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

NUGGETS of LIFE: Amid bits and bytes, listen to the eco beep

There is a whirlwind around each one of us; a whirlwind of 0s and 1s with a thundering vortex of beeps and bangs

My daughter would not eat without watching her favourite cartoon show. On days she would not sleep without listening to the soft symphonies of nature with birds chirping in the background that I often play on my mobile. When she dozes off and I turn off that music, a guilt stings me. We have transitioned from a generation who would casually listen to the birds singing in our gardens and backyards while doing our daily chores to a generation that experiences it in a secondhand recorded way of bits and bytes.

The truth is inspite of having all the luxuries and comforts of technology, the next generation of humankind is perhaps the farthest from the more powerful and real luxury and charm of pristine nature. There is a whirlwind around each one of us; a whirlwind of 0s and 1s with a thundering vortex of beeps and bangs. The problem is that we’ve got so used to it that we do not realize we are not immune to it. Somewhere along that road, we have stopped listening to the eco beep – the symptoms and alarm of our degrading environment. More so, we have also stopped addressing the vitality of our own entire being.

Rather than working on our inner being, we are working too much on the outside on our planet. Little more done and we will come crashing down with a grim scenario already predicted by the central agencies with no groundwater in the next 20 years in many regions. With species facing extinction, mountains blasted and dissected for commercial projects and catastrophic global warming, the time for words is over now. It’s reached a point where substantial action is required at each individual level.

We have been bitten and bitten quite badly by the snake of rampant consumerism whose venom irrespective of our efforts is spreading slowly. If we introspect our daily habits it comes down to a two-step capsule – use and discard. Every time a new phone comes in the market, everyone wants to devour the latest and discard the well functioning old one. Interestingly, these tech friendly fads have market strategies as their bedrock that drives us to decide unconsciously in almost all the matters. It is an issue we do not want to address. Today, we are relying so much on technology from tracking the time to the security of our bank accounts, that there are too many loose ends that can be threatening.

However, there is another truth we can’t dust of, and that is, we can’t really give up our mobile phones and technology in its various forms. It cannot be done certainly! The tech-world and science have a pertinent place in history as well as in making our daily lives better. They deserve credit, but the point is atleast we should be cautious of becoming the new Don Quixote – living a life of illusion, self created problems and staying stuck in a virtual world bereft of reality.

Alteast, we should not forget the art of living in the moment and connecting with nature. Perhaps, we have forgotten precisely that but time is passing by and a cure is needed because at the end would we have the luxury of an author to correct the faults of his first draft?

I don’t think so.

Published in Hindustan Times on 27.9.2019

NUGGETS of LIFE: Living the virtual life, courtesy corona

At last, humankind has realised how vulnerable it can be

“It’s interesting how Corona has shifted the entire world to live virtually in real time and finally the revelation has happened”, I said looking up from my phone.

“Throw some light…”- came the swift inquisition from my husband who had his eyes racing across the news bulletin for quite sometime until now.

I went on rambling in my mind about how human lifestyles had become too fast paced to be lived efficiently and without a warm sense of hygge (coziness) as Danish would put it.

Until, came Corona and everything got bombarded in a lockdown – but for everyone’s good I’d say.

My husband now looked up at me sensing the silence and awaiting me to illustrate my statement. So I began.

“You see earlier the spicy gossips that happened over cards and kitty parties have now switched over to online Ludo games and WhatsApp groups. Similarly, when poori-chana were made on Sundays – close friends were invited over brunch, or the home baked cakes were shared over tea or coffee. Now they are shared on Instagram.”

“Now this sharing doesn’t lead to any olfactory satisfaction amongst friends in reality but since these turn into popular internet trends, so the poor things have to keep up with it – whether they like it or not”, I went on.

“Hmm, so it’s like I shared my cake now you share yours”, added my husband as my kiddo raced across.

“And just look at the change in the lives of all the kids! How happy they are with their virtual classes but they miss their friends terribly and evenings turn into drama parties for parents to handle. Yet there are many children across the country that do not have access to computers and sadly are also missing out the meal provided at school. There will be consequences of schools being shut down for so long.”

My husband looked thoughtful now. “You’re right! It won’t be easy to bridge the gap of holistic learning and of course deal the screen addiction.”

“Yes, so…there are also people posting pictures of working from home – on their laptops with a cup of black tea by their side – telling tales of how happy they are of this new trend of virtual offices across IT sector, while others are complaining how monotonous it is to work from home!”

“And by the way everyone has started to read newspapers online these days. It’s all getting digitized and techy I tell you. At least many trees would be saved.”

My husband shook his head in disagreement: “Dearest you would be flooded with fake news and targeted with algorithms if all you do is read from online portals. It would be no good for our society to completely do away with traditional print media.”

“But in between what is the big revelation?” he asked in a serious tone zooming back to my first statement.

I turned to look him full in the face – “At last humankind has realized how vulnerable it can be.”

Published in Hindustan Times on 11/6/2020

NUGGETS of LIFE: To be happy with yourself, what greater success!

Children at Delhi Slum

One of our house helps is unusually intelligent. She had just turned 19 when she joined us. I know her since the days she went to school. She would often come to visit when her elder sister was working at home; always happy to show me the medals she won in her academics and kabaddi. But years later, the day she joined, did I realise she had dropped out of school somewhere in between and contrary to my high hopes, never entered college.

While we were pulling out some fresh veggies from my kitchen garden, I started a conversation with her about something that had long intrigued me. I wanted to know why she did not continue her education. Was it due to lack of funds? Or, were her parents against it? I wanted to know if she had any particular dream or what she wanted to become. My concern grew because here was a young girl whom I knew when she was even younger and was certainly a bright student.

Not stopping her hands at work she smiled and replied calmly, “Kuch bhi ni didi. Bus jab shaadi ho jayegi toh ghar ka kaam kar lungi. Parhai toh saari zindagi kar sakte hai, ghar kitaaben laakar. Parna aana chahiye. Reema (her younger sister) doctor ban na chahti hai. Mai toh ese hi khush hoon” (Nothing, I’ll get married and do household work. One can study at any time, only one needs to be literate. Reema, my younger sister, wants to be a doctor but I’m happy just like this).

 I smiled. It had been a long time since I last met someone so serenely self satisfied and content. And her answer took me years back and reminded me of Suraj.

I was studying at Miranda House in Delhi then and those were the days of Common Wealth Games in the national capital. Hence a massive number of labourers had migrated to the city. As a part of my college outreach program, I went and taught children in one of these slums in Delhi where I became good friends with a bunch of kids and Suraj was one of them.

He was a young boy of 9 or 10. After completing their daily learning activities, all would pep up Suraj to sing and bravo what a jolly smooth voice the little one had! Though I never understood what he sung since it was in a Rajasthani dialect, it certainly was warm and joyous. Whenever I encouraged him saying, “Tum toh bareh singer banoge” (You will become a famous singer one day) -he would shyly reply that he wanted to become a mason like his father and singing is just to have a good time.

His answer too reflected nothing less than integrity and self respect. We, the privileged have a different looking glass for these children. Some of us feel sorry for them, some others empathize with them. But no, they need none of it. They are proud of who they are, how they are and much happier than most of us.

Just then my maid tapped the basket on the walking path to sift away the soil. “Didi ander chalen” (Do we go inside?) – she said with a radiating face after she was done pulling out the turnips. As we walked back, I was reminded of the lines by actor and poet Arunoday Singh – “To be happy with yourself. To be worthy of yourself. What greater success, could you possibly find?”

Published in Hindustan Times on 2/3/2020