Repartee-less

Don’t you just hate it when you think of the most perfect retort much after the moment has passed?

I just had this moment when I was reading my own post of a few months ago.

When I read this sentence:

Hmmm, maybe I should go and immerse myself in cleaning up the house. But unfortunately, that does not qualify as a Eureka-moment in my books.

I immediately thought to myself:

That’s not a Eureka-moment, it’s more a Eureka-Forbes moment!

I laughed to myself, then felt a bit annoyed for not having thought of that when writing the piece.

Yeah, I can be silly sometimes. 😀

Looking Outwards

Yesterday, we were all dressed up to go for a pooja. On our way down, a little girl and her father stepped into the elevator. The girl was wearing a really cute little pink skirt that flared so nicely that I couldn’t help complimenting her on it. She was thrilled, of course, and her father got her to pirouette for us too.

Dear D and me gushed. And that would have been the end of it.

But her father was thoughtful enough to point out something.

Look at Dear D, he said. She’s also looking so pretty all dressed up, isn’t she? For the first time, the little girl looked up, away from her little pink skirt. She gazed at D, smiled shyly and agreed with her dad.

What a a thoughtful and useful life-lesson! Not to get so caught up in yourself that you fail to notice the beauty around you. To take a moment to admire and compliment other events that are worthy of notice.  To keep the ‘me’ aside for some time and look at the world with fresh eyes.

Life’s lessons come at the most unexpected of times. Being open to them is enriching.

Tea-Time

The ubiquitous tea or chai.

So many varieties, right from the railway station hot chai in small cups, to the golden liquid that swirls into your cup in a plane. So many tastes, from the strongly brewed and sugary chai to the delicate flavours of green tea.

Some of my chai memories include a really tall glass of very strong and rich tea that I drank at a Punjabi household. I still remember trying hard to finish it and hold it in without throwing up.

I have green tea every morning which is just plain, no milk or sugar added. In the evenings, I have the usual Indian chai, with the tea leaves boiled along with the water, and a moderate quantity of milk added to it. I like my tea without sugar (I gave up adding sugar a few years ago), but I like to eat a little sweet before my tea. I dislike the taste of sweetness that lingers on after sweet tea; this way, I get a taste of sweet, but it gets washed away by the taste of the tea. Marie biscuits dipped in hot tea are a favourite.

For some reason, I just love the tea served on airplanes. I like drinking it plain, without adding the chalky milk powder or sugar. Some of the best teas I have had include my friend’s masala chai, made with homemade masala. Nothing better than to drink one of her chais while gup-shupping with friends!

The other one is the chamomile tea I had in Madrid. It was just too good, so comforting and everything about it – the flavour, the aroma, the temperature –  just right. It was heavenly!

I bought a little teapot in the fond hope that I would brew my own tea, but it didn’t work out so well. I do know some folks who brew their tea in teapots, but I haven’t made a decent cup of tea this way. I love that teapot though – it’s red and cheery and cosy.

I'm a little teapot
I’m a little teapot

I remember our tea in Darjeeling, when we sat on the terrace (or was it a balcony) overflowing with flowers, looked out into the drifting mist, and sipped hot tea. That was straight out of a book!

The weather today is so perfect for curling up in bed with a book and a hot cup of tea. Ah, the small pleasures that life offers.

So, how do you like your cup of tea?

Celebrate!

There are people who think singing and dancing to show your love for your country is stupid and shallow.

There are people who think that giving flowers to someone is an empty gesture.

There are people who think that spending some time selecting a good gift for someone is a waste of time.

There are people who think everyday is special and so celebrations are meaningless.

There are people who think saying “I love you” to the people they deeply care about is just lip service.

I was one of them.

I dismissed all gestures as empty and ostentatious.

I hated celebrating my birthday.

Now, however, I’m older and wiser.

What’s wrong in singing and dancing if that gives you joy and a sense of overwhelming love towards your country?

What’s wrong in saying it with flowers?

