescribe from time to time? This is quite natural as we have been brought up that way unmindful of a second dimension of life. Assume that you have achieved at least half, if not all, of the above material goals by the time you are 26 or 28 and expecting that the rest of the goals would naturally happen at its time, would you just live on until 80 or 90 without any more ambitions and aspirations? Young men and ladies achieving their goals early in life are likely to be disillusioned earlier. On one side, their ego puts them above an unfortunate lot struggling with their lives. On the other, they build castles of comfort around them and find themselves prisoners.

Still worse is the plight of their parents who have sacrificed for their children. To tell the truth, apart from being boastful about their children’s achievements, most of them are disillusioned and lives in mental agony. This is either because they have no goals left or the children do not reciprocate their love and care. Most won’t admit it, though. Recently read about a mother complaining about her engineer son settled in the US. She wants him to come and meet her at least occasionally. Son’s response to this may baffle and at the same time make us sit and think. He says he doesn’t want to meet his mother as she is the only reason for his becoming an engineer where his passion was for something else. It was she who forced him to go to the US. Obviously, he is taking revenge on his mother! Who is happy here? Mother or son? None. This is only one among the several of such cases. Mention of this is made here only to illustrate how going after material goals alone pilots to an inevitable crash landing. In short, we are feigning happiness when we are actually not.

Keep the material goals apart, ponder over the question once again and we are in for real confusion. We need to direct our thoughts into a new realm not explored before. Conceiving of goals other than the material ones changes the whole perspective of life all of a sudden. We are brought under a new spotlight. This could well be the starting point of a different and fulfilling journey. You search far and wide for some answers and end up inside of yourself, only to be revealed that ultimately you are after happiness. Everyone is. Above and amidst all wealth, power, glory, poverty and sickness, we are looking for only one thing: Happiness and happiness alone.

Knowing Happiness

The dictionary defines happiness as a state of peace and contentment. However lame that definition could be to the true feeling of it, sounds a little soothing to the mind. Like any other emotion, it is hard to translate the experience of happiness into words. Happiness is the destination as well as the travel to that destination. It emanates from a positive mindset. People are genetically happy or unhappy to a great extent. We know how hard it is to make some people smile. Although smile is not always a reflection of your happiness, we all like to interact with smiling faces. Attitude can even change genetics.

Happiness has different variants like pleasure, joy and bliss. We all have experienced pleasure, to a certain extent joy, but bliss very rarely. A common mistake has been to equate happiness with pleasure. Happiness, while not a permanent state, is a more stable state than pleasure. Pleasure is that feeling we get by satisfying the urges of our senses. Eating good food, seeing a beautiful sight, hearing music, receiving a compliment etc. all give pleasure. After a point they become ordinary things and cease to excite us. A brand new car thrills us for a few drives only. After that, it is like any other car which does its basic function of transporting us from one place to another. By this time our eyes fall on a better car and we wish for that one. You see a pile of jalebis in a sweet shop and wish if you could eat the whole. But after two or three you get satiated and cannot even think of eating one more. Pleasure doesn’t last for long. Happiness generally sticks around for longer than a few moments at a time. It is more stable. Happiness comes from the way we think. We can have it if we decide to have it. If we have it inside us, we bring happiness to everything we think and do.

Joy is a deeper state of happiness, the one that makes you jump out and even cry. Note that there is no ‘tears of happiness’, but only ‘tears of joy’. When you accomplish something after real hard work, you are not merely happy. You are joyous. You rejoice in your achievement.

Bliss is extreme happiness (paramananda) and lasts for a long time. It’s spiritual and we could be blissful without any apparent reason. Bliss happens out of your connection with the divine. Yogis are said to experience permanent bliss.

Are we happy?

You ask people “how are you?”. They say they are fine, good and even great. Look at their face when they say this. Far from what they said. Nobody cares actually. It’s only a ritual. I had an Arab sponsor who used to ask this question each time we met or called. There were days we talked over phone more than ten times. Sometimes the interval between the calls was less than five minutes !

Why we struggle to find lasting happiness in life? Primarily because we think we are destined not to have a happy life, while it is abundantly available to others. The fact is that neither we have understood ourselves well nor we don’t know the other’s story. You think a wealthy man is happy, a beggar whose home is the street is unhappy. No. The truth could just be the opposite. The more you keep your life simple the more happy you become.

