NUGGETS of LIFE: When the New meets the Old

Art is just used to depict those emotions.

When I recently visited my parent’s house, my mother took out a stack of yellowish worksheets. Some of them were from my kindergarten days, while others were from various other junior classes. My daughter sitting in my lap carefully observed or I would rather say inspected them. She pulled out a particular sheet with men and women dancing and asked, “Mama, who are these colourful uncles and aunties?”

The very next second I was in uncontrollable laughter. I tried my best not to embarrass my daughter but she was spot on with her remarks. Of course, my mother stepped in and chided me for not answering her granddaughter. “These are men and women celebrating a very special day…” my mother explained, “…long time back people were thankful and celebrated all plants and trees when they gave us food to eat.” My mother spoke in very simple terms so that my toddler could understand the message she wanted to convey. Still giggling I chipped in, “Yeah mama BUT who dances like that in the fields on Vaisakhi ever?  Why did they even make us draw that in school?”

My mother was in no mood to extol a lecture, so came in a sarcastic gibe “If you haven’t seen doesn’t mean people never celebrated! There is something called Punjabi folklore! Thank God you kids did all this in school otherwise you wouldn’t even know what Vaisakhi is!” (For parents you are always kids even when your hair starts to grey). 

This made me curious. Even though I come from a family with agricultural background I haven’t seen Vaisakhi being ever celebrated with bhangra on dhol beats or folk songs being sung by women with saggi phul glittering in the daylight. So I asked my mother if she has ever seen it. “No” came the straight reply. “Art, culture, folklore are immensely symbolic. May be in the bygone era they actually did it but it mainly symbolizes culmination of hard work into a fruitful yield. Even the LokGeet are all about husband and wife bickering around the harvest time because there is so much work to do and they do not get to see each other for days. Eventually the bountiful harvest brings good times making every one forget the bickerings”, she smiled. “Art is just used to depict those emotions”, my mother added.

That day when I went to bed I was wondering what the next generations are going to draw. They are more familiar with ballet dances, moon walking and remix music than bhangra, jindwa or traditional Lok geet. As far as bountiful harvest – with change in climate and dropping water levels, yields are affected now. I do not know what the next generation is going to paint for Vaisakhi but if we continue to ignore, somebody in next generations might certainly paint Edvard Munch’s famous painting ‘The Scream’ again.

Published in THE POST INDIA on 29.4.2022

NUGGETS of LIFE: When I missed mishap by an inch

Did the zebra cross the road? - The Hindu
I could not stop thinking and overthinking about what went wrong.

The incident left me numb for several days after it happened. Each time I would sit down for some peace and quiet, ‘the incident’ would play itself in my head.  It happened the day, I drove down to my daughter’s school and parked a little ahead the front gate. As per routine,  the nanny takes about five to 10 minutes to go get my daughter from class and accompany her back to the car. However, that day she was out in no time and I could see both of them walking down towards the car in the rear-view mirror. So,  I did not shift the gear to parking mode. And that was it! That’s when it all happened…

The nanny was settling down my daughter in the car and I had my face turned towards both of them. The moment they settled in and I turned my face in front while lifting the brakes; a man and his son were passing right in front of my car. It shudders me to think that in that moment I could have rolled over them for my car had promptly drifted forward.

God was kind that day, and the petrified father and his cute son, who had no idea what could just have happened, were saved, because I applied the brake in the nick of time. However, for a few seconds after that, I could only shake my head stupidly. Onlookers may have seen me mumbling sorry from behind my face mask, and perhaps the father could have taken my head shake, as either aggression or simply a “gone-nuts” case.

I politely gestured them to take their time and cross the road. The father thankfully nodded when he passed by and I was still stupidly shaking my head. Anyway, I drove back home at the speed of 20km per hour that day much to the nanny’s irritation. It was a simple human error. It might have happened to many. Yet, I could not stop thinking or over thinking about what went wrong because with due humility I say I am a good driver despite my gender (sarcasm intended).

It was a simple pick and drop your kid from the school task and yet my reflexes were not square enough. I scrolled through doctor Google and came across a recent published study that said that over the years with upgrade of technology, especially the internet, our attention spans have greatly reduced. We have become more absent minded than ever before, losing touch with the subtleties of life that bring the real joy because everything is getting automated. No wonder, our generations have forgotten the art of knitting, the touch and feel of the slumbered brown paper of a Nietzsche book, the thrill of using manual four by fours.

Surely, fancy technologies in our daily lives are altering our behaviour pattern, our instincts and reflexes. Or perhaps, I should stop over thinking altogether because “there no zebra crossing” as my father opined.