What’s wrong with a well-chosen and thoughtful gift?

What’s wrong with joyous and happy celebrations?

What’s wrong with expressing and reaffirming oneself whole-heartedly?

I say, go ahead and celebrate! Laugh and sing and dance and be merry to your heart’s content (please do not use loudspeakers though :D). Life is boring when you treat everyday just like the next. Let your voice soar, your feet move, and release your spirit. That is what freedom is all about. And don’t let people who scoff at these efforts pull you down. Let them go ahead and be the same everyday. After all, that is also what freedom is all about.

Immersion

Last week, I cracked a problem at work.

The issue was a long-pending one, and I kept returning to it on and off, in between other things that were higher on the priority list. It was a niggling problem that didn’t respond to any of the obvious troubleshooting techniques. Last week, I resumed work on it, and there were so many times when I felt the solution was so close at hand, almost at my fingertips, but it remained hell-so-elusive!

Finally, I got a breakthrough almost through serendipity. As I tested and re-tested to ensure my conclusions were correct, my level of euphoria rose. When I could successfully claim to have cracked the problem, I felt almost like yelling “Eureka!” The root of the problem was so crazily unrelated, no wonder it remained unresolved through the traditional methods I had adopted earlier.

These kinds of moments are getting rarer these days. I find myself unable to be completely absorbed by anything. Books seem repetitive, movies appear cliched, and I just don’t have the energy to indulge in a high level of personal interaction any more with other people.

Last couple of weeks, I also choreographed a couple of dances for DD (about time she graduated from Lil D to Dear D, right?) and her friend for some dance contests. Again, this hardly kept me engaged. I’m saying and doing all the expected things, but the level of boredom below is simmering constantly.

I really want something I could sink my teeth into, something that keeps me immersed completely, so that when I look at the clock, I go – “Wow!”, instead of  “Just 5 mins have passed?” I guess I could set myself up to as many challenges as I want, but that’s the thing. I don’t want to do a challenge just for the sake of challenge; I’ve done that for the past year, trying out many new things just for the sake of pushing myself. I want the immersion to happen organically.

Hmmm, maybe I should go and immerse myself in cleaning up the house. But unfortunately, that does not qualify as a Eureka-moment in my books. Any suggestions? 🙂

This Is It

I guess like most other people, I too have been through all the soul-searching and the quest for the meaning of life, and stuff.

Brought up in a pretty religious family that observed the rites and practices quite rigorously, my disillusionment with religion began quite early. I preferred the quiet of the chapel at school to the bustle of the temple, and felt nearer to God there. I began observing the discrimination at temples, how donors were treated differently and allowed closer access to the deity than the general public. I began to be amused by the rituals of bathing, dressing, and feeding the gods, treating them like infants. Surely if God were that powerful, He didn’t need all this doll’s play?

During the long break immediately after my tenth grade exams, I began reading a lot of spiritual literature, which included the Isopanisad, several translations of the Gita, and books by and about various swamis. This was a very spiritual phase in my life, and I began to detest the rites and rituals that marked our religion.

Soon, I entered a rather ambivalent stage, where I was neither very spiritual nor very religious. I guess at that point, other things like studies, friends, career, etc. began to take centre-stage, and religion was just another small segment of my life. But I was still quite vehement about the rituals, even though I did begin to understand that there was a history to it all. I was more drawn to psychology at this point, and was always trying to explain why people did what they did because of biology rather than anything else.

A major turning point of my life, as I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, was when I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. That book unlocked potential in me like never before. I discovered myself, my real strengths and weaknesses, and the fact that I had been living in delusion about myself for quite some time. For the first time, I felt in control of my life, and recognized the choices I had made, and the choices I could continue to make. It gave me a balance that has stood me in good stead all these years.

