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? 😉

FOMO

Settle down for a leisurely read of the morning newspaper, and bam! The metro section has whole pages devoted to what’s happening around town. There are plays to attend, music and dance performances to enjoy, talks and lectures galore, meets and treats a-plenty. Your ten minutes of newspaper reading is replaced by this restless feeling that you’re not really doing anything worthwhile in this city.

Check your email, and whoosh! Inundated with events happening around the community, a spot-fix here, a protest there, a tournament here, a gathering there. Here a thing, there a thing, everywhere a thing, thing! And what do you plan to attend? Absolutely nothing, ’cause, you know, the child has a party and a test (yeah right!), and you’ve got some errands to run, and checkups that can take the whole day… That restless feeling surfaces again, and you wonder if you really can’t take out the time, or just won’t.

Login to Facebook, and the whole world appears to be doing So Much More with their time. A tiny part of you does acknowledge that it’s actually different people doing different things, but it all coalesces into one giant “THEY” against one tiny “you”.

Go down for a walk with friends, and hear what great bargains they got in the sales, and which movies they saw, and what yummy dishes they’ve cooked. You console yourself that you’re not really into sales, none of the movies lately are worth watching, and as for cooking, the less said the better. But you’re acutely aware that there’s a whole world out there that you’re missing.

If there’s only something more I could do, you muse, as you put in your hours of official work, cook all meals (since your cook has decided to take the day off), run quick visits to the store, attend your dance class, help out your parents, do some prep work for the upcoming (yet again theme!) birthday party, run around for your apartment block dinner that you’re helping out with, follow-up on vacation plans, and of course, write your blog post. And it’s just six in the evening, there are another six hours to go at least before your day ends.

Sigh.

🙂

A Little Extra

Last night, I was watching Monk with Lil D. (That’s about the only TV viewing I do nowadays!)

There was a scene where Monk makes a 911 call. The emergency worker who answers the call has a few lines to say, and a few minutes of screen time.

Much later, for some reason, I began thinking about her. I wondered how many years she’d been working in showbiz, trying for show after show. Imagining her joy when she found out she’d been selected for Monk! The anxiety with which she must have practiced her lines and trembled with nervousness when it was her time before the camera. The reaching out to all friends and family when the show aired. Watching as she came on, wishing she could have done something a little different. The accolades showered on her later, the prophecies that she was now one step closer to stardom. And then – oblivion.

OK, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.

It struck me that on the grand stage of life, we are all just extras, basking in our own spotlight for a few minutes. I guess there are really very few people who can be called the main characters. Maybe those who influence and affect the world at large. Even those giants we look up to — so many of them were recognized only after they were long gone.

I don’t really mind being an extra. As long as I say my lines the very best I can, I guess it’s all ok.