Published in Hindustan Times Sunday Read on 28.11.2021

NUGGETS of LIFE : To women who made a difference

No one is greater or lesser, all do the best to their abilities

Women have always been the equals. Only, their form is different. Yes, their style is different. And certainly their language is different. It is a fact and that is that. Therefore, I often wonder the need of highlighting the Women’s Day. Every year, United Nations declares a theme for the year’s campaign. There is lot of activism as well as commercialized activities around this date. Sometimes I feel that the more they point out that women are underdog and need to be treated equally, the more they are likely to remain an underdog in the collective minds of people.

Am I being mean? Have I out rightly dismissed the heavy history of the struggle for women civil and political rights and the need to celebrate it? Should I look back? I conjure up events in my head – the horror that so many women had to endure and the social milieu of yester years. I get shaken. I open my eyes.

Now I sit straight, and thank that supreme light for being born in freedom, born in good times. We have come a long way from the absolute torturous times, yet we know there are still many suffering helplessly. Albeit, we should thank all the women who walked the line of fire to bring this change and to bring us to this point in time. It must not have been easy for them. When you read autobiographies and memoirs of women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg or even young famous Indian women like Priyanka Chopra, you realize how much grit and effort it has taken for these women to bring about social changes or make their own way. These are women who dared and razed the less travelled pathways for the younger generations of women.

My reverie takes me closer home now. I think about the two women in my family, whose stories I had heard and whose actions I had seen closely – my paternal and maternal grandmothers. These women were special in their own way. The former got married to an officer, yet chose to work and become an officer herself, breaking the glass ceiling. The latter was orphaned at a young age, in the violent Partition, but in spite of such loss in early childhood, she grew up to be a wonderful woman. She set an example of resilience and grace for one and all. They are both long gone but this Women’s Day, I thank them for their unique contribution in my life.

Finally, my eyes browse through Google as I look for this year’s theme chosen by United Nations. It is ‘Women in Leadership’. There is an instant reflection – I think of Queen Elizabeth II; the Forbes list doesn’t miss my eye too. I think of all the women I know or have known and conclude – no one is greater or lesser; all did their best to their abilities and circumstances; all are great leaders who have made a difference as career women or homemakers.

Published in The Tribune 8.03.2021

NUGGETS of LIFE: Fleeting moments turn lessons for a lifetime

Some moments turn into lessons for a lifetime

I fell down, got up and dusted my knees for the third time, and smiled back at my father. That was precisely when he took the photo. Holding it in my hand after all these years now brings that smile back again. I was trying to learn to ride the bicycle. In fact, I was learning the biggest lesson of my life:  Learning to balance and getting back after a fall.

It’s wonderful how photos capture emotions and feelings, freezing them for life.

As I flipped through the album, my fingers lingered along another picture that has made me stop every single time. A little girl, that’s me, is sitting on a chair with a big pink turban on the head. It was my grandfather’s turban and I was posing like a queen. It makes me laugh hard when I see it as a grown up. But did that little girl understand that symbolism? I bet not. There was a powerful lesson that I was taught gradually as a kid. My grandfather was indeed a progressive man and he would often say: “It doesn’t matter what your gender is, what matters is how you honour your turban.”

Years rolled by, and there came my wedding album. I’m smiling through all the pictures. Even during my ‘madhania’ moment. How is it you didn’t cry during your ‘vidaai‘? Some friends and family were pleasantly surprised. I would answer, “Why? Nobody was dead”!

It depends how you look at it. I was embarking on a new phase in life, and starting it with tears wouldn’t be the last thing that I would’ve done. Those moments captured in photos have left a happy impression on my mind and a lesson reassured. Whenever you begin a journey, career or life, begin it with all your heart; let the fate take care of the rest.

Yet, years later when I became a mother and now when my daughter scrolls my phone gallery, full of her pictures, she hugs and cuddles me seeing them. There are pictures of her dancing, posing, celebrating, and playing pranks. I find the whole joy of the world captured in the photos. They too remind me of a lesson, that pure love transcends you to your happy place – to your best version.

Before I close the album, there are many more blank pages to be filled with love, laughter and happiness. As I look ahead, I’m amazed at how these pictures turn a fleeting moment into a memory for a lifetime that not only provides an immediate connect but also serve as pearls of wisdom gathered as life rolls on.

Published in Hindustan Times on 15.10.2020

NUGGETS of LIFE: Warming up to welcoming the winter

5 health benefits of sun during winter | TheHealthSite.com
Paradoxical it may seem but look at it from another looking glass and it would dawn, that winters have been adding memories to our memory flora since generations.