For many years now, I’ve been on a more or less even keel when it comes to personal and professional life. I’ve learnt so many lessons, and I’ve found happiness in the mundane. The only part which still needs some kicking is my physical fitness, which I do in fits and starts. One thing that I do on and off is meditation. And the more I read about meditation, the more I am convinced that I need to do it regularly.

So recently, a friend was describing one of the meditation techniques and mentioned having a personal mantra to meditate upon. This thought lingered for several days in my mind. There are mantras readily available of course, but I somehow wanted something more personal, something that felt true to me.

I don’t know if mantras are revealed in epiphanies, but I did have one such moment. This is it! – I thought and immediately it felt right. This encapsulates everything I want to say, everything I feel about life on earth. The mantra is so simple, yet it conveys so much.

THIS IS IT.

That is my personal mantra. It reaffirms to me that this moment is what counts. This is it. I can say it in a tone of finality, I can say it in a tone of wonder, I can use it as a question, heck, I can fit it into any situation. But the one I like best says to me – This Is It – what are you going to do? It opens up choices for me, it drives me to act, even if I choose to do nothing.

Needless to say, I am totally kicked about this discovery! Now, if only I could meditate regularly! 🙂

So, have you discovered your personal mantra yet?

Random Thoughts

1. I haven’t seen the movie Frozen, but when I came across this article, I knew I’d have agreed with her assessment had I seen the movie.

The most telling comments were from people who said that they knew something was wrong with the movie, but they couldn’t put their finger on it till they read this article.

I feel exactly the same way about the movies Hirani makes. I wish someone would deconstruct the Munnabhai movies, 3 Idiots, and PK like this.

2. I’ve begun to see Mother’s Day stuff popping up all around now. And discussions, as usual, about whether it’s relevant or not. It struck me that what we really need to have is a ME-Day. On that day, each one of us could do exactly whatever we want and celebrate ourselves, independent of all other ties. Then we could go back to being fathers or mothers or brothers or sisters or whatever. I think that would restore the balance, no?

3. Been reading articles about how even the most well-meaning parents mess up their children. Well, duh, that should take the pressure off parenting, right? So what’s all this about trying to be the most perfect parent ever? Waste of time, I tell you! 🙂

4. Went link-hopping (is that even a word), and landed up on wonderful articles on both science and philosophy. Further reading made me realize my personal views are more aligned with Shankaracharya, rather than Madhwacharya, though I’ve been born into a Madhwa family. I didn’t know so much of what the latter’s philosophy included, and though his arguments are clever, I personally tend to believe in Advaita more than Dvaita. It’s good to know sometimes, I guess. And the quantum physics world is just so fascinating, it’s hard not to get lost in it.

Why Bad is Good

I just read yet another article bemoaning the fact that the news nowadays is full of terrible things, and that there are no takers for good news. Of how the media incites the public on a daily diet of blood and gore, and then shrugs it off as the demand from the market.

It got me thinking, and here’s my theory why “bad” news (in more ways than one) is here to stay. Perhaps I’m over-thinking this, but I’m basing it on what people generally discuss when they hear any type of news.

I think when we hear bad news, we are immediately relieved it is not us. We are grateful that we have been spared, and we finally feel a bit better about ourselves because we escaped it through some good fortune.

Reading about good news relentlessly, however, makes one feel inadequate. We feel overwhelmed by the fact that others are out there doing things, living worthwhile lives, while we just go on with our ordinary lives. I guess it makes one a wee bit disheartened, and not so happy about oneself.

So, I guess that’s why bad news remains on the front page*. What do you think?

* When I wrote that, I immediately thought about the current trends of full page advertisements on the front page. Hmmm, now is that good news or bad news? 😀

Dream Solutions

My dreams have never been the garden-variety stuff. No siree, they are the stuff dreams are made of! 🙂

I have full scale Bollywood style dreams, complete with clashing colours, melodious songs (which I really wish I could remember after I’ve woken up), and fights and chases. Unlike Bollywood movies, however, my dreams don’t drag on. They have this annoying habit of evaporating just as I am grappling with some existential crisis, and am waiting with bated breath to see how I will work my way out of this one!

