The day of the ultimate Victory

Today is Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, the day Goddess Durga won the battle against demons after nine days and nine nights of continuous war. This is also the day when Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Raavan. This day is also the day the Pandavas retrieved their weapons and ended their exile. It is the day of victory of good over evil and restoration of faith and goodness. In Northern India, it is celebrated by burning down a large effigy of the demon king Raavan, a symbolic celebration of victory. All of us remember and tend to celebrate only the victories but tend to forget the struggles in between to reach this end. 

Lord Ram was the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the creator and sustainer of all things existing and non-existing. In his human form he fought a mighty battle against the demon king Raavan who had abducted his wife, Goddess Sita and held her captive. King Raavan was powerful, effluent & wise, he had command over all the Vedas and scriptures. He had set up the city of gold, Lanka and he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He had completed many years of tough penance and received boons from Lord Brahma and he had even lifted the Kailash mountain. He had a massive army of fierce demons and magical creatures and a fortress that was impossible to break through. He turned extremely ambitious and drove out Lord Indra to capture heaven, he even defeated the god of death, Yamraj and took the nine planets captive. Why am I glorifying the demon king? This is to give you an idea of the kind of enemy Lord Ram was facing. Lord Ram was in exile when his wife was abducted, he had no army of his own. He formed an alliance with the monkey king Sugreeva and marched towards the city of Lanka with an army of monkeys. He did not possess any special artillery or weapons, just his younger brother Lakshman, his devout devotee Hanuman and his devotees in the form of the monkey army. Let us pause here and think, why did the creator of everything take a limited human form and ask monkeys to help him defeat a mighty demon king? He could have simply lifted a finger and the entire city of Lanka would have been destroyed. Ok now put a pin in that thought and let us proceed. 

So Lord Ram reached the city of Lanka and the war began, everyday the demon Raavan would send his mighty generals or magical demons to fight and monkeys had their supreme faith in the Lord which helped them win at the end of each day. It was the last day of the war, Raavan flew high in his magical chariot, seeing that Lord Indra offered his magical chariot to Lord Ram, and the battle began in the skies. But today was different, Lord Ram would release his arrows and cut off Raavan’s head, but in a few seconds lo and behold a new head would appear. This continued for hours on end and a time came when Lord Ram was exhausted and at his wits end. Remember the Lord was in a human form and had the limitations of a human body. Nothing seemed to hurt Raavan that day as he stood there smirking away. It was as if he had an infinite supply of heads and this battle would go on till eternity. Lord Ram looked at his charioteer and asked him,” What is wrong today? Why aren’t any of my arrows bearing fruit?”. He took a human form to lead by example because humanity would always have this reason that what can we do as humans? And also to show even the in a human form faces times that seem bleak.

Let us look at what Raavan represents, we all have a part of him in us, he represents our ego and our desires. No matter how many times you try to control your ego, it has a way of rearing it’s head up again. We may attend a nice spiritual retreat and come back determined to not take anything to heart, it lasts until someone tips us off again and we take things personally. Similarly, we may buy a 50-inch tv today and after a year want a 65-inch tv and the upgrades never end. Now, don’t you lie to yourself, all of us have desires in some shape or form. The story of the demon “Rakht Beej” is apt here, he was a demon with a boon, if anyone hurt him and even a drop of his blood fell on the ground a clone of the demon would instantly appear. He was almost invincible as the clones would just multiply in any battle he fought. Goddess Kali fought the battle with him, and she too had to face his million clones, finally, she found a way to destroy him for good. She would sever his head with one hand and in the other, she held a large vessel to catch all the blood that fell out, eventually, she killed the demon and all his clones, emerging victorious. Our desires are like this demon, they keep multiplying when we destroy one, seeming impossible to conquer.

While Lord Ram was still thinking and feeling a bit low, after having fought the battle for so many days and reaching a point that seemed futile, he turned to the charioteer who said, “ My Lord the end is near, you may not see it right now and it may seem that your arrows are not bearing any fruit but now is not the time to stop, start again anew with even more conviction, the end is near”. Lord Ram then stood up and lifted his bow and arrow again. His arms were tired with the hours of battle and in front of him stood the scorning and laughing demon Raavan with all his magical powers and might, and he still decided to keep fighting. Eventually, that fateful arrow bore fruit and Raavan came crashing down on the ground, the battle had been won. We can consider this as the Lord’s Leela or theatrics but what would be the purpose?

(please note there are various versions of Ramayan and this is taken from the Geet Ramayan).

On this day of Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, let us take a pledge to not give up, mentally, physically, emotionally on all levels of our existence. The fight against this pandemic seems eternal but we will defeat it eventually, as a collective consciousness of humanity. The fight against corrupt governments and systems across various countries of this world, oppressive and dictatorship rules seeming unending but we will win it one day. The battle inside us of our egos and desires, past karmas, relationships or any other may seem never ending, exhausting and futile but keep going. Look for stories from our real heroes, the countless incarnations of divinity on earth in all religions and faiths, they all manifested to show us nothing is impossible. Like the arrows of Lord Ram that seemed to be failing that day, or the hundreds of clones of the demon appearing in front of the Goddess Kali, remember that truth and sincerity will always win and the demons will be slayed. 

Fall a thousand times but get up a thousand and one times, all of us have different manifestations of problems and issues and the solutions are not always in sight. Sometimes we need to wait for a day, few weeks, months or even years for a solution but never give up. Yes praying to the almighty is important but actions are inevitable, the Lord does not help one who stops trying, and the Lord works through our attempts, people and circumstances around us. Strive everyday, if you fail keep trying everyday, rest when you must but never stop trying. 

Remember these leelas of our compassionate heroes, the avatars of our creator. Happy Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, the 10th day of the ultimate victory of good after nine days and nine nights of a battle that seemed never-ending, it may take you days, weeks, months, or years but you will reach your day of victory, there is always hope for those who try. May the Goddess shower her mercy on all of us and lead us to our days of victory.

Mirror Mirror on the wall..

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I saw a beautiful oracle card the other day, it depicted a white swan swimming in the pond, and looking down at its reflection in the water. What it saw was not it’s plain self, it saw a queen sawn with a diamond crown and a beautiful necklace. This got me thinking, what do I see in the mirror? 

At some point in life, most of us have seen a grander version of ourselves in the mirror. Do you still see that vision? When I asked myself this, I was surprised to find the answer was no. Off late when I look into the mirror , I see an aging me, I see blemishes on my skin, dark circles under my eyes, a thinning hairline and of course outgrown eyebrows (thanks to the pandemic it has been ages I entered a beauty salon). I am not necessarily sad when I see all this, it is a matter of fact reflection of reality isn’t it, or is it? There was a time in life when I used to see a beautiful crowned empress staring back, where did she disappear? And is she even required? Isn’t the mirror now doing its job of reflecting reality?

I truly believe we are the creators of our life and our thoughts and feelings mould our reality. Hence visions of a better version of ourselves are imperative. These are not hallucinations, take it metaphorically, these are the best versions of ourselves that exist in our mind and as years go by we do manage to achieve the changes piece by piece.These are the best versions of ourselves in body, mind, spirit, wealth, status, adoration and recognition in some form or another. This is what keeps us motivated to take action everyday and give it our best, consciously or not. It is important in today’s age to keep that reflection alive, even for our human collective. Gone are the days when people stopped and patted the back of a fellow co-worker, neighbour or family member for a job well done, even a small one. It happens but sporadically, especially at work, companies are investing in HR trainers who teach people to be self-motivated and claim that even expecting an email of appreciation is the wrong and one must work without any expectations. It is a sad state of affairs where we do not want to celebrate our fellow humans. If someone gets a promotion in the company, they are asked not to share with everyone or make a celebration out of it, the culture is turning so dry and mechanical, and the physical distances due to the pandemic make things that much colder.

In this world which is dealing with one crisis after another, and is so fast paced that the primal nature of all humans is still self preservation, may not be in the form of hunting, but all of us are thinking of survival at some level, so much so that we have stopped celebrating each other. This is where those reflections are of paramount importance, the ability to imagine a happier you is the foundation of all growth, our ability to thrive rests on this.