No one can make us unhappy unless we allow them from our inside. If you think that you are unhappy because of others’ behaviour, you own it. Nobody can help you. It is what is inside you that is attracted to you. Problems are not your monopoly. Everyone has them. Your attitudes decide them.

There are many myths about happiness. ‘Happiness is to be found’; ‘I will have happiness when my circumstances change’; ‘You either have happiness or not’ etc.. The basic reason why we do not experience happiness is that we do not know where to look for it. Rather, we are looking for it in the wrong place.

Treading the happiness path

The good news is that we can all be happy despite our life circumstances. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.

Reminded of an interesting example from Dr.Wayne Dyer:

“If you ask a no-limit person how much two times two is, they’ll say, “Four .” But if you ask a self-defeating person the same question, they’ll say, “Two times two is four, but I can’t stand it. Why does it always have to be four? It’s so boring. God, it’s four all the time, I get so tired of it being four. Why can’t it be five once in a while?”

Funny right? Haven’t we come across such people?

Happiness does not come without an effort. We need to change the way we do things a little. Let’s take a trip through some common situations:

How do you get up in the morning? At the ‘outburst’ of the alarm, stressed about all those tasks you have to do this day? Most likely. Next day onwards, set the alarm 5 minutes before your regular time. Still, on your bed, be grateful for getting one more day to live. At least some people in the world who had gone to sleep like you last night have not opened their eyes to see the new day. They are ‘gone’ in sleep. Isn’t that sufficient reason to be thankful to God for keeping us alive? Don’t stop there. Smile and say thanks for your life, your body, your family, friends, job, colleagues, neighbours and for all the things that have been given to you. Be thankful also to all your experiences, good or bad, because they have made you the person you are. Get out of bed with a smile on your face. Look in the mirror with a smile from the heart. Wish ‘’good morning ‘ to yourself. Check how do you feel. Aren’t you excited to take on the day?

Happiness can be found in simple things which do not cost us anything:

Have you ever kept a door open for the person who came behind you?

Helped a stranger pick up some papers dropped by him?

Gave your seat to an old man in public transport?

Ever allowed a speeding car provoking you for a chase on the road to overtake you?

Tried to meet strangers with smiling eyes?

Acknowledged a courtesy on the road with a smile or grateful gesture?

Don’t just turn your head and walk away. Look at the person in his eyes and collect the reward due for you.

There are a lot many simple things that we can do to keep ourselves happy every single day.

Come down to make a call to a dear one even though she or he did not call you for a long time. Life may not allow that extra time to clear misunderstandings later. I personally have done this a few days ago. None of them called me back after that. But I am happy that I have got rid of that uneasiness in me. Even if they do not call me I am open to call them again.

Take eyes off social media and be happily curious about the life happening around. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of Nature.

Show some gesture of kindness, however small, to a needy.

Don’t let yourself be carried away by the drama and violence on the TV.

Live a mindful life. Stop and notice. Be aware of what you do. There must be more to life.

Try doing something new often. Learn a new skill, cook a new delicacy or clear some clutter. If you do not know how to make a tea, learn it, for one day, you would definitely need to do it.

Make more time for people who matter to you.

Wish your boss with a heartful smile, much to his embarrassment !

Define your aims in life and take small steps towards them.

Why not ask some self-revealing questions? The key for solutions to many of your problems is with you only.

Do not think bad about asking your neighbour or colleague when in need. They will be more than happy to help.

Life is not always a smooth ride. Look at the bright side and do something that makes you feel good. Savour your life.

Accept your shortcomings. It’s no sin. No one is perfect. Be proud of your strong points as well.

Work at something that you are passionate about. All are born with some passion in the heart but circumstances compel us to take a detour and life follow that course. But the light of passion remains. It shall stand any storm. We might not have even If you stir have not identified your passion, try finding it. It is something that you love to do hours on hours without ever getting bored. There’s always time for a passion to be followed, however busy you are. If it is ‘no way’, keep it for your life after retirement. Retire early if you want. Become what you always wanted to be.

Do not expect too much from children. Understand that they are more concerned about their own lives. Some people want all their children around during old age and at the time of death (it happens rarely though!) What good it serves the parting soul?

