Saturday, May 28, 2011

Life is beautiful...

I am happy. Happy, through and through.

First and foremost, it was Friday. And I love Fridays .. tender, nostalgic strings attached. Fridays also brings the hope of Saturday and Sunday – two days to wash away and cleanse our tired, exhausted selves.

It rained in the morning and that meant no sunscreens.

I learnt “how not to cook” kidney beans. And also how to guesstimate the salt requirements. A definite promotion in my personal cooking calibre.

Then we were able to finish off the fancy dress project for my 5 year old nephew, Harjas successfully. And this was a big one. For two reasons – one, I was not sure if we would be able to bring out the concept properly because we were planning to make him a solar cell. And second and more challenging task was to get him to wear the dress and speak his lines before the audience. And it was satisfying to see him eagerly donning his so called “solar energy” dress and render verbally the concept.

And more heartening was to see him jumping him all over the bed, as he narrated how each one of his friend was dressed today, how they spoke on stage, who was clapped for the most. And joy of joys, “each one of us stood first”.

My printer worked. Finally. And I could finish off some pending paper work. Harjas says it was his magic that made it work. I could not agree less. For how can I forget the look on his face when “printer eats up the blank paper and then “Abra – Ca – Dabra” ,and whoops! ink stained paper with exactly the content that you want”.

Jaiaditya, the younger nephew, has started differentiating the who’s who of his life. I can’t help but wonder how the whole family becomes a puppet in the hands of this 4 months old, teeny-weeny bundle of joy. And yes, I am favoured with breathtaking smiles and having counted the number of times he smiles on hearing me.. I am the most favoured one.

Cousin get-together. Another high point of the day. Spent a good deal of time in their wonderful company. And that also meant pakoras, French fries, vada-sambhar, idli-sambhar, gulab jamuns, and fruit salad. All in all, a mouth watering treat.

Talked to a couple of close friends. A definite unexpected fillip.

And in between all this camaraderie, managed to read a couple of stories. And I am fitting in some writing also.

And in the twilight of this wonderful Friday, I am wondering, how complete my day was.

And as I look back at this day, it looks like a mosaic. A mosaic, made from many small, joyous moments.

And I cannot help but say that “life is beautiful”.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Preach not hate!

Every morning, in my home, as they go about their routine tasks, both my parents religiously put on the Punjabi channels and listen to the “Katha Sagars”, in which the pearls of our religion are shared. Nothing deters them from listening to the religious preachers who try to explain how one should lead a balanced, spiritual life and sometimes unravel the meaning of some of the selected portions from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. These “kathas” provide background music to our morning activities. And though, I am a non-conformist to this tradition of my house, I like the feel it brings to everything around us. So pious, so pure, so serene.

My mother has tried hard to get me listen to these sermons and lectures but to no avail. Some days I am occupied with other priority tasks and some days, I am plain lazy to get up in time. So, once I am up and awake, the wisdom is shared with me in bits and pieces, my mother knowing very well what is going to retain her daughter’s interest. All the morning conversations between me and my mother are marked by her efforts of passing on the messages she liked the most in the lecture.

That day also, when I rose, the katha time was over. Of that I was sure, because the background music had now switched over to some news. My mother was doing the laundry but I could tell something was amiss. I just could not find out what. At first, I thought it must be some matter to which we youngsters could not be made privy to. So I let it pass. But curiosity was ranging high. Then my mother came to kitchen and started working next to me.

And then at length she spoke.

I was waiting for my daily sermon. I expected it to be my dose of katha. But her words were, “Can you find out the site of this katha on the Internet”?

Wow! What a suspense breaker. What do you make out of it? What do you think I made out of it? Nothing. Absolute zero.

I mulled over the question for some time and tactically answered, “I can give it a try, if you give me some details”.

Pat came the reply, “Fine then, once we’re done with our tasks, you find out the site and post a message to these people and tell them that “not to resort to such disgraceful methods to promote our religion. Nobody in any religion ever taught its followers to speak ill of others. This will never help them bring back defectors. In fact, it will end up in alienating more people.”

While I was still digesting this verbal brekkie, my father joined in. “No, really, they should not be mentioning other religions and their shortcomings when ever ours is not perfect. If they have nothing good to speak of others then remain silent. But why, why do they in the name of God, speak derogatory things about other’s faith. Does this put us above them? Does this mean we are superior? Their today’s remarks were definitely uncalled for.”

So this was it. The orator, on that particular day, had shared abrasive ideas about some other religion and this had irritated my parents. And this would / should have irritated anybody for that matter.