Quite often, I get this dream of trying to get somewhere, maybe the airport, my home, an important event, something. And of course, the autos in my dream are true to real life — they refuse to co-operate. They often go the wrong way, I get into a fight about the meter reading, they take on more passengers to my discomfort, and in short, I seldom reach my destination. Actually, make that never.

So, it’s been a pleasant surprise to me that in my latest few dreams, I have not only managed to get an auto, but have also reached my destination intact!

Is this a sign of things to come? Have I been a pessimist all this time, and am now gradually converting to optimism? Or is it a sign that autos in Bangalore are going to turn over a new leaf?

Maybe I’m being a bit premature and jumping to conclusions. I think I should give it a few days, or rather, nights, and see if these positive dreams still persist. I must admit it feels good to wake up feeling as if a mission has been accomplished! 🙂

The Business of Busy-ness

Oh my! What a week it’s been!

First, there was entertainment for our block dinner to organize. Brainstorming about a unique format, fielding calls from parents eager for their kids to perform, trying to come up with good prizes, getting together all the props for the games…that was a breeze, wasn’t it?

Of course, it went off great! The kids had a blast dancing away on stage, everyone pitched in good-naturedly to play the games, and we (a fellow resident and I) could put up our feet happily at the end of it all. The biggest surprise package? Lil D, who had the role of MC suddenly thrust upon her, and I am truly proud to say that she did a whopping top job of it!

It didn’t help that the very next day was Lil D’s birthday party. A theme party, the theme being Harry Potter. Oh yes, the girls are truly, madly, and deeply into HP! So there were wands and badges to make, classes to arrange, and the Triwizard tournament to prep for. No easy task this, and I sleep-walked through it all.

The evening began soon enough, wands chose the wizards, the sorting hat was sorely missed (and so was Slytherin, to avoid ill-will!), but sorted they were. Potions class saw them making some of the yuckiest tasting potions (with all edible ordinary ingredients labelled exotically). I urged them strongly not to drink if they felt even a hint of nausea, but these wizards have strong stomachs, I tell you! Transfiguration had them doing dumb charades to guess magical creatures. They even took an O.W.L (one of the HP Trivia quiz apps), and I am happy to say that most of them were Outstanding! (If only HP was a subject at school too – sigh!)

The Triwizard tournament saw them defending a fancy Russian egg from the other teams (the old dog-and-the-bone game, actually), rescuing a stuffed toy blindfolded (with confusing instructions being yelled out by members of all teams all together – oh the cacaphony!!), and doing a Word maze. The Word Maze, I am rather thrilled to say, was an invention of my own. It was a grid like a word-search, except that there was an entire continuous sentence hidden in there, which got one from one end of the maze to the other. They fumbled initially, but Lil D *astounded* me with the speed with which she cracked this! I really hadn’t expected that, but it was a fitting finale, you must agree. Gryffindor won, naturally.

They finished off the evening watching part of The Chamber of Secrets, and then proceeded to the Grand Feast, which I will leave to your imagination. 🙂

Well, that was that, I thought, and settled down to some well deserved rest. But the universe had other plans. I received a call from a student of one of the top engineering colleges in the city, requesting me to judge a creative writing contest! Well, you know me. Just jumped up and off I went.

If I ever meet you in person, remind me to tell you about the most hilarious incident that happened en-route. I dare not put that down for posterity, for fear it will jinx me in some way or another. 🙂 But suffice it to say that I arrived at the venue in literally good humour!

What a lovely afternoon it was. And how lucky I was to get to read some really good writing. The first prize was a winner all the way. The second prize was beautifully lyrical. All in all, it was an experience worth having. I’m so glad I put aside all my inhibitions and agreed for once.

Well, apart from missing the cricket matches, and the budgets, and the cycling marathon, and every other thing, I’ve been doing pretty well.

So, how busy have you been? 😉