Be glad that children are happy where they are. Do not set rules for their lives. They will not fail to see the kind of support you have been giving them. Let them know that your prayers follow them every minute of the day. It’s easier done than said.

Fear breeds disease. Never live in expectation of that day you would contract Covid 19 or Cancer. The human body has the devastating ability to manifest what we fear. Fortunately, it’s true the other way round as well.

Practise meditation. It is not a religious practice. No one becomes a ‘sanyasi’ because he meditates. Therapeutic benefits of meditation are scientifically proven too. Start with 10minutes each in the early morning and evening.

Do some physical exercise regularly. Everyone can spare time for three sun salutations (Soorya namaskar) and three minutes of pranayama every morning.

Write something. Write what comes to mind unmindful of language and grammar. ‘Think on paper’ is the catchphrase.

I am sure you have already felt enthusiastic about one or two of the above. Instantly start doing one or two of the above, if not all. The contentment and inner joy that we gain shall outweigh the pleasure of all your material achievements put together.

Happy people are more sociable and cooperative. They are more liked by others. They are more resilient in hardships. They have a stronger immune system and hence live longer. Moreover, it’s a joy watching them.

How I was made to be happy

Countries worldwide have started to emphasize the Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) of their people. Without people being happy, sustainable progress is not possible. Some countries even have separate portfolios and ministers for happiness. United Nations releases a Report of Happiness every year based on the Happiness Index of countries which has 7 parameters. Finland tops the list this year for a consecutive third year. Do you know where we stand? India is pathetically placed at position 144 among 156 countries! Interestingly, even Pakistan is ahead of us !!

Although people’s satisfaction and standard of life contribute to the GDH, it is never found to be a reflection of a person’s inner happiness. Let me narrate an interesting experience which may add a pinch of humour to this whole story: While I was living in the Gulf, the country had set up a ministry for happiness and formulated many happiness policies. But a funny execution of this policy ‘extracting’ happiness was widely talked of in hushed tones in those days. Some officials would go to offices, shops and public places and begin asking some questions, but if you have hinted in any way that you are not that happy or ‘so-so’ (as we all are) they would pull out a receipt book and charge you hefty amounts for being unhappy in their country. What a way of bringing happiness to people !! I did not believe this until once I saved myself from the edge of being unhappy. Two officials came to my office, introduced themselves as government officials and started asking questions: How is your company going? Do you face any problems here? What is your opinion about this country? Do you like this country? Do you like the ruler of the country? You know what my answers would be. I had smelt ‘happiness’ by this time. Then came the ‘million dollar’ question: ‘So, you are happy?’ This time I was a little quicker and a bit louder too. Instead of one “Yes” I uttered two “yes”s in a hurry with the bonus of a smile and a thumbs-up sign. I don’t know whether they were happy. I was, for sure.

Being Peaceful..

Who doesn’t want peace of mind? Everyone wants! without too many exceptions.  Since peace is generally elusive in our lives, we somehow started to believe that keeping us peaceful is somebody else’s job. A convenience based excuse.

Peace of mind, by the dictionary, is a mental state of calmness free from worry and anxiety.

Of course, we all had a taste of peacefulness one time or the other and basked in its delight. However, that did not last long. We, in the modern era,  no longer live in islands alienated from each other. It’s a networking age and we are now world citizens. Indulgence in and commitment to too many things have become the order of the day. Directly or indirectly, we are constantly connected to so many things and events at the same time. Any event or circumstance that do not go in alignment with our expectations is sure enough to derail us.  This is stress. It is an umbrella term that holds its variables like anxiety, worry, tension etc together.  Stress means a disturbed human mind, for the simplest definition. And stressors are all around. We are tensed about too many things. Tension at work, at home, at college, about government policies, about health and interestingly about entertainment too. Children are no exception. They are in the grapples of stressors owing to the demands of their complicated and vast syllabi and having to strive to come up to their parents’ expectations. Personally, their stressors include reaching the next level in digital games which they are addicted to. 

Tension and stress are perhaps the most widely used terms in parlance for a disturbed human mind. In course of time, they have become umbrella terms for all his mental agonies. About three, or four decades ago, people sparsely used these words. Each one’s life is becoming more complicated day by day. Due to indulgence in too many things, the desire grew leading to cut-throat competition, and tension grew in direct proportions. Ego-centric and frantic lifestyle with all their complexities drives us away from the territory of peacefulness. In the mad rush, peace gets taken for granted. But instinctively, man yearns for peace. That is why substantial amounts of money have been spent by some to go to faraway places and retreats to consume small doses of it.