Past few weeks I have been getting news of people passing away, distant relatives, family friends, relatives of close friends and due to the pandemic rules, even the closest relatives are unable to attend the last rites or spend time with the people who have lost someone. We cannot even visit and share their grief. This situation has reminded us all that we are born alone and we will die alone, the sooner we accept this fact, the more at ease we will be. Our grand reflections are the only company that will truly stay and help us hold onto hope when there may seem none.Manifesting is the true measure of aliveness

No matter what your age, your physical or financial situation, never stop manifesting, for yourself and also the collective. Manifesting is the true measure of aliveness. The biggest tool is the queen swan starring back from that mirror. We all have heard the story of Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Snow White had an evil stepmother who was the queen and this queen had a magic mirror. Everyday the queen would stand in front of this mirror and ask “Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” and the mirror would show her the best version of herself and say “You my majesty”. Forget the rest of the story for a while, and only remember this part. We need to be like the evil queen (ok drop the evil bit), in the sense, keep the magic in the mirrors alive, have faith in the visions you hold for yourself and believe in that magnetic person staring back.

Most of us are working from home and even for those who are not, find a mirror, in the office restroom, few times a day look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love You”, “Hey Gorgeous”, “Hi Handsome”, “You are the best”, “You rock and you can achieve  anything you want”, add your own praises whatever you need to hear, adjust that invisible crown and really watch yourself fall in love with you. You can say it out loud if you are alone, or in your head is also fine, it may feel a bit awkward at first but go for it. This may last for just a few seconds until your mind draws your attention to that ugly pimple on your cheek, that is alright, keep trying. You will notice an energy shift in a few tries and if you have been blocking your own manifestation due to energy being low, it will get cleared.

Keep working at your dreams though, do the tasks, take those classes, practice everyday, hone your skills, make your strategy, go about life as usual, but spend a few minutes each day for this, and you will see the magic mirror sprinkle some fairy dust on you. Negative self-talk can be extremely destructive, they say be cautious of what you say to others, but be more careful as to what you say to yourself, remember, not just your mind and heart, your entire body is listening and responding. Have you ever experienced this, when you happen to look into someone’s eyes for a bit too long and something attracts us to that person? We feel sudden compassion and love, it is a bit of magic, try staring into your own eyes in the mirror long enough each day and you will reflect the same compassion and love towards yourself.

Remember the queen, look into the magic mirror, and ask your mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all, all the best my gorgeous souls, let us elevate the universal consciousness by beginning with our own.

A visit to the office amongst COVID

Last Monday, I had to visit the office to help onboard a new joiner to my team. It was not mandatory for me to visit the office, but I wanted to meet this person at least once and welcome her into the company. I had to take a few approvals before visiting the office and finally was ready to go there. After 6 months I stepped foot into the office building, I swear I almost forgot the name of the landmark to my office building. I took an Ola cab, the roads were comparatively empty and as the cab veneered into the premises, a smile popped on my face. It caught me unaware,I got off and walked towards the building, a familiar pace set on my toes. There were several notice boards and notice posters at the entrance stating the various rules of social distancing, hand sanitizing and much more. I could no longer just whisk my card and rush inside, I had to show the approvals and wait patiently for the security team to follow new protocols to escort me inside. 

It felt like I was entering a top secret military lab, I was escorted to a floor, not to my usual desk. To a single floor where employees can work from during this COVID crisis. I had to keep the mask on and I saw masked faces around, some familiar, some new. These were the IT, facilities and security teams working tirelessly through this entire time. As I walked to an empty desk and placed my laptop, I noticed every other seat had an X to ensure no one sits too close.

As the neon white lights glared above me, I thought my god, I have actually missed the office. I felt elated and happy under the very neon lights I thought looked like the ones in an operating theatre. Isn’t it interesting how our human mind functions? Even things that used to irritate us once, fall under the familiarity category. If we move away from that environment suddenly for a long time and re-enter, the mind recognizes it as familiar and safe. I have been working in this organization now for almost 8 years and the last 6 months have been so different and something none of us phantomed. 

After a while, I walked up to the coffee machine, it is now manned by a facility staff in gloves and mask, no one is allowed to touch the coffee machine apart from him. He serves everyone coffee and even water as they walk up to him maintaining social distancing. I saw a big bottle of hand sanitizer and wondered of all these small things we took for granted. The water cooler conversations, the crowding around the coffee machine, the polite gestures of handing someone a paper cup if they stood on the other side. Every movement I made, I had to be conscious of social distancing and safety. The office elevators also have rules now, stickers of where to stand and limited to small groups, not that I missed crowded elevators but it all felt surreal , like a video game.

I greeted the new joiner, with a namaste and a mask, later maintaining appropriate distance, we removed our masks and met properly for the first time. How much onboarding has changed? Imagine joining a new company now, you are interviewed on the phone, everything is online, you cannot visit the office, you cannot use your senses to grasp the culture and the environment of an office. It is not just the building but the people, the way they dress, the way they move and talk, minute social cues one picks up, all that is missing. Now, you connect with your new team and manager over video calls and such. There is no buddy assigned to you, to show you how to navigate the building, the shortcuts around the building and most importantly show you where the washrooms and tea point is located. I wonder for freshers who are on boarded now, they have no experience of how it feels that first week at a new workplace. Not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but just that experience is no longer available, at least for the next 6 months. But I am still old schooled and believe in meeting a person who will work with you so closely on a project, at least once. Identifying someone with a mask on is difficult, especially people in office we may have never spoken to, but we always smile at them as we pass by. I recognized and smiled at a few such people and I realized I spooked them. Because they could not see my smile through the mask, only a weird woman staring at them for no reason ha ha ha. For a smiler like me, that is a disappointment. 

I wondered about the person who was leaving my team, he will have to say goodbye to everyone virtually. He will just come to the office and drop off his laptop and pick up things if any. He will have no one throwing him a goodbye party like we used to have. If you work at an organization for a long time, the goodbye is painful, doesn’t matter if your time there was fun or not. You gave 9 hrs of your life everyday for that stretch of time to a project or a team and it is a big change in life. But for now he will have to accept the online goodbyes.

Continuing my day at office, I had stacked things in my table credenza/pedestal, all kinds of weird things, green tea bags, a bottle of aroma diffuser to make my desk smell good, a small bottle of ajwain (in case my stomach felt weird), stationary, assorted collection of coffee mugs and pens, wedding invites of colleagues collected over the years, LAN cables, and god knows what else. I am one of those people who has everything required for a calamity stacked and ready in the office credenza. I cleaned out as much as I could, I was escorted by a security personnel, he watched over me as I opened the credenza with my keys, and he asked me to write down what I had taken, this was the embarrassing part as the space allotted for that list was too short for my paraphernalia. As I was escorted out of the floor, he locked the doors carefully and ensured I didn’t wander off, dropping me at that one floor which was open. 

I really appreciate the meticulous planning and thinking of my company’s facilities and security teams. I caught up with one of them and made sure they knew the excellent work they are doing to ensure safety of all.The scenario we are in will not last long. That is for sure, this virus will go away sooner or later, but how it will affect human to human interaction is something to wait and watch. We may no longer be as free as we were. When I was standing next to the printer, and clicking the touchscreen, my thoughts were constantly to remind myself to use the hand sanitizer as soon as this is done. It makes me wonder, when do we draw the line between safety and paranoia, for now since nothing much is known about this virus, it is safe. But once all of this tides away, will that be a paranoia?

Before I wondered all this, time flew and it was evening, I had to leave. I booked a cab and walked out of the building, it was 6PM and the business park was empty, a lone cab stood at the corner waiting for me. Felt eerie for a bit, 6PM, the time of hustling bustling activity of people rushing to catch the bus or the cab, cab drivers honking away, the sound of the crazy traffic on the main road outside, none of that existed. I took my time, entered the cab and left in silence.

It usually takes 30 mins to cross a stretch of road filled with IT parks, it took me less than 10 mins and this part I enjoyed as it is a rare scene in Bangalore. Thus ended my adventure of a day visit to the office during COVID. This was not just a visit to me, this visit made me observe and think about actions we never stop to notice and just how much a small virus has changed in our lives and we have absolutely no control over it. It was a strong reminder that nothing is in our control except our own reactions to situations, accepting and being flexible to change is all that we can control and that is enough in itself.

Destiny and Karma; an attempt to understand them with the help of an avatar

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Today I want to share a small story from the Ramyan, the great Indian Epic, the story of Lord Ram. The Marathi language is blessed with a beautiful creation called “Geet Ramyan”, a musical version of the Ramyan, written by the great G.D.Madgular and composed by Sudhir Phadke. This creation contains 56 divine songs picking key events in the Ramyan. I am going to discuss one of the songs from this composition that describes the scene when Bharath visits Lord Ram in the forest. My attempt at translating this particular song is not a fair one, in the sense language is a complex medium and when one listens to the original the profoundness of it reveals itself. But I feel language should not be the barrier for others to at least get a gist of this amazing composition. This song moves me to tears almost every time and attempts to bring me to the reality of existence. The title is “Paradhin ahe jagati putra manasa cha dosh na kunacha” and here is the link on Youtube for this song with English translation.