All religions are mostly religions of love. Hate does not figure often in religious dictionaries. As Jim Loy put it, “Hate is a cancer. It destroys people, churches, and nations. If you hate, your hate may destroy someone else. But it will also destroy you, and those people that you love. Hate shrivels up your heart (not physically), and makes you less and less of a human being. I recommend examining your heart, as the various religions tell you to do. If hate resides there, you may want to consider what harm it is doing to you and those you love. Really.”

So here goes my mail.

Dear religious teachers,

We do not want to be taught how to hate. We know enough of that. We see enough of that.

That is why we come to you. To teach us how to love. To find good in all our brethren.

To give unto others what we expect for ourselves.

Please help us examine our hearts and help us cleanse them of all that is clutter.

But before you teach us how to do this, practice this yourself. For you cannot teach, what you do not believe in.

And we exhort you to do this because your words make a difference in lives of common people. They believe in you. That is your power. Do not wield it to preach hate.

Yours sincerely,

And dearest ma,

Though, I could not find that particular site, I whispered your message here.

With love,
Your daughter.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Your birthday is definitely something to celebrate....

“Why do you want to have a birthday party?” I asked my nephew. He promptly replied, “All my friends will be there and we will get to play and enjoy”, and then greedily added, “I will also get loads of gifts”. I laughed the first part off and maternally preached him about not being so gift-minded all the time. But at the back of my mind, the question kept nagging me.

Not that I mind these celebrations. In fact, I love birthdays and all the joyous merrymaking associated with them. But never did I consciously think about the where’s and when’s of the origins of these celebrations.

So, after rushing up with my things to do list, I started off with my search.

And before I share what I came across, I reproduce the exact lines that have left me rejuvenated and refreshed.

It is good to be thankful for what you have in life and what you have accomplished. But open your eyes to the larger picture. If we are to appreciate the fruits of life, we must first appreciate the tree that bears the fruit: birth itself.

Birth is your beginning. It is a window to the chance of a lifetime, the chance to fulfil your unique mission. So a birthday is a momentous occasion, to be commemorated.

It is a chance to remember the day that a major event occurred, to celebrate and give thanks and to reflect upon how well we are fulfilling our calling.

This is the essence, the heart and soul of all the celebrations related to birthday, captured perfectly.

Now with the history. Well, several millennia ago, when people had no calendars, they marked their days by cycles of moon and sun. And they observed by experience, that when the zodiac position of the celestial stars coincided with the one observed on some person’s birthday, that day turned out to be extremely fortunate. A bit too optimistic may be, but they were guided by their practical experience. Lots of good things happened to the concerned person and this pattern was observed to be happening all the time. So, to mark the joy, this good fortune brought to him, celebrations were held and hence the concept of birthday celebrations kick started from here.

There is a protectionists view of evolution also. It was observed that the people who expected a change in their life like getting a year older, or children with birthday were more vulnerable to evil and bad spirits. So family, friends, well wishers, people from neighbourhood, community etc. would all gather in the birthday baby’s house offering their well wishes. Gradually, noisemaking, cakes, presents, candles all made their way into these gatherings and the foundations for a wonderful tradition were thus laid.

As was with other things, the birthday celebrations were a trend that only royalty and nobility were allowed to indulge in and that brought the birthday crowns and hats in the picture. But eventually, the festivities trickled into the households of commoners and villagers.

And finally, thanks to Germany, for its was their “kinderfests” (kinder for kid and fest for festivals), the celebrations for which would last whole day long, that gave the much needed fillip to the evolution of this trend.

So, this is how the celebrations to mark the excitement of life brewing around us evolved.

Tomorrow I am going to share this with my nephew and tell him that "Your birthday is definitely something to celebrate ..  to celebrate your gratitude for being born, for being alive .. to say simply that you are thankful for this life ...."

P.S. The birthday song “Happy birthday to you” was written by two sisters Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893. But the original lines were “Good morning to you”. The song became popular only after the original words were changed. And now this is one song which is a world anthem for birthdays, which can be heard in every house and in every street.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Of hills, rivers and life

I live in a small town nestled in the hills. So it is natural for me to have grown up with hills and rivers all around me.  Why, just walk up to the rear end of my house and look out. A small rivulet (calling it a river would not be fair) flows perennially and beyond it is a well rounded, green hill. I see it all the time when I am in Mandi. It’s a backdrop that does not change ever.

The hill that I see is rooted to its place firmly, moving neither forward nor backwards. The scene before it never changes. There is no risk, no fear of survival, since there is no change. It is like a ship secured safely and tightly in its harbour. It does not venture out in the ocean to discover new lands. It has been here for innumerable centuries now and will be here for many more centuries. Always frozen in time.