Why does peace still elude us? Either we are not looking for it or, we are looking in the wrong place. Peace is not something conspicuous that we accidentally stumble across on the way. Are we inescapably caught in this state? ‘No’ is the consoling answer. The saying goes, “As you think, so you are”. You have stress or tension because you persistently think about unpleasant and disturbing things and experiences. Or you cannot help them lurk out from your own frustration of not getting what you expected of others. To be peaceful, one should bring in comforting thoughts that can offer peace. You did a lot, sacrificed a lot in your life. But, why did you expect them to reciprocate the same? Doesn’t God fill each day of your life with unexpected blessings for all the good that you have done? 

Being in body consciousness we have so many roles to play in a lifetime. We struggle and panic to fulfil them and lose peace of mind in its course. Be aware that peace is internal and nothing external will bring you lasting peace. In self-consciousness, we are trying to get answer for only one question that is, “who am I?”. Although it is a question which triggers deep philosophical interpretations, a reasonable and intelligible answer will be that you are a soul which is, in essence, a fragment of the infinite energy source which we also call God. Soul drives your life. Peace is said to be one of the seven characteristics of the soul. Searching for it outside is futile because it shall prove to be a mirage in the desert. Standing here you see a peace far away, but none when you go there. You look back and see it at the place where you started. This frustrating mental state resultant of not being able to catch hold of peace is called tension or stress. 

The singular method for seeking peace inside is called meditation. Through meditation, one will come to experience peacefulness. This does not mean that you cannot find peace anywhere else. Many find it in places of worship and at places wherever you are in tune with the positive energy of Nature. But that kind of peace is short living. You leave that particular place and it is gone. You are instantly back among your stressful thoughts. Also, If you are made to believe by someone that sensual gratification by any means would bring peace, you are already out of the race for it.

To acquire that stage of permanent peace of mind, regular meditation is a must. It’s a practice. It has nothing to do with your religion or the God you believe in. People have wrong conceptions about meditation or ’dhyana’. So, naturally, there will be no dearth of “no” when you start meditating, Some will even say that it’s the first step of becoming a ‘sanyasi’. A person who does meditation never says goodbye to his worldly duties and responsibilities. He is just seeking to find himself and through his own self, God. He is opening himself to the deep-lying contentment and bliss in his heart.

One can meditate any time and as many times as he wants. Duration can even be as short as 10 minutes. Just sit in a comfortable place, close your eyes and think that there is a peaceful and divine grace inside your heart. Be in that state for some time. To keep other thoughts away, you can observe the process of your breath, the way you inhale and exhale. You may not experience anything remarkable during those first few days. Make it a practice and you will know what change has taken place in you from others’ attitude towards you. Peace now pervades you, all your day.

And that peace comes with a bonus ! You start experiencing joy. Joy for no particular reason. Joy for which you have been searching all the time. After all, who doesn’t want to be joyous?

പ്രളയത്തിന്റെ തിരിച്ചറിവുകൾ

പ്രളയമൊക്കെ നാം കേരളീയർ മുമ്പും കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. പേമാരിയുടെ ദുരിതങ്ങളും അനുഭവിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്. എന്നാൽ മഹാപ്രളയങ്ങളും ഭൂകമ്പവുമൊക്കെ അങ്ങ് ഉത്തരേന്ത്യയിലോ ബംഗ്ലാദേശിലോ ഒക്കെയോ മാത്രമേ സംഭവിക്കുള്ളൂ എന്ന ഒരു വിശ്വാസത്തിൽ അങ്ങനെ ആശ്വാസം കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുകയിയിരുന്നു. നമ്മുടെ മലയാളി ബുദ്ധിയ്ക്കു മുകളിൽ പരുന്തും പറക്കില്ലെന്ന് സ്വകാര്യമായും ഇപ്പോൾ അടുത്ത കാലത്തായി പണം കുമിഞ്ഞു കുടിയപ്പോൾ പരസ്യമായിത്തന്നെയും അഹങ്കരിച്ചുമിരുന്നു.