Lord Ram’s father was the great King Dasharath, who had three queens and four sons. Lord Ram was to be crowned as the next king as he was the eldest son, but one of the queens, Kaykaye wanted her son Bharath to be the king and she used the two boons granted to her by King Dasharath years ago to ask for her son to be crowned the king and for Lord Ram to be exiled for 14 years. She wanted to ensure that her son Bharath once crowned the king had not threat from Lord Ram, as anyone who stays away from his property for 14 years loses all claim to it as the rule of the land. King Dasharath pleaded her to change her wishes and ask something else, but she did not budge. As was the rule back then, a king could never break his promise and he reluctantly summoned his favourite son to break the sad news to him. Lord Ram being the epitome of dharma, accepted this gladly, and he along with his wife Sita and younger brother Laxman, left for the exile. Shortly after this, King Dasharath died out of this heart ache of separation from his dearest son. All this happened when Bharath was not in the city of Ayodhya and he was unaware of all that has conspired. Bharath and Lord Ram were very close and Bharath worshiped his brother. When he came back, he was shocked to find out that his had father passed away and his dearest brother got exiled, because his mother wanted him to become the king. He was furious at his mother and he decided to go into the forest to bring back his dear brother and make him the rightful king.

So, the song describes the scene where Bharath has come to the Chitrakoot forest where Lord Ram is staying and he informs him of the demise of their father. He also pleads him to come back, he says “Because of my mother’s ambitions and my father’s promises, you had to face all this, now father has passed away and I have severed all ties with my mother, there is no reason to fulfil these promises. You are the rightful heir to the throne, come back and become the King, please show your mercy on the kingdom.”

Lord Ram is heartbroken to hear about his father’s demise and he completes the final rites, pouring the ashes into the holy river. He then explains to Bharath that as per dharma he has to complete the promises of their father and he will only return after the 14 years of exile are over. He explains to him that this is not anyone’s fault, everyone in this world is helpless in front of destiny.  

Lord Ram then asks Bharath to look around and notice that the entire creation is impermanent, he says “Dear brother, everything created will eventually be destroyed. Mother and father are not to be blamed, all that has happened is my karma, my past actions are being played out now”. Point to note here is who is saying these words about karma, it is Lord Ram who is the avatar of Lord Vishnu, it is God himself, and yet he is talking about karma. Lord Ram is also known as the Marayada purushotam, or the ideal man who follows dharma, and he was filled with compassion and justice. He always followed the rules and was understanding and always thought of others before his own needs. If he himself is accepting the laws of karma, what about us? We feel we have not wronged anyone in life, but we cannot even phantom or compare our actions and way of life to that of Lord Ram, plus we have no way to know what transcribed in our past lives. Everything wrong happening in our lives, shouldn’t we also try to accept it as fruits of our karma? Known and unknown karma?

Lord Ram continues “Dear brother, anything that rises has to fall, anything that is accumulated has to be lost, we meet people only to be separated that is the rule of the world. No one is to be blamed for what transpires in life. Birth and death are inter-twined, two sides of a coin and are together right from our birth, whatever you see around you is perishable, why are you grieving then for something which is a mere illusion, a dream? Man is enslaved to destiny and hence no one is to blame. I understand, our father suddenly passed away and your dear brother was sent to exile, all these circumstances happened in your absence and it has been a huge shock. But although sudden these are not incomprehensible situations. The mental capacity of comprehension of even the wise and the well-read is restricted when it comes to death, they are confounded and limited in their thoughts when faced with death. But has anyone ever escaped the cycle of birth and death? Has anyone ever truly lived without sorrow in this world? Whatever thrives has to die at some point. Hence no one is to blame.” At times when great sorrow hits us, we refuse to accept it and all we can see is sorrow, nothing beyond it. In times like these this song has helped me, it has acted as a crutch and stopped me from falling into the abyss of sorrow. I take it as God consoling me in person from whatever I am facing. Listen to this song, not as a third person but as Bharath, and it will really sooth your pain.

Lord Ram then says “Imagine, two logs of wood floating in the ocean, they slowly float towards each other and at one point touch each other. They are happy they found each other in this huge ocean and they float together content and happy. Then suddenly a huge wave crashes and they are separated, forever, never to meet again in this vast ocean. This is exactly how momentary, relationships are in this vast ocean of time and space, my dear Bharath. Man is slave to his destiny and no one is to blame for what conspires in life.” How wonderfully put isn’t it? This is my favourite part of the song; the example is so simple to understand and imagine and yet explains the depth of existence. What gives us sorrow, have you thought? It is loss isn’t it? Loss of a person, loss of money, loss of health, loss of time anything, but it is loss. If we imagine we are one log, and the person, money, health, opportunity is the other log, we meet, we enjoy, we rejoice and then when the time comes for that wave to crash, we depart. Most times never to meet again, it is sad but it is the inevitable truth.

Lord Ram continues “Stop crying now my dear Bharath, wipe those tears, both of us now have different paths to travel in life. You will become the king of Ayodhya and I will lead the life of an exile in the forest, no one is to blame, man is a slave of his destiny. Do not plead to me for my return now to Ayodhya, let us fulfil our father’s promises and bring him glory. It does not matter who wears what, whether a royal gown or a wanderer’s rags, both of us will do our duties. I will only return after these 14 years are complete, I will not step into Ayodhya before that. You are now the only king of the kingdom and all the wealth. Do not come into the forest looking for me again, I carry all your love in my heart. Ensure you take care and add to the prestige of the great city of Ayodhya.” Lord Ram thus consoles Bharath and reminds him of his duties. He asks him to move on in the path their father & mother had laid out, with all his strength and intention. I always imagine as if Lord Ram is saying this to me, to stop mourning for all the losses in my life and to look ahead instead at the path I have in front of me. It may be that of prosperity or it may be that of struggles and lack, but there is no choice. Walking on this path with my head held high and giving it all of my effort, intention and attention is how I must lead life.

Not get caught up in the luxuries and the richness and not get depressed by the challenges and the lack, only focus on the tasks in hand, that is what is expected from all of us. Bharath was fulfilling his father’s promises, we are fulfilling God’s will for us. To respect God’s will and to sincerely live life every day, not just with a sense of duty, but to live it fully being truly alive and experiencing each step is important.

When Lord Ram says that man is a slave of destiny, this is not to be taken as a defeatist attitude and stop striving for improvement. The reason he says this is, stop holding on, stop holding grudges, stop blaming someone else for your sorrow, he does not mean sit in one place and do nothing. In his exile, Lord Ram punished a lot of asuras or demons for their wrong doings and fought a great battle with the Asur King Ravan, not to win anything or prove anything, but as a duty to establish dharma. Ravan had abducted Lord Ram’s wife, Sita and held her hostage, yet Lord Ram did not lose his dedication to dharma and fought the war righteously. After he won the war against Ravan, he did not take the golden city of Lanka for himself, he established Ravan’s brother, Vibhishan as the king, who was just and kind. So, continue with duties and follow your dharma and the dharma of the land you live in and the dharma of humanity, do not give up your karma or work due to the fact that destiny is undeniable. By dharma here I do not mean religion, by dharma I mean standard of righteousness. For example, if you were in a relationship with a person, you loved him/her dearly, you gave your 110% in this relationship and suddenly the other person wanted to break up. You felt bewildered and you tried your utmost to save the relationship and it still ended. There is a point till which you can try to revive a relationship, beyond that you have to stop and move on. It is at this point in time that one accepts destiny and respects the other person’s choice. It does not matter who was right or wrong, it does not matter if the other person cheated you, broke your trust and used you or manipulated you. It was a relationship that was meant to end someday and, in your destiny, it had to end this way. It ended true to the transitional nature of this entire universe. Time is relative and we will never be satisfied with the amount of time we have with our loved ones, we will always want more.

Similarly, if someone close to you dies, the moment is devastating and for few days it feels like nothing is worth living for. At times like these, we should remember the story of the two logs of wood on the ocean, and accept that our paths were meant to unite only for this short time. It is not any one’s fault not even God’s fault. We make up notions in our mind that a successful relationship is if we spent an entire lifetime with that person, and it is just that, our notion, it is not the truth. Few people stay together for 60-70 years and some for few months, but that does not reduce the depth of emotions one might have felt. That does not determine the quality of the relationship, it is destiny and the way ahead is shown to us by God. Accepting certain truths in life and giving our best to the life ahead, being sincere in our attempts is what we must strive for.