And then there is that small stream. If the hill is static, the rivulet is as dynamic as it can ever be. It is continuously moving forward. The water changes its hues according to the season. And never stays at one place. Sometimes, it runs deep and laps up all the stones and at other times, it runs so shallow, you can see to the very bottom. And finally, it drains itself in the might Beas. But not without enjoying the twist and turns of the journey. Not without running over the pointed, rough edged stones. Not without running over the tough terrains. It is a ship on a voyage, a ship with a mission.

With our lives also, we have these two options – we can choose either to be a hill or a river. And each choice will have its own consequences.

The life of a hill is safe. Well decided, pre meditated and going on a monotonous path. It is very much an ordinary life. The life that we all usually choose to live, unconsciously.

The other option is to be like a river. Adventurous, exciting, enthralling, mesmerising. This life holds risks. And greater the risk, greater the return. The only constant in this life is change and change is never ordinary. This is a life not many of us dare to choose. This is a life demanding sacrifices we are not ready to make. But those who have chosen it, have become legends. They are revered the world over.

A ship in the harbour is safe, but is that what ships are built for?

Life is definitely something that everyone should try at least once. Look. Listen. Choose. Act. And live a life that lasts forever …

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How do you say thank you

As weird a question as it may sound, yet every word is making me think, do we really know how to say thank you. And by this I do not refer to the language, style and accent that we have to put in. I refer to those little gestures which go all the way into the other person’s heart and warm it up.

How do you ever thank people who stand by you even when the whole world is throwing stones and pebbles at you? When there is no hope, but there is someone who helps you keep your faith. When there is no light and somebody turns up with a torch to help you see the path. When you are crying and somebody wipes away your tears. I have no idea how I would ever thank such people and I think a lifetime would not be sufficient.
These are people you know and yet, your thank-yous fail you at these times.

And there are times when mere acquaintances and complete strangers out of nowhere will come to your help. Though involuntarily, a thank you might escape our lips but is it sufficient? This person might be leaving behind several tasks undone just to help me out and all I say is “thank you”. Is that all I can do to show my gratitude. Is it all that is needed? He / she might be in more troubles far greater than mine but is trying his best to make my life a little easy for me. Can I not give him a more worthy “thank you”?

Of course, we can send gifts and stuff, we can spend loads of money but can we buy heartfelt gratitude with that money. I might be easily spending on gifts at other times also, times when I am not feeling so grateful. Wise men rightly said, money can’t buy everything and of course, for everything else money will suffice. So what do I spend on people who have made my life a blessing that it is now?

There are more questions than answers rummaging through my brain at this given time. But this introspection has led me to my answer finally.

I read today that any blessing, when ignored, becomes a curse. How often do we sit down and count our blessings? And then having counted them, do we ever thank “Him” for bestowing these wonderful priceless gifts on all of us? And how much time does it take to say “thank you God for all that you have given me”. I am pretty sure, less than it took me to type it. And holla, here is my first thanks … you all just read it and “He” must have heard it J

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you”, that would suffice. – Meister Eckhart
“So, thank you God and welfare unto all.”

And yes all my family, friends, acquaintances, strangers are included in my prayer.

For those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Glory of bygone India

I was watching Chandragupta Maurya with family .. when school prayer started ringing in my ears. And it so perfectly suited the aura of the serial .. like made for it. I do not remember the exact lines of the prayer but I think I can fairly represent a portion of it as follows

Hum arya hain, humara itihaas hai purana
Hai surya dhwaj hamara
Kirne asankhya nana
Hum arya hain ...

Pratah sawan main hamne
Vigyaan ved paaya
Jiski vibha prabha se
Sansaar jagmagaaya, sansaar jagmagaaya
Apne ateet ko ab hum varatmaan kar dein
Hum phir daya se jag main
Anand gyaan bhar dein
Hum arya hain...

Jeevan ki jaan hain hum
Hum praan hain pawan ke
Ravi ki hain rashmiyaan hum
Hum maan hain suman ke

Bhoo par sadaa hamara
Shaasan suchakra ghooma
Hum hi rahe sadaa se
Is bhoomi ke subhooma
Hum arya hain....

Great were the times when institutes like Takshila existed and great were the teachers like Chankaya who lit the fire of learning and achieving in tender hearts like Chandragupta ..who taught the mortals to move the mountains by sheer determination.

Salute to the golden age of  India .. the glory of which beckons us all to recreate it .. to relive it.

Rise and shine :)