രണ്ടു വർഷം മുമ്പ് വരൾച്ചയുണ്ടായി കുടിവെള്ളത്തിനായി നെട്ടോട്ടമോടിയപ്പോൾ കുറച്ചൊന്ന് അടങ്ങിയതാണ്. ഇപ്പോൾ മൂന്നു മൂന്നര മാസമായി മഴയാണ്. കാലവർഷം നേരത്തെ തുടങ്ങിയപ്പോൾ കാലാവസ്ഥാ പ്രവചനങ്ങളെയും പരിസ്ഥിതിവാദികളെയുമൊക്കെ പരി ഹസിച്ച് മഴയുടെ സംഗീതവും കേട്ടാസ്വദിച്ച് മൂടിപ്പുതച്ചുറങ്ങി സുഖിച്ചതാണ്. മഴ അവിടെയുമിവിടെയുമൊക്കെ ചില്ലറ പ്രശ്നങ്ങളുണ്ടാക്കുന്നുണ്ടെന്ന് വാർത്തകളിൽ കണ്ടപ്പോഴും അതൊന്നും നമ്മളെ ബാധിക്കില്ലല്ലോ എന്ന് സൗകര്യപൂർവ്വം വിശ്വസിച്ചു. അണക്കെട്ടുകളിൽ വെള്ളം പൊങ്ങുന്നുണ്ടെന്നറിഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ ജലം തുറന്നു വിടുമ്പോൾ അവിടെയെത്തി സെൽഫിയെടുക്കാനായി ധൃതി. കാരണം ഇതൊന്നും നമ്മളെ ബാധിയ്ക്കാൻ പോവുന്നില്ലല്ലോ. എന്നാൽ ഇടയ്ക്കൊക്കെ മഴക്കെടുതിയെക്കുറിച്ചും ജനങ്ങളുടെ ബുദ്ധിമുട്ടിനെക്കുറിച്ചും ആത്മാർത്ഥത ലവലേശമില്ലാതെ ദു:ഖ പ്രകടനം നടത്തി സഹജീവികളോടുള്ള സഹതാപം പ്രകടിപ്പിയ്ക്കാൻ മറന്നില്ല. പക്ഷേ മഴ കുറയാതായപ്പോൾ ഒരു സ്നേഹാലിംഗനം ദീർഘമായി പിന്നെ മുറുകിത്തുടങ്ങുമ്പോൾ സ്വാഭാവികമായുണ്ടാവുന്ന ഒരസ്വസ്ഥത ഒരല്പം ഭീതിയ്ക്കു വഴിമാറിയപ്പോഴാണ് ചുറ്റുപാടിലേയ്ക്ക് കണ്ണു തുറന്നത്. മഴയുടെ ഭാവം മാറിയിരിയ്ക്കുന്നു. രൗദ്ര താളത്തിൽ ആർത്തലച്ചു പെയ്യുന്ന മഹാമാരി ചുറ്റും പ്രളയം സൃഷ്ടിച്ചിരിയ്ക്കുന്നു. പടി കടന്നെത്തി അകത്തേയക്ക് നിശ്ശബ്ദം ഉയർന്നു വരുന്ന വെള്ളം പോലെ മനസ്സിൽ ആധിയും വർദ്ധിച്ചു വന്നു. ഓരോരുത്തരുടെയും കണ്ണുകളിൽ നിന്ന് പടർന്ന നിസ്സഹായത കനത്ത ഒരു മേഘമായി കറുത്തിരുണ്ട് മുകളിൽ ഘനീഭവിച്ചു.

ഭയന്നുലഞ്ഞ മനസ്സുമായി കിടന്നുറങ്ങുമ്പോൾ പിന്നിലൂടെ വന്ന് വിഴുങ്ങിയ ചെളി വെള്ളപ്പാച്ചിൽ നിലവിളിയ്ക്കാനുള്ള സാവകാശം പോലും നൽകിയില്ല. പ്രളയത്തിൽ ഒരുമിച്ചൊഴുകി വന്ന മനുഷ്യർക്കും മൃഗങ്ങൾക്കും കടപുഴകിയ മരങ്ങൾക്കും പരാതികളേതുമില്ലായിരുന്നു. തങ്ങൾക്ക് നിശ്ചയിക്കപ്പെട്ട വിധിയിലേയ്ക്ക് അവർ കെട്ടുപാടുകളില്ലാതെ വെറുതെ ഒഴുകിയകന്നു.