Have you wondered why God takes birth on this earth as an avatar? It is to lead by example, he faces trials and tribulations to show us that there nothing unsurmountable. We should not always take an avatar’s actions literally, because stories at times are bizarre. But we should study what is it that they convey, where can we draw strength from them, where can we find hope in them. Hope this short story has touched you and hope you continue drawing inspiration from our real heroes, the innumerable incarnations and stories that exist for that very reason.

Power of a tiny clumsy little creature

Animals are connected to source energy on an unadulterated level. They have no filters, no preconceived notions, they do not pretend and most importantly they always live in the present moment. Guess where divine always resides, in the present moment. A tiny clumsy little bird has shown me that God can reach out in so many ways and it is not always a grand entry.  When an animal decides to trust you, it trusts you completely, there are no reservations, and when it showers you with love, the energy is too pure to ignore. Blessed are those who experience this and even more blessed are those that realize what they are experiencing.  When was the last time you ever trusted someone so completely? To be more specific, trusted a human that completely?

Animals are clumsy, dirty, stinky, they poop wherever they want especially birds and if they don’t like something they let you know by biting/hissing/clawing depends on the animal, in spite of all this, we find them adorable and we clean up after them, we forgive them if they react and we say “its alright it is an animal”. We do not hold grudges against our pets.  Can we ever accept ourselves so fully? Can we accept ourselves like they accept us?

My dog passed away last year, after almost 17 years of giving us joy & love. It was devastating and I was heartbroken, I never thought I would get another pet as the attachment is inevitable and when they leave, they take a piece of your heart with them to heaven. Last month my brother decided to get a pair of cockatiels for my nephews and this idea stuck in my mind too. I thought they would be more ornamental and less work than a dog, you don’t need to walk them, and could be just good company, but I never imagined I would bond with them so much. I got these two scrawny little 3-month-old baby cockatiels, and for the first few weeks, they hissed at me and were very skittish. I would talk to them, change their food and water every day, and spend an hour or so sitting next to the cage, not trying to approach them but ignoring them so they would feel comfortable. At first when I left the cage door open they would not come out, but slowly one of them started exploring, it was the scrawnier of the two, and just like that one day as I sat near the cage, he climbed on my leg and looked at me with that weird one eye, like birds do and I burst out laughing. Over the next few days, he started climbing on me, and now he thinks I am a big perch. The day he enjoyed the first head scratch from me, my heart just melted. Then I started whisteling the tune “If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands”, and to my surprise within a month he has picked it up and whistles in the clumsiest possible way, bringing an instant smile on my face.

2020 has been a hard year for all, the energies are difficult and every day we hear more devastating news. Everyone is going through some challenge or the other and I am no different, the companionship that animals provide is beyond description. You see, they cannot talk the same language, so there is no way of having arguments or intellectual filters and judgements we have with human company. An animal is content just sitting next to you and radiating loving energy, teaching us by example how to just be, just be in the present. To show us that there is a way to stop that super-fast train of thought that keeps running at high speeds at all times, sometimes even in sleep, that there is a way to exist by keeping that aside. We can be content just sitting in someone’s company, with no exchange of anything, no exchange of words, ideas, food, sport, money nothing. Observe also the way animals look at you, not when you irritate them 😉, but in those moments of just being, their eyes will communicate that love and compassion beyond all. You can talk to them and pour out your heart and they will be content just to listen and snuggle a bit closer. No wonder, Lord Krishna is depicted in Vrindavan always sitting and snuggling up with baby cows and playing his flute, content and in the moment. In Hindu religion, every God has an animal associated with him/her and it makes me wonder the symbolism of the universal source and how animals might act as a medium to this source.

Not everyone can achieve a bond with an animal so close and personal and not all animals will respond to you that way. Everything has a time and place in our lives and when you are ready, the animal will find you. It need not even be a pet, I have seen videos of people bonding with a crow that visits their kitchen window everyday for scraps of food, or a stray dog someone feeds every day, or a stray cat. They are so connected to mother nature and not distorted by the human world view, having stated this, I have also seen unfortunate animals whose connection from mother nature has been removed by humans who abuse them. There are countless rescue videos online showing the horrible abuse they suffer and months and sometimes years it takes to get them out of that trauma.  I know I have painted a beautiful description of animals in this article, but getting an animal as a pet is a huge responsibility, first ensure you have done enough research before you decide to get a pet. This should never be an impulse buy/decision, that is how hundreds of animals get abandoned on streets. Also do not approach an unknown animal if you are not aware how to handle them, every animal has specific way and you might end up seriously injured. It is really important for children to learn how to approach animals and are introduced to handling animals at a young age. I think the most important lesson they learn is how to be gentle, that even if one can cause harm to someone why not to, how to show kindness no matter how the animal reacts and how to forgive.

Perspectives change as our situations change, and our experiences influence the perspectives. The human world is full of Maya, distortions created by our own mind, and added on by the world. Our lenses are cracked and coloured and life’s lessons help us clean them slowly and steadily. One of the life hacks is to find these wonderful moments of just being, surrounded by pets or animals in general, for a short while get respite from this world of distortions and connect with mother nature as you, the true you. I do not believe there are animal people and non-animal people, I think there are people who have experienced the magic of animals and those that haven’t and once they do, everyone in essence is an animal person.

Do not go looking for an experience to bond with an animal, but when an opportunity presents itself, let yourself feel every moment and enrich your energies with mother natures outpour. I am sure you will come out of it a more compassionate person and some part of you will become more receptive, a subtle yet beautiful change. They say that grace is always pouring on us 24×7, it we who are holding an umberella, no one or nothing is too small or insignificant to not affect us or teach us something. Open your minds, close that umberella for a while and just be.

Surrounded by Excess yet searching for More

This post will take 15 -17 mins to read, if you would rather listen, click here for the podcast version

This best describes the generation we live in, no other generation has faced this dilemma and it is graver than we imagine. In today’s age, we lack for nothing, most of us have good jobs, we can afford to indulge in any whim we want instantly, yet hardly a handful are at peace. Very few people are aware of the gravity of the situation this generation is in, and most of us are still not taking it seriously. It is crazy how easily media and advertising can normalize something in our lives which is not supposed to be normal. But we are all sitting on a ticking time bomb, I will go in detail as this is a bit vague so far. 

Surrounded by excess, excess is the other side of abundance, true abundance is feeling satisfied and secure in all areas of life, so abundance has nothing to do with how much we own, abundance is qualitative not quantitative and it is definitely subjective. For example, for person A, owning a 5 bedroom luxury villa with 2 expensive cars is abundance and he/she feels satisfied, but for person B, owning 5 houses like this is abundance, we are not judging greed here, just a disclaimer, I am trying to get some perspective as to what abundance can mean. The end result when one reaches one’s goal material or personal is peace and satisfaction. But excess is the darker side, imagine a society where everyone had endless amounts of money and could whatever he/she wanted, there would be nothing left to strive for or work towards and that would not be fun at all. How does this apply to the current world? Just look at yourself, look around and then look one or two generations behind, we are the fattest, sickest, weakest, most in debt, most lonely and most unsatisfied generation yet. There I have laid it out bare, I am not saying we all are this miserable, but all of us have sides which are truly not at peace and we all have mastered the art of looking perfect on social media. Be true to yourself and you will realize this, we have now the most number of deaths due to heart attacks, strokes, and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure etc. Migraines, spinal cord issues, back pain are now so common. We are also the generation most in debt, that too from a young age as soon as we get that first job, the credit card companies are ready to offer you a card. 

This is not always because we lack self-control, we live in a world where we are hounded subconsciously with excess of things around and the ease of getting what you want. Just ask your grandparents or parents how and if they ever took a personal loan, how difficult it was back then? We do not even think twice, bankers come home, collect out documents and within hours transfer huge amounts of money to our bank accounts. All of us are surrounded by banks and credit card companies willing to give us credit, more than willing, they are tracking us down and hounding us to take this credit. I agree the convenience is awesome and feels empowering, until you need to pay back, and thus starts the never-ending cycle of loans and debts. It is scary, and what freaks me out is 90% of us do not realize what we are walking into. It is easy to say, you need to be smart, you need to not fall for these ads, it is not about being smart, we are subconsciously tuned to an EMI culture and today, if you wanted a luxury car, you could easily get a personal loan within a day or two have that sparkling new car in front of your house, we all have lost patience and the ability or thought process of being patient and saving up for something is almost extinct. Most of us realize or rather acknowledge our spending patterns only post the age of 30, by then you have accumulated enough debt to last for years. Think about this, when did changing a mobile phone every year become a thing? Why do we need to upgrade everything in life every few years? From the TV, to the furniture, to the appliances to our laptops, to our cars. Since when did expensive holidays become a need? 