Robert Frost felt that “An hour of winter day might seem too short, to make it worth life’s while to wake and sport”, while for Matsuo Basho, “When the winter chrysanthemums go, there’s nothing to write about but radishes”. Whether it is the evil queen of frozen Narnia or the terrible icy ordeal of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant – winter has symbolically represented negativity in almost all the literature and movies I have come across. It might be right for the West, but should we be indoctrinating our mind with what is right for them? Are these white winters really so whiny, rigid and bad?  

Well, these waves of thought regarding winters were set in motion when on a fine day in December last year, an aunt of mine asked me how I was doing. My spontaneous jolly reply was, “Very well! Enjoying the winter”. My old aunt raised her brows and looked at me rather petrified and affectionately corrected me saying, “Biba sardiya manaai nahi jandia katia jandia ne” (winters are not to be enjoyed but suffered through). Well this time I raised my brows – a little puzzled, a little amazed!

I cannot deny my love and optimism for winters, not that I’m a sadist! Perhaps, my love for this cold season emerges from the realization how warm and welcoming winters are from inside. Paradoxical it may seem but look at it from another looking glass and it would dawn, that winters have been adding memories to our memory flora since generations. Only we have failed to notice!

The happiness of eating oranges under the balmy sun on a winter day or the sense of relief when a hot water bottle is tucked inside the quilt at night – are all little moments that make for a beautiful life, but sadly enough we often neglect it in the larger pursuits of our lives. It is worth noting that one cannot even enjoy the warmth without experiencing the cold.

My happy memories don’t just end with this! The memory flora rather blooms as the chilling winter approaches and I get to relive the vivid pictures of my childhood – of family reunions at our hill estate around bonfires – peanuts, baked potatoes, cakes, the whiff in the air of rums and whiskies! Or the one and only sarso ka saag and makki ki roti back in Punjab! And yet every year there is more to add, because ironically despite the chill – we still decide to save the dates for the wedding of our loved ones in this season.

My winter cautious aunt also got married in winters and so did I. Certainly my winter saga has lot more lovely stories in its fold and as the season approaches, my mind rings Terri Guillemets words: “Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. “

Published in Hindustan Times on 3.11.2017

NUGGETS of LIFE: Paintbrush of our Life – Our Mind

Paint Brush

There is a very popular saying that life is a stage where men and women play their parts and go. But things take a turn when the question of ‘how to play it’ comes. We need to rise and contemplate about these intricacies of life. For this we need to understand our mind, for it is the paintbrush that goes long way painting our lives.

Our mind wobbles, jumps or is at peace sometimes. The way it works and shapes, leads to the way our eyes perceive the world around. And for the world, it sees our character painted by our mind and it becomes our identity. Our character is determined by our actions and the niche of our actions lies in our mind. Mind, character, behavior, lifestyle, success, failure – all come round full circle and mind is the real game player.

In this pacing modern era, each and every person undergoes various situations. In present times, a lay mans observation is that everything touches extremity. Rich is getting richer, poor is getting poorer; success or failure both reach pinnacle; poverty or corruption, everything has reached its height. Increasing cases of depression, diseases, suicide, crime, breach and many more – all indicate that people are not able to balance their actions, their lives and basically their minds! Why was not it to this extent during our grandparents time? There are other factors too that play their part but human mind is certainly the main hidden factor that creates this imbalance.

Every human needs to have a positive mind under any circumstance to unlock the door of content, happiness and a wonderful life! It’s a blatant truth that almost 95 % people have restless minds leading to an unhappy life. Take the example of a glass of water, filled till the middle. What do you perceive? What is your reaction? Either you will say it is ‘half empty’ or ‘half filled’. This experiment is helpful in knowing how happy life you will lead based on your attitude. Ideally, a person with a sunshine approach to life should say at least there is some water in that glass!

Fundamentally a person should know two things about mind – handling and nourishing it. Finding happiness in little things of life is what positiveness is all about. Happiness is the power to reverse our mind from bad to good. Every lock has a key. Discipline of faculties, self control, meditation, going for morning walks, taking a break for a nice family vacation, appreciating the beautiful world around us, talking and sharing our experiences (thus, making ourselves feel lighter and better) – are all ways to tackle and handle our mind, but until and unless we don’t nourish it, the whole process remains incomplete. Vehicles need fuel, electronics need electricity and body needs food. Likewise, our mind needs nourishment. Reading good books, developing a hobby, healthy lifestyle, good company, positive environment, faith and hope – are some of the things we need to do to keep our minds nourished. And every person who is successful in doing this – his life is well accomplished!

We should always consider our mind ‘a gift of nature’ like a tree that has hundreds of branches and yet sprouting many more. And all we need to do is to prune it well, so that it is good enough to create a beautiful happy life.

Published on EzineArticles.com on 2.7.2012