തന്നെ ചൂഴ്ന്നു നിൽക്കുന്ന മഹാ പ്രവാഹത്തിൽ ഒരു കാൽ മാത്രമൂന്നി നിന്നു കിതക്കമ്പോഴും നിലവിട്ടൊഴുകി വരുന്ന സഹജീവിയുടെ നേർക്ക് അവന്റെ ഒരു കൈ സഹായം ദൈവമായി നീണ്ടു ചെന്നു.

രക്ഷിയ്ക്കാനാളു വരുന്നതും കാത്ത് പ്രളയ പാരാവാരത്തിനു നടുവിൽ നിന്നവർക്ക് വിശപ്പും ദാഹവും മാത്രമേ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നുള്ളു. ഇത്രനാളും നെഞ്ചോടു ചേർത്തുവച്ചഭിമാനിച്ചിരുന്ന സ്വത്തുവകകൾ ചോദ്യങ്ങളില്ലാതെ പ്രളയം സ്വന്തമാക്കിയപ്പോൾ ആർക്കും ഒരു ചെറുവിരൽ പോലും അനക്കാനായില്ല. രക്ഷപെടാൻ കാത്ത് നിന്നവർക്കും രക്ഷകൻമാർക്കും മതവും ജാതിയുമില്ലായിരുന്നു. തൊട്ടുകൂടായ്മയില്ലായിരുന്നു. അന്നുവരെ വിശ്വസിച്ചിരുന്ന, ജീവൻ കൊടുക്കാൻ പോലും തയ്യാറായി നിന്നിരുന്ന രാഷ്ട്രീയ പാർട്ടികളെ അവർ ഓർത്തു പോലുമില്ല. ഫേസ് ബുക്കിലും വാട്സാപ്പിലും സദാ തല പൂഴ്ത്തിയിരുന്ന ആ ബാലവൃദ്ധം കേരള ജനത നിസ്സഹായതയിൽ ആകാശത്തേക്ക് കണ്ണുകളുയർത്തി സഹായം തിരഞ്ഞു.. അയച്ചു പരിചയിച്ച ഒരു ഇമോജിയും അവരുടെ മാനസികാവസ്ഥയുടെ പ്രതിഫലനമായില്ല. ഏത് മണ്ടത്തരവും ലൈക്ക് ചെയ്തു ശീലമായ വിരലുകൾ കൺമുന്നിലെ യാഥാർത്ഥ്യം ലൈക്ക് ചെയ്യാൻ മടിച്ചു. ഒറ്റപ്പെട്ട് പുരപ്പുറത്ത് കയറി നിൽക്കുമ്പോൾ അത്യപൂർവമായ പ്രളയത്തിന്റെ പശ്ചാത്തലത്തിൽ ഒരാളും സെൽഫിയെടുക്കുന്നതും കണ്ടില്ല. ദാരിദ്ര്യരേഖയെപ്പറ്റിയും സമ്പത്തിനെപ്പറ്റിയും അവർക്കറിവില്ലായിരുന്നു. എന്തിന്? തങ്ങൾ സ്ത്രീകളാണോ പുരുഷന്മാരാണോ എന്നുള്ള വകതിരിവു പോലും അവർക്ക് നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ടിരുന്നു. നനഞ്ഞൊട്ടിയ വസ്ത്രങ്ങൾക്കുള്ളിൽ എല്ലാവരും ഒരുപോലെയായിരുന്നു. നാട്യങ്ങളും മുഖപ്പും ചമയങ്ങളും ആ വെള്ളത്തിൽ ഒഴുകിപ്പോയിരുന്നു.