We have been desensitized to spending, imagine if you are 35-40 yrs old right now, in college you probably spent 50 bucks (Indian rupee) on a movie, 30 bucks for the ticket and 20 bucks on popcorn, you watched it in a comfortable AC theatre with DTS sound, how and when did we transition to spending 500 bucks on a ticket and 400 bucks on popcorn and why the hell do we find it normal? It is crazy isn’t it? None of us questioned this, the multiplexes played into our psyche so well. I mean you can still make popcorn at 30 bucks at home, inflation cannot justify this, still we all accept it as normal and it is alarming. Past few years, there is awareness being created online and I am glad people are now waking up, with no-buy years and financial cleanses we can definitely give our spending patterns a shock and find the right balance to survive this mad world of consumerism. But still, there needs to be a mass awakening before it is too late and we end up the poorest retired generation begging on streets relying on government aid in our old age. 

Food is another marketed and well targeted addiction, making food cheaper, accessible with 24X7 delivery, fried, sweeter and crunchier and with zero nutrition. Morbid obesity is on the rise, and even seemingly slim people get heart attacks on treadmills, our food has been destroyed by corporations. I mean think about it, why the hell do we need vitamins added to our cooking oil? This is not about self control, or being health conscious, it is about the amount of temptations around us, after all we are humans. The kids channels are flooded with ads of noodles, pasta, chocolates, and so on. We are being sold ridiculous things under the name of healthy, apart from the obvious unhealthy fried stuff. Even stepping into the office cafeteria you find brands like Dominoes and McDonald’s, try browsing once for Pizza and watch your social media feeds flooded with suggested ads. People gulp down Coke and Pepsi like water and who really cooks all meals at home? I was one of those at one point in life, eating out everyday, and weekends ordering out and I am not saying we should all stop doing this. But we are acting like a deer in front of a car’s headlights, just stunned and we are blindly developing patterns of eating and spending tagging it as normal. Diabetes is not normal, High blood pressure should not be normal, back pain should not be part of a normal conversation with colleagues, there should be no pressure to buy the latest Iphone. I mean Iphone is the greatest example of excess, something that nobody needs but everybody wants and is ready to sleep on the street outside the Iphone store to be the first one to buy the latest model. If that phone falls and breaks it is as good as useless, because no one can afford to get it repaired. No offense to Iphone owners, if you can easily afford it go for it, but taking loans to buy something that adds absolutely no real value to your life is madness.

Health and fitness is another crazy, marketed business that has people getting injured and spending huge amounts of money to look cool. I do not believe BMI proves your health status, that is bull shit. If you feel healthy, you are healthy, John Abraham and Bipasha Basu are not the only examples of health, they cannot be the parameters to judge everyone’s fitness. Doing crossfit, running marathons, triathlons, Jujutsu are not definitions of being fit, the fitness craze has got everyone hooked. I have personally spent thousands on protein shakes and even performance enhancers to do extra workouts in the gym, I was going through a phase of fitness craze. I spent a lot on a personal trainer, a nutritionist, hours in the gym, extremely strict dieting and I was miserable, eventually an injury made me stop. See, the thing is I was doing all this because I thought I was unhealthy, when in fact I had no medical issues before that phase, I rejected my body and wanted to match a standard that was impossible, because I thought I was imperfect. Do not get me wrong, I know people who are genuinely dedicated to working out and eating healthy, but they are not miserable, they are doing it because they really enjoy it and they love themselves. I see too many people who are struggling with body image and are miserable, spending thousands or even more, maxing out their credit cards and eventually giving up. Nothing can replace patience, and there are no miracle results that last, yes you will lose those 10 kgs in 2 months, but gain more health issues than before and once you stop, you will be 20 kgs heavier because the weight comes back with a vengeance. Do not fall for anyone promising you quick results, you did not put on that weight in a day and you cannot lose it in a day, follow people who ask you for patience and not empty your bank balance in a minute. There is a way of sustained health without spending any money, and I have embarked on it. I hope to create more awareness as I move ahead on that path. Till then search for balance, not a miracle.

The list of industries and segments is never ending, the fashion and grooming industry, the love and marriage industry, marketing and targeted selling is slowly crossing boundaries we never imagined. To remain unaffected by the sheer amount of selling around us is near impossible,  and not many people are talking about it, I mean since when did this return gift trend start? I do not remember pestering my dad for money to buy expensive gifts for my friends, I remember saving up my pocket money and adjusting gifts within that budget. The fact is it all seems tiny and insignificant but this is how drop by drop our generation has been brainwashed into thinking normal about these spending patterns. The children today know no lack, they have nothing to draw a parallel to, and it is scary. Where are we headed as a society? Is this something that will eventually implode? Do you see the connection between this and rise in the number of suicides? Especially between ages of 16-25? When I speak to youngsters in this age group, they want to grow so fast, they want all the fame and money within 2 years of getting out of college and they are so disappointed when they have to face that nothing happens overnight, and sadly some of them end their lives. I was shocked when a fresher in my office in a first meeting asked me, what is the promotion cycle in this company? I was shocked, here is a youngster who has joined a week ago and instead of focusing on learning is worried about promotion.

Creating awareness, having more conversations, taking a pen and a notepad and writing down where in your life you see this pattern? Recognizing that these patterns are more addictive than cocaine and alcohol is important. Doctors have proven that some foods are indeed more addictive and destructive than drugs, as adults we can moderate but kids introduced to these foods cannot save themselves from the addiction. Identifying behaviors driven by media and marketing are important, do not be under the impression that you are smarter, trust me you will find subconscious patterns that will shock you. We all need to ask ourselves, despite so much ease and so much excess why are we still unhappy? Why are we still not at peace? What are we still searching for? Can we train our brains to stop and think do I really need this? One trick that has helped is, if I get that impulse to shop online, I spend the time online and add things to the cart and wait for a while, once that urge is satisfied I delete everything from the cart, because I never needed any of that to start with. I do the same with food cravings, I open Zomato or Swiggy I browse and add to the cart, wait for a minute and delete it all. I go to my kitchen and eat my dal rice with satisfaction and it is not really a struggle. Try it out, it is not whether you can afford it, it is asking yourself do I need it right now?

Everything that comes too easily has a price attached to it, doesn’t matter if it is a credit card, personal loan, designer clothes, fast food, fancy gym membership, or a crazy diet that promises you a flat tummy in 10 days, the price can be money and worse your health and mental balance. I hope we awaken sooner than later, this is no longer about personal choices or personal finances, the more citizens are sick and broke the more the government has to shell out, and it is all a tax payer’s hard-earned money, we cannot turn a blind eye to this any longer. The pandemic has truly provided us an opportunity to introspect, what actually adds value to life? We all have survived without a lot of things these past few months with ease and how many of us will continue looking for the real after this is all over? Can we separate need from want and can we train our children as well without giving excuses that it is normal? I was interested in a prediction made by an astrologer on Youtube, that we will eventually have two choices, first to stay in the system, with all the AI and government tracking, within the grid enjoying the benefits of technology and advancement, continuing the spending habits and sucked into the never-ending cycle of earning more and never having enough, the second would be to choose to live outside the grid, in small communities, self-sustained, having little but free from the vicious cycle of working for multinational corporations. What would you choose? 

When the past comes haunting..

For those who would rather listen, here is the link to the podcast episode of this write-up head to Spotify- https://open.spotify.com/episode/157LqjrzaOMBFPGPNGvbip?si=NtdfR5OWTmOGvm7d0wAkKg

All of us have a past, technically we wouldn’t be in the present otherwise. Some have a sordid past, some a loving , caring one but all of us have a past. And every now and then our minds reminisce in the memories. How would you define memories? Are they just video recordings of events as captured by our brains? To an extent yes, but that is not all they store. They record the sights, smell, temperature, words and most importantly how we felt at that time and much more.This independent side of memories are our emotions, captured in perfect condition. Our brain may record the physical details of what conspired but our bodies store the emotions, intact and very much with the same intensity. Now this is both a boon and a curse depending on the incidents of the past. 

The strange part of this is, you need not have had some trauma or anything significantly negative happen to you, it may be for example a simple misunderstanding between friends that later gets resolved, but the body still considers and captures the emotions like disappointment, anger, rejection etc. carefully wrapped in some corner.

