Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday sunshine

I was inspired to write this after reading Sakshi’s post on the winter sun. Her thoughts probed me and took me back to those days of abandon, soaking in the December sun as I sat on the terrace lined with pots of marigold flowers.

I remember those folding cots that droop from the center like a hammock on overuse. Sprawled on a new tightly knotted cot with my back towards the sun, hair wet from the late shower (because mom said no lunch until I take a bath) and a small rectangular book of Mental Math under my shadow as I bend down to work on those sums . . . Mental Math and sun’s warm embrace would put me to sleep, before I could have lunch. I miss those days, now when I dig into that memory box. Smell of naphthalene balls, colorful balls of wool for a new sweater (and how sweater designs would be copied and discussed at length by the aunties), practicing Christmas carols in school, wearing blazers to school, playing pranks by switching on the fan, cracking groundnuts and having them with a pinch of rock salt, the pseudo smoking by blowing in the air, blinding fog and the car headlights . . . Winter has a lot of childhood memories.

I had not realized I missed the childhood winter till I did it again today – bask in the sun. I dragged a mattress to my living room near the balcony which was filled with sunshine. Shivering only slightly from the hot shower, I sat with my back towards the sun and took out the bag of groundnuts. I was as happy as that ten year old kid on the folding cot. If only the ten year old me knew that that was happiness, right there that moment when I was sulking about Mental Math.

After eating those groundnuts, I started reading a book that was delivered the previous day (oh the joy!), slowly stretching my legs and beginning to lie down. The sun felt great on my back pain (ha! The perils of growing up), my hair had begun to dry in parts as I ruffled them up, and I was just about to fall into a sweet siesta when my mom called up. I was reminded that I had to go grocery shopping and then make lunch. My childhood reverie broke right then, as I realized that THIS moment also will not come ever again. Right then my only worry was about cooking my next meal (leaving aside the existential conundrums :P). A few years down the line, I would long for a moment like this – an idle Saturday under the sun with a book.

I don’t want to grow up.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The right thing.

As a child you are taught to ‘do the right thing’. Be honest. Don’t fight. Respect people. Work hard. In Hindu mythology, consider Mahabharata here, Krishna spoke about Dharma and Karma. But honestly, I think, He manipulates and twists the truth to suit his convenience and get what He wants. People, very fondly, like to call it Krishna’s leela. Who decides what the right thing to do is? Can there ever be a right thing without having opposite consequences? Can you ever be sure that you are in fact on the right side, and that it is not counterproductive in another space and time?

I truly pity and sympathize with Arjuna. He really wanted to do the right thing. His intentions and conscience were clear. But Krishna is a manipulator, he is a politician with a very warped sense of Right and Wrong. 

From the life I have lived so far, with all the rights and wrongs, I really think that there is no such thing as ‘doing the right thing’. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. What may seem right at the moment, may lead to extremely devastating things later on. And what may seem wrong, let’s go back to Mahabharata where Krishna tells Arjuna that war is the right thing to do (because it is ‘meant to be’ and Arjuna is merely a puppet in the bigger scheme of things…and that he should only do his duty and leave everything else to providence), may turn out to be the right thing in fact.

For the record, I think Arjuna was right and Krishna was wrong – especially in today’s context. I cannot expect a ‘divine intervention’ in my life, I don’t know what God’s will is and so all I can really do is what seems right at that moment. That is the best shot life has given us. We cannot try to predict our future and try to make the right choices – because NOTHING ever works out as planned. Life and the world has a way of surprising us when we least expect it. And as long as our conscience is clear – which I think is more important than following someone’s definition of right and wrong – we should be able to live with it.

Edited to add:
Did you know that after the war got over and Pandavas ruled the dynasty for several years. . .they all went to Hell? And the Kauravas who lost the battle, went to Heaven? And that Krishna was also cursed because of his misdemeanor during the war?

This whole idea of doing the right thing and getting brownie points of Karma makes no sense whatsoever! At the end of the day, you have only one life to live - no point in thinking about what is good or bad.

Sunday, November 2, 2014



I have heard people say that they want to be respected for who they are. But I choose to differ. I have come to realize that respect is never gained by being who you are – affectionate, sincere or conscientious. . .these and many other such attributes alone won’t get you respect. Respect is something you gain with your actions. Respect is strongly correlated to results, whether we like it or not.

In our culture we are misled in our understanding of ‘respect’. We have been taught to respect people irrespective of whether they are worthy of it – so respect your parents, respect your elders, your teachers, respect people with more experience. . .basically just because you were born before me, I have to respect you. That makes no sense to me.

Respect also is linked with a person’s self esteem. So if I am well-respected, I have a high self esteem. If I am not respected, I feel insecure. But in a world that is running like the wind, how can I expect to get respect just for being who I am. Respect is a jewel that is not easy to find. Respect needs to be earned. It needs to be gained. It is not served to you in a shiny platter.

I have learned it the hard way. But that is what makes respect taste so sweet. If you get it easily, you would neither value it nor enjoy it. I have struggled through various circumstances where I have been looked down upon or made fun of – in the beginning – mostly for being ‘new’. The new student, the new recruit, the new colleague, the new manager. What you have done in the past – your education, your experience – does not matter. You have to start from scratch and earn your respect when you enter a new world.

And the same applies in relationships. When I ask married people, what is it that they expect from their partner – one of the top five answers is Respect. Everyone wants to be treated with dignity. But to expect that you’ll be respected for who you are, is wrong. Respect, just like trust, needs to be gained. And you need to work for it. 

When I started working for the first time, I was just another new recruit and nobody took me seriously. It was gradually when the client started appreciating my little pieces of work, that my workplace also changed their opinion about me. Recently in my current job, where I am much younger than what someone at my position should be, my client would act cocky . . .always asking for a ‘senior’s’ involvement. It was really amusing how his behavior changed overnight (he saying sorry for not taking my call, he cracking jokes, asking and clarifying doubts…) after he saw my work. 

In personal life, recently, I have seen people’s attitude change when they come to know that I traveled solo around Europe. Not like I did it to impress anybody. But a little thing like that changes how people perceive you. So now someone (much senior to me) says how he wishes his teenage daughter grows up to become a ‘bold lady’ like me. Or someone (dean of my college) invites me over for lunch to discuss work agenda – whatever that means. Or someone (who I really admire) says – I see so much of my younger self in you. Even in the countries where I traveled solo – the kind of reaction I got from some people when they came to know that I was doing it all by myself, or people’s reaction when I tell them that I planned the whole thing without anybody’s help, was overwhelming.

You need to test yourself, put yourself through challenges, come out of them tactfully, express yourself, steer your life. . .SHOW the world what you are. Then you will get respect. Don’t expect the world to respect you for just existing.

Why do we respect our parents? Because we know how much they have sacrificed and worked towards making our lives comfortable. If my mother did not care about me or advise me when I am down or take care of me when I am sick – would I have respected her as much as I do now? I would have still respected her, sure, because she is my mom. But it is through her actions that she has gained my love, trust and respect. I have cousins who wish they had a mom like mine, who wish to emulate and be a home maker like her, or ask their wives to learn from her. How did that happen? It takes efforts. 

Does that make me selfish? That I will respect you only if you do something? Here it is important to note that I would still respect someone who cannot do anything for me. That’s not the point here. There is always a dignified way of treating people, I am not denying that at all. 

The point is that respect needs to be earned. What you do to earn that respect shapes you as a person. What you become in the process of earning that respect builds your self esteem, and you feel respected. And THAT is important.