മനുഷ്യന് നൈസർഗ്ഗികമായി രണ്ടു വികാരങ്ങളേ ഉള്ളൂ എന്നു കേട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.. ഭയവും സ്നേഹവും. ഒന്നു ചിലപ്പോൾ മറ്റൊന്നിലേയ്ക്ക് നയിയ്ക്കും.. ഭീതി കൊള്ളുന്ന ഹൃദയം പതുക്കെ സ്നേഹത്താൽ തുടിച്ചു തുടങ്ങും. വഴിപാട് കഴിച്ച് വൃതമെടുത്ത് പ്രാർത്ഥിച്ച ദൈവങ്ങളെല്ലാം കൈവിട്ടിരിയ്ക്കുന്നു. ഇപ്പോൾ സ്വാർത്ഥതയുടെയും ദുരയുടെയും കുതിപ്പില്ല. ആസക്തിയില്ല. ദുരിതാശ്വാസ ക്യാമ്പിൽ കിട്ടിയതു കഴിച്ച് ചുരുങ്ങിയ സൗകര്യങ്ങളിലേയ്ക്ക് ഒതുങ്ങുമ്പോൾ മനസ്സിൽ ആശ്വാസം മാത്രം. മറ്റുള്ളവർക്ക് എന്തെങ്കിലും സഹായം ചെയ്യുമ്പോൾ എന്തെന്നറിയാത്ത ഒരു ആനന്ദവും. ആവശ്യമെന്തെന്നും ആഗ്രഹമെന്തെന്നും തിരിച്ചറിഞ്ഞിരിക്കുന്നു. തൊട്ടടുത്ത് കിടക്കുന്ന അപരിചിതനോടും സ്നേഹം മാത്രം. ഈ സ്നേഹം തന്നെയല്ലേ ദൈവം? ഒരർത്ഥത്തിൽ ഈ പ്രളയമല്ലേ നമുക്ക് ദൈവത്തെ കാണിച്ചു തന്നത്? ഭൗതികമായി ചിന്തിക്കുമ്പോൾ, ചുരുങ്ങിയ പക്ഷം കേരളമാകെ കുന്നുകൂടിക്കിടന്ന മാലിന്യത്തെയെല്ലാം ഒറ്റയടിക്ക് ഒഴുക്കിക്കൊണ്ട് പോയത് ഈ പ്രളയമല്ലേ? പലർക്കും ഒരിയ്ക്കലും തിരിച്ചു കിട്ടാനാവാതെ പലതും നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ടിട്ടുണ്ടാവാം. അതിന്റെയൊക്കെ വിഷമം പെട്ടെന്നൊന്നും തീർന്നുവെന്നും വരില്ല. പ്രളയത്തിന്റെ അനന്തരഫലമായി ഇനി എന്തെല്ലാം ദുരിതങ്ങൾ വരാനിരിയ്ക്കുന്നുവെന്നും അറിയില്ല. വ്യക്തിപരമായി വന്ന നഷ്ടങ്ങൾ മാറ്റി നിർത്തിയാൽ, അത് വിഷമകരമാണെങ്കിലും… ഈ പേമാരിയിലും പ്രളയത്തിലും ദൈവത്തിന്റെ കൈകൾ തന്നെയല്ലേ? പക്ഷെ, എത്ര നാൾ നാമീ പ്രളയത്തിന്റെ പാഠങ്ങൾ ഉൾക്കൊണ്ട് മുന്നോട്ട് പോവും? രണ്ടു കാലും നിലത്ത് കുത്തി നിവർന്നു നിൽക്കാവുന്ന മാത്രയിൽ നാം വീണ്ടും പഴയ സ്വാർത്ഥമതികളായി മാറില്ലേ? ജാതിയും, മതവും, രാഷ്ട്രീയവുമൊക്കെ വീണ്ടും നമ്മുടെ സ്വത്വത്തെ മറച്ച്, വായ് മൂടി, അവരുടെ തടവറകളിലേയ്ക്ക് തള്ളുകില്ലേ? ഓരോ ദുരിതവും, വ്യക്തിപരമായാലും സാമൂഹ്യമായാലും, നമ്മളെ കൊണ്ടുചെന്നെത്തിക്കുന്നത് നിർണ്ണായകമായ ഒരു വഴിത്തിരിവിലാണ്… സ്വയം തിരിച്ചറിയലിന്റെ ഒരു യു ‌ടേൺ മാത്രമാണ് പോംവഴി. നാം തന്നെയാണ് എല്ലാറ്റിനും..നല്ലതിനും ചീത്തയ്ക്കും കാരണഭൂതരെന്ന സത്യം മനസ്സിൽ സ്വീകരിച്ചാൽ പിന്നെ ഖേദിയ്ക്കാനും പശ്ചാത്തപിയ്ക്കാനും ഒന്നും കാണില്ല.

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