The term “Move On” is used quite liberally nowadays, with even the marketing industry playing it to entice young shoppers. Moving on is the cool thing to do, proving that nothing really affects you and your brain happily plays along, because it wants to shield you from all the emotion. But does one really ever move on? What does moving on really mean? I don’t want to box this into relationships alone, it can be moving on from a job loss, a loss of health, loss of anything. The issue is the human body never forgets and though on an intellectual level our brain manages to block pieces of memories or rationalizes the incident and we feel secure that we have dealt with it, only to find the physical manifestation of the residue as illness. Unexplained aches and pains, pain in the joints, lower back, neck, sudden knee pain,ulcers, migraines etc. it can manifest as anything.

This is more common than you would think, when I look around and see the amount of people whom you would consider healthy, suffering from unexplained pains and aches it is alarming. It is frustrating because 90% of the time, we go around from doctor to doctor trying to figure out a solution. Sometimes the aches and pains disappear as mysteriously as they appeared, and then after a few months something else manifests in the body. We never realize that these are not mere physical illnesses, these run deep, into unprocessed emotions, even though the brain had “Taken care of it”, we never really acknowledge the emotions we felt and hence for the body, the issue is still very much alive and it does whatever it takes to draw your attention to it. 

There is also a flipside of this, when someone is going through extreme emotional distress, the body creates real physical pain to distract the brain as a coping mechanism, that is called Tension Myositis Syndrome. We are not discussing that right now, beacuse those are more apparent. 

The illnesses that manifest when your brain or in your mind you are at peace and trying to move forward in life, when you actually start making conscious changes to improve your life, that is when the emotions buried deep burst out.

Let us see an example, say 10 years ago you got into a heated argument with your close friend. It was a misunderstanding that was later cleared, but at that point you felt hurt, betrayed, manipulated and angry. That is all your body remembers, it is not attached to the later half when things are sorted out. Say you never gave yourself time to acknowledge how you felt, and you rushed to solve things and dismissed your feelings with logic. This can manifest after 10 years as an unknown pain, followed by random memories flashing in your dreams or passing by as you work through the day. The two seem completely unrelated but the memory just keeps popping in and out, that is a clue that the body is demanding attention. I know it sounds a bit creepy and scary like why is my body trying to kill me? Trust me it isn’t, when you step up your game, or like I call it, decide on conscious living, the body wants you to first process the leftovers in order to forge ahead and since the brain has a strong logic and can dismiss these emotions, physical discomfort is the only way to voice them out. 

So how do we heal from this? Taking pain killers and medicines to manage the condition can help bring temporary relief and of course getting a doctor’s advice on any physiotherapy or other treatment is also advised, but the key is finding and releasing these emotions. I am not an expert and neither have I mastered this art, but I have experienced way too many minor physical illnesses in life to start realizing the real reason. And at times it can be extremely difficult, depending on the level of pain you are experiencing, but a few things helped me, like taking a short vacation, going on a few days retreat on my own, or deliberate meditation, guided meditation, taking few days off and indulging in activities like painting, music, or even the art of doing nothing. But somewhere while doing all this, giving the due acknowledgement of the feelings and emotions I experienced. It is easier if that memory surfaces from your subconscious mind, but even if it doesn’t, just being aware of the thoughts and memories is also good. 

Unfortunately there is no miracle drug for this, it does involve conscious work. The other option is to stop your conscious living and ignore the physical pain, and at times it goes away but you are then slipping back into the comfortable known. So really it is still free will and the voice within that wants to push forward.Many self-help authors have written about this in detail and Louise Hay’s book Heal your body actually outlines the body part, the pain and the unlying emotion it may be trying to express. I read the book, but somehow at that point in life could not relate to the emotion given in it, so as i said there is no one solution fits all. The intention today is to make you aware that this exists and is more common than you think, we are powerful creators and our bodies are amazing mysteries.

Gratitude is an emotion that can definitely help, but one cannot jump from a place of depression, physical pain, sadness directly to feeling gratitude, all you want at that point is for that damm pain to go away, and you might have actually become the mean grinch version of yourself. So here is what you do, don’t try to leap from A to Z, try to change the emotion slightly even for a little while. Esther Hicks in her talks usually mentions that anger is a better emotion than depression, so if you are feeling sad and then feel angry it is one step towards improvement. Then from anger to acceptance or a calmer feeling and eventually you will get to gratitude, if you force positive thoughts when you are feeling low that is counter productive. 

Let yourself be, when you have identified that you maybe dealing with a physical illness due to repressed emotions, just let yourself be, try to be conscious and do not distract yourself too much otherwise you will miss the hints or flashes of memories your subconscious reveals, do not use logic because it wont work. Feel and acknowledge each emotion, reassure your emotional body that you are now in a better place, you are safe and strong and it can let go of these emotions now. As I mentioned this memory may now seem silly to you, maybe it is your 5 year old self angry at mom for not getting you ice cream, or it can be a really traumatic experience, remember how your emotional body perceived it at that point is important. 

Note that this is a process, it may not miraculously cure you overnight, but you will feel the shift and one day you will wake up pain free. It may take longer for someone so do not compare and yes it sounds a bit despondent but it is liberating if you think about it. Have you watched the movie “A beautiful mind”? It is based on a true story of a brilliant mathematician who won the nobel prize, but he had schizophrenia and would see few characters that did not exist for the world. His friend asks him in the movie, “Do they still haunt you?”, and he replies “ Everyone’s past haunts them” , that struck me as profound. We may have successfully blocked our traumas and built a confident, strong version of ourselves, but somewhere within us these emotions still exist and they surface vehemently when you want to consciously move ahead in life. It may sound unfair, but that serves a purpose, if we do not clear our clutter there will be no space for the new.

No matter how matured our mind gets, we are all still sensitive children when it comes to our emotions and it is not a bad thing, that is part of being human. In the race to be the most ruthless as the competition demands do not dismiss this human side. Your body will never let you dismiss it truely, treat yourself as you would treat a beautiful, sensitive child. Your self dialogue is extremely important and unconsciously most of the time we are reprimanding ourselves on our mistakes, let us try to change that a bit at a time. Give attention to your emotional body and be gentle and patient, the complexity of human existence is intriguing and you do not need a subject for experimenting. You are your biggest laboratory, a goldmine of knowledge and information.

Hope parts of this will make sense, although I do not have all the answers, I am a fellow traveller in this time-space reality (as Abraham puts it), trying to refine the art of manifestation, on an onward yet inward journey of life.

What travel means to me

Note: This post will take 12-14 mins to read, if you would prefer to listen instead, click here for the podcast version

With the current world situation, a lot of travel enthusiasts like me have been forced to stay home. Most of us have gone the longest without travel and it is starting to get bit uneasy. Why is travel so important to this generation than any before us? Our parents are ok with not travelling for long periods of time, in fact summer holidays were the one time in the year we used to travel as kids, and that too was mostly to our grandparent’s house or some years we never travelled at all as travel was expensive. Travel is even more expensive these days, but we give more importance to it and hence find ways to fund ourselves.  

Travel is the one expense I don’t feel is extravagant, it somehow seems like the call of an inner voice.  It may be a road trip with friends, with the music on high or a solo trip to a new country with my headphones on. Travel has enriched me as a person beyond expectation. Travel is no longer just visiting monuments and clicking pictures. Travel means immersing in the culture and expanding our limited mind. Travel challenges your mental limits, for example, how tolerant and broad minded are you? I thought I was a broad-minded person, until I landed in the Philippines and I realized, I was still judgmental. I was shocked with my own thoughts and reactions, I had to open my mind and really accept the culture. It was a rude awakening to my mind’s limit. I admired the all-inclusive mentality of the people there, it was liberating. The Philippines taught me acceptance of another person, no matter what their sexuality, orientation, food choices and diversity. The Philippines has a large number of transgenders and LGBT community members, and they are so seamlessly a part of the society, and for an outsider this is all a lot to grasp and open the mind in the true way. The local people’s food choices were a lot extreme for me, as I am a pure vegetarian and it was a challenge for me not to cringe while sharing a table with this exotic food (pork, beef, all kinds of birds, fish balls, chicks etc.), But this is the part that exposed to me how accepting I truly was, and it helped me evolve, to respect and totally accept another person’s way of life. Trust me you are not as broad minded as you think, not until you have travelled enough. The result was that I made some amazing friends and they showed me their city in their style. 

The joy of holding a paper map and exploring an unknown city is beyond words. This is something my travel to Singapore provided me. The city is well planned, and you can’t really get lost, although I did hop on to the metro and got off at the wrong station. But the independence to move was freeing, the use of public transport was so hassle free. The confidence that it built in me was amazing. I explored the whole city on my own, including the Singapore Zoo, the Night safari and Universal Studios. It was a first time alone in a theme park, but I sat on all rides, including the scariest of roller coasters. I could cut across long queues as a single rider, so that was a plus. It taught me I don’t need company all the time to do things I want to do, I can have fun alone and that is a major learning in itself. I did have a few days when my friends joined me and those were memorable as well. 

Happiness in whatever God has given you, that is something I saw in the people of Bhutan. The breathtaking scenary does not mask the hard life of the locals. The terrain is unforgiving as it is beautiful, but nowhere have I seen the smiles and ligt heartedness of the locals like there. They truly seem a satisfied lot. Our cab was turning a corner when a woman with a child suddenly tried crossing the road, in any other country or city this would have left the driver screaming at the woman and the woman screaming back, that is what we all expected in the backseat, instead to our surprise, both of them burst out laughing and went their ways. This may seem like a tiny incident, but it was a big lesson, in the rushing so called progressive mega cities, we have forgotten humanity. Rushing to office seems like a battle cry, and we take life so seriously. I don’t think this scenario is possible in our cities anymore. 

Coming from a country which was ruled by the Europeans (namely British) for a long long time, subconsciously for an Indian, we assume that Europeans are richer and more privileged than us and we believe only India deals with poverty. My eyes were opened when I travelled across Europe, when I saw there are poor and homeless even in the progressive nations. Money imbalance remains a global phenomenon, but for an Indian to see a homeless European with a board begging for money, is a cultural shock, I felt extra sad for the person. I don’t think many non-Indians will understand this, but this was another aspect of life I witnessed, something only travel could bring about, no media is going to showcase this, not in India at least. 

When I travelled to countries who have not yet heard the word “vegan” or “vegetarian”, I faced a new challenge, finding food. I never imagined I would have to think where I will get my next meal, when I see so many restaurants around. But I did face this dilemma, I was in a city which had no vegetarian restaurants, they didn’t even have salad on the menu. I had to scan through the only Chinese restaurant in that city and ordered plain boiled rice with blanched spinach. I have never felt so bad for myself ha ha , sitting there eating the only food I had to survive, it was something else. Survival skills in the 21st century when it comes to food, who would have thought. I learnt a small trick, so any vegans reading this, always remember, if you are in a country that does not have vegan food easily available, search for an Italian restaurant, they can easily whip up delicious vegan food without much of a hassle. 

Receiving help from kind strangers, we have always been taught to be self-reliant and in our day to day life, everything is in place and we have our schedules, the same places we visit, the same routes we take. We are not used to taking help from complete strangers, we may however have extended help. A few situations in foreign countries, I was touched with the act of kindness. I was at an airport, i had checked in and was waiting to board the flight and I had exhausted almost all the local currency in cash, I was thirsty and wanted to buy a bottle of water. I was 2 dollars or local currency short, and I was so thirsty, they did not accept my card as well. The woman behind me in the queue saw this and immediately paid the remaining amount. I thanked her whole heartedly and did feel a bit ashamed that I was short of cash. Accepting help gracefully is another lesson no book can teach. 

Another time, I didn’t have change for a locker at a museum, an elderly man watched me struggle and gladly lent me some coins. You must be wondering why is she always short of cash? ha ha guilty as charged, I shop like crazy. But on a serious note, dealing with currency calculations and understanding the economy of a new country is difficult. A bottle of water may cost Rs.30/- in India will cost 1200 Forint in Budapest. That is a lot of difference to wrap your head around in a day, isn’t it? You may be really good at math, but when you see a coin of 300 or 500 in a local currency, as opposed to seeing highest as 10 in your own currency.  

I observed with each new country I travelled, I matured, and my problem-solving skills improved. Because travelling can bring unexpected challenges that need your decision-making skills to be sharp and swift, along with common sense (which is really not that common). Let me share an example, I was travelling to Belgium, it was supposed to be a connecting flight from Bangalore to Paris and Paris to Brussels, what my travel agent forgot to mention was the Brussels airport was closed and the second flight mentioned in the ticket was in fact a train from Paris airport to Brussels. I found out thankfully when I asked a taxi to be sent to the Brussels airport to pick me up, the local agent told me it was a train. So here I am at the Paris airport, which is a monstrosity of an airport, it is too huge to describe and I am in the middle of a long queue for immigration. The queue right next to me for France nationals is so small and I really feel discriminated, but I am almost sure I will miss my train, because post immigration I had to locate the railway station in this monstrosity of an airport. I judge the number of people in front and behind, and then try my luck, there was an airport attendee manning the queue, I politely told him my problem and I didn’t believe he immediately let me to the front of the queue. My mother’s lesson, which I had finally put in practice, she always says, until you ask you won’t know, so you need to ask for help. I am so glad I did. Had I been shy, and polite and had spent time second guessing, I would have missed my train. 

It is not just foreign lands; domestic travel also opens a whole world for us. India is such a huge country, a lifetime will not be enough to explore it completely, every state has a new language, new culture, new food, new clothing, new arts & architecture, along with the conquerors and their heritage mixed with the local. Diversity needs to be experienced and not just read or taught in schools, our judgmental human nature is very stubborn and will not budge unless we place ourselves in these new and unknown situations. 

Travel is about stories of how silly you acted, how stupid sometimes you felt and how lost you were, that is what travel is all about. When I am old and repeating the same stories again and again to anyone who will listen, I want a bucket load of stories to share. What I shared today are a just a few of the many experiences travel has provided me, I now travel so well packed that I can survive in a remote island for a week, ha ha. You would have guessed I am not a light packer, but that is the fun in it all. Hopefully the world situation will change, and travel will be back on our agendas soon. Next time you travel, look out for such experiences, document them in a diary or in your mind and take the moment to absorb the lessons. Don’t be the tourist that litters the place or screams loudly and doesn’t care of the privacy of the locals, or someone whol falls off a cliff trying to take that perfect selfie ;-),respect the locals as they have allowed you into their space, and be a conscious traveler. Do not travel for social media, do not travel for perfect photos, travel for the right reasons, travel for the stories, travel for yourself.  

Soul Journeys and Desires- perception of happiness

This post will take 10 mins to read through, if you would rather listen, here is the link to the podcast version on Spotify

Whilst pondering on life’s purpose, I thought one of the possibilities is that we have taken birth to fulfil our soul’s journey or a small part of its journey, and things that give us satisfaction are somewhat checking the boxes of our soul’s desire. If you feel a compelling need to donate to someone poor, and you feel good after doing that, it is like a small tick mark off the list. Similarly, when you have dreamt of that designer watch/fancy mobile phone, saved up for it and bought it, the happiness that it gives you is also a check in the box. Anything within this wide spectrum, apart from actions that harm or are selfish or put you in debt, I feel serve some purpose deeper than the apparent material level fleeting happiness.

This thought came about stronger when I watched two documentaries the other day, each documentary showcased the life of one woman. Each of them is worlds apart, but living life to the fullest of their soul’s desire. The first woman has dedicated her life to save/serve the African nomads, living in the harsh desert of Ethiopia last 25 years. She claims she is happier than any of us, living in this hostile environment with close to nothing around, not even the bare necessities. The temperature soaring 50- 60 degree Celsius most of the year, no clean potable water, camels and goats are the only possessions and key to survival. These nomads go 2-3 days between decent meals and one out of three children die of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia or TB. She is a nurse by profession, and she sometimes travels by foot covering up to 50kms in a day, with a camel laden with medicines, to find remote wandering tribes and provide them the medical help required. She feels young and walks with a leap in her step like a 16 year old. A truly inspiring personality full of energy.

She says she has seen what actual poverty means, what hunger really means and what death looks like. And she would not trade her life for anything, she also doesn’t believe she is sacrificing anything in life. She wishes everyone could live and experience her way of life and experience the happiness in it. She is fit as a fiddle at 59 and she can walk 10 hrs a day to find remote tribes and save some lives in the middle of a massive desert. This documentary really made me stop, pause the video and think. With so many people now turning towards minimalism, whole plant based vegan lifestyle, people preferring to leave high end jobs and plush cities, to move into tiny self-sustained houses with solar energy and rain water. Are we looking at happiness in the wrong place? Is possessing very little completely liberating? I can understand choosing a minimalistic living within a city or a habitable environment, but this documentary took it to its extreme. A place that is inhospitable, extremely harsh, no potable water, no lush trees , hardly any rain, wandering the nothingness of the desert with possessions that can fit on a camel’s back, no permanent houses, just make shift huts, and what struck me was, this woman looked genuinely at peace and satisfied. The genuineness was apparent in the video, she did not seem to be just talking philosophy, she is living it. Her spirit was not burdened, and she seemed to have accepted every negative aspect completely, including the death she sees so frequently around her. Salut to such souls who are working in silence and seem to have found heaven where there seems to be only hell.

The second documentary was about an 83year old woman, a rich elite from Bangkok, whose love for fine clothing, dining and partying is still very much alive. She takes the time to do her make-up, her team helps her with the designer clothes and expensive accessories and even at that age, she is a well-known socialite in her city. She grew up in a rich family, wealth coming in from her grandmother, she has not know any other life. After her husband passed away, she now lives alone in her plush apartment with her pet dog and support team/care givers. Her apartment is filled with antiques collected over the years in high end auctions. She loves her life and even at that age she doesn’t want to stop. And I admired her spirit, she came out as an honest, kind person who just loves her life and by God’s grace has the means to live it large. She acknowledges that she is privileged but why should that make her feel guilty for living her life the way she wants. She too had a genuineness about her that is not deniable.

This cute 83 year old, well dressed old woman, going out for parties, slow dancing with grace. Giving interviews and doing photo shoots, aware of her age yet instead of retiring out of the public view, she chooses to stay very much in sight. Inspiring in her own way.

The discussion here is not about morals and society inequality. These documentaries got me wondering about the soul’s journey. We sometimes refer to someone as an aged soul, what does that mean? One hand we see a soul whose love for a lavish life is so apparent and its beautiful to watch the person live it with grace. On the other hand, we see a soul that seems to have seen it all and lived it all, and now has reached such a state that the external environment doesn’t matter no matter how extreme and harsh. These two world views can make us feel two ways, we could feel petty and useless looking at the woman missionary working to save lives and we could feel jealous of the socialite and her privileged life. Which one is true? I believe none of these feelings are true. Contrast exists for a reason, contrast reveals to us our own soul’s journey. These extreme ways of life showed me what my soul may want, I say may want because I haven’t reached that clarity yet. But this contrast helps me moderate and reveals the path for my inner peace. Let me explain, both these lives are realities, and both are also vantage points to shift our perception. Our so-called morality forces us to judge people, we all look at Mother Teresa as an angel, a saint but how many of us are willing to follow her footsteps? There is a saying in Marathi language about King Shivaji, the warrior king who fought valiantly his entire life for freedom from the Mughals & the British. The saying goes like this, “Yes we wish another Shivaji to be born but in the neighbor’s house”. This is to say, we know the sacrifices he and his family had to make for independence, we would love to watch but not get involved.And then, we also look at the rich and the elite and we wish we had the privileges and the opportunities they had. We also say, if I get rich, I will donate more unlike this person. I will do lot of social service whilst enjoying my life as well.

By now you get where am going with this, I hope. None of this matters, none is superior to the other, all these scenarios and realities are valid and perfect in their own way. So, ask yourself, what excites you more, stop and listen to your soul’s wishes. If it is social service and a minimalist life, go for it wholeheartedly, if its earning money and partying hard, then do it. Of course, be vary of not hurting others or bulldozing people around, and also be vary of not judging people too soon. Addictions and habits that hurt us, I truly don’t believe are part of a soul’s journey, but then what do I know. Isn’t it fascinating to observe how each soul chooses to live this life on earth? And if we can silently observe people and give that few minutes of silence to listen to our own soul, it would open up more answers to the question, why am I here? The answer need not be fancy, need not be esoteric, as long as it does not involve hurting or snatching from someone, you know it is from within. We all spend a lot of time on the internet, I would encourage you to try and search documentaries like these. Observe how different people and tribes around the world live, how is their life experience, what are their challenges, what is their perception of happiness and satisfaction, you will learn a lot about yourself on the way.

We all have an inner explorer, let that Indiana Jones out once in a while, you don’t have to physically travel, the wonder of the internet is like Aladdin’s magic carpet, just take it for a ride and look at life from various vantage points. I hope you find the genie within you 😉.

Courage – hiding in plain sight

What is courage? A highly regarded and sought after virtue. We have heard numerous stories of courage from David & Goliath to our armed forces protecting our borders from terrorists. Courage has always been seen as something only a few brave people exhibited. Not everyone’s cup of tea, the brave few who act during times of crises and life threatening situations. The fire fighter who jumps into the fire to rescue a child or the rescue teams at Mt.Everest who risk their lives to save stranded tourists and climbers. All these are fine examples of courage and they are worthy of the salute.

But this pandemic has openend a new face of courage. Ordinary people have showed up for the human collective, and risking exposure to the virus everyday. They are not dying of bullets or missiles, but they are sacricifing themselves everyday. The hospital cleaning staff, the garbage collectors, the nurses and doctors, the mailmen, the milk man, the food and grocery delivery guys, the transport guys and drivers, the countless lab technicians working 18 hr shifts to test thousands of samples. Imagine the risk everytime the lab technician opens a blood sample. All this is happening in silence and shows us how we just cannot survive without each other, money doesnt matter, we need another human being to survive and thrive truely.

A poem recently caught my attention, Courage by Edgar Albert Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment’s flash;
It isn’t an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
Or the final tug at a slipping rope;
But it’s something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
In the work of life or the game of sport;
It isn’t a thing that a man can call
At some future time when he’s apt to fall;
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
When the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
Must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
That flashes and passes away from sight;
It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
With the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue,
It’s part of him when he has work to do.
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
It isn’t a thing that can come and go;
It’s written in victory and defeat
And every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
Back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
It’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.
Edgar Albert Guest

This poem got me thinking, what is the real nature of courage? We exhibit it everyday actually without ever realizing. Personally, a very difficult health challenge showed me that courage is not limited to few heroic acts , courage is a constant, a part of one’s character, we seldom give ourselves the credit for it. As someone who knows physical pain too well, while listening to this poem being recited, it struck me that I have had courage all along, to manage pain and show up for work and make time for my passion of writing and podcasting. To have been patient with my health challenges and get out of bed on days I just didn’t want to , courage has always been there. Through various decisions and cross roads of life, courage has always been there, but it was never this obvious as I suddenly found it staring back at me. I studied in a school with the moto ” Dare & Do” and somewhere this was in my subconscious I think. And I started to identify courage in the people around me, so many many examples of tremendous courage in patience and endurance.

To excel with what has been given to you is courage

Pooja Damle

I think it is time courage is brought out of the golden drapes and out into daily life. Not all of us have courage in all aspects of life, but we have showcased it atleast once in life. I have seen a close friend, whose life was turned 360 degrees, in a matter of hours due to a rare medical condition and I have watched this person show extraordinary courage through his recovery. I would not have been able to do this, as gracefully as he did. Another close friend, who lost a life partner at a young age and is a single parent, not only survived but is thriving with tremendous courage. Showing by example that life can go on and can actually be turned around.

I want to acknowledge countless individuals sufferging from anxiety, depression, claustophobia etc. showing courage in the time of a lockdown, losing their external support systems. Trust me, for a person with claustrophobia, a simple elevator ride requires every ounce of will power. It goes unnoticed because noone understands the nature of the fears and the courage to surmount them.

Courage manifests in so many places, often times in not so obvious places. Courage needs to be recognized in the nooks and crannies of life. This needs to be cultivated in children, empowering them by showing its true side. The line from the poem Courage mentioned earlier, is so apt for the condition today. “It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait, With the patience to work and the strength to wait“. Patience seems to be another manifestation of courage, patience for our bodies to heal, patience to mend broken relationships, patience for wars to end, and just at times patience to wait for the tides to turn in life. So many children in the world take growth hormone injections everyday for years , and some of them learn to take it themselves. Countless diabetes patients around the world take insulin injections every single day, all this is courage.

I want people to recognize courage in the not so obvious or taken for granted places and more importantly within themselves. Pat yourself on the back once in a while, praise yourself on the courage you have manifested in your life. Imagine an elobrate award ceremony red carpet event and give yourself that trophy. We are so wrapped up sometimes in our modesty that courage hides in plain sight. So think of the times in life you might have shown courage and not really given yourself due credit. Write it down and try and understand courage in your life. This is by no means to feed the ego or to get into a superiority contest. All of us have various degrees of challenges and if you compare your life challenges with another, there will always be someone more courageous than you. That is absolutely alright, but understanding our own inner strength, deepening our self respect and cultivating conscious living is the goal. Once you do this , you will start recognizing the courage within your own family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and a natural respect will develop towards them as well. Imagine a society that is so intune with each other’s challenges, now that would be a truely evolved universal consciousness. We may be far away from this, but we can start with ourselves, right now. A salute to the courage in all of you!