Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolve that...

 It's that burdensome time of the year when all people do is wait for the current year to end and the new year to begin. You count the months. Then count the days. Then count the hours and then painfully come to the final countdown which is seconds. And then the New Year begins with the hope that because one of the four digits has changed in the year everything, but everything, will change. All looks good. All izz well. 

And then the New Year dawns and in the harsh light of the morning all the good looks disappear and you're left with the stark reality of all your follies and your failings, your oversights and your overconfidence, your ignominy and your ignorance.

And shocked and ashamed you draw yourself to your full height (even though you're probably still in bed) and you decide this will all end. It has to end. It's a new day after all. And a new year to top it. 

And you resolve that...
Your world will change. 
You'll deal with your demons head on. 
All vices destroyed with one fell swoop of determination. 
Those niggling little quirks all vanquished with big doses of persistence. 
And with one large elaborate plan that will put large governments to shame you decide all the other failings will be taken care of. 

So out comes the paper and pen. Or probably the iPad. Or very likely just the Notes app on your phone. (Resolutions are so easy these days with tech!)

And with guns blazing, (alright, with the tip-tip of the key pad) you're off building a very impressive list. (The kind of list you make when you go to the supermarket - you dont want to miss a thing!)

And you get started. Wo! You're on a roll.
10 is better than 5. And 15 better than 10.
Quantity is better than quality.
And you're sure, of those 10 (or is it 12?) you ll definitely manage to succeed with 8, ok realistically 5, ok... At least all of January! 
But no, you're not set up for failure. This is it. This is the year. This is the watershed year. 2014! 

But hang on... What if... What if you just looked at one thing? One big thing? Or one small thing? Just one important thing that you want to change in the new year?

What if everything you did right through the year was devoted to it? Everything for one thing. 

Research says that the most popular resolution worldwide is to lose weight. I could take that example. What if I took that as my one and only resolution and did everything within my means to succeed in that? 

It means waking up early to work out (Resolution 7) eating healthy (Resolution 5)  managing work-life balance (Resolution 2) and finally getting some semblance of order and discipline in my life! (This being a bonus!) 

But of course this is not your resolution. You? You are the picture of fitness. 

So then, what's yours? 

Read more? 
Write more? (Mine.) 
Make more money? 
Spend more time with the kids? 
Devote more time to yourself? 
Win the Nobel Prize? 
Or the Pulitzer for God's sake!

Pick one. Just one. Take it and run. It's just that one thing you have to set your sights on! One single-minded focus. One steely resolve. A one track mind.

Chances are you'll fail. So what? Pick yourself up, brush off the dirt and get back on the wagon. it's just one thing to think about. 

And chances are you'll succeed. Whoa! Fabulous, you've got your ducks in a row. Now move on to another one. Pick another one. But yet, just one!  And if that goes well, another one again. Get it?

So for 2014 here's what you do...

Find one. And run. 

Simply resolve that... you'll succeed

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I heard the bells ring...

The bells…they’re a ringing!

It’s Christmas and try thinking of Christmas without bells.

Whether it s “Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles…” as Julia Andrews sang in the legendary film The Sound of Music, or the ubiquitous “Jingle Bells” song that rings in our ears all the way through Christmas, it’s amazing how Christmas and bells go together.

And yet that’s not all what bells are for!

Traditionally bells were used just to create noise in the dark winter nights to ward off strange animals and metaphorically evil spirits.

Later that graduated into ringing bells as a celebratory sound.

For Christmas, in some churches in the UK, it is traditional that the largest bell in the church is rung four times in the hour before midnight and then at midnight all the bells are rung in celebration. Celebrating the birth of Christ.

And then there's celebrating the joyous union of two souls. At a wedding. More bells. More wedding bells.

And to complete the cycle is what John Donne never fails to remind us of. "Therefore, send not to know/For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee."

The Hindus ring a bell when they enter a temple. Not to wake the Lord. Not because the Divine is busy elsewhere and you need to attract his attention. But because the bell creates that primordial sound of Om. Go deeper into it and there’s a lot to learn – including the metals that the bell is made of, the seven seconds of sound that a ring of the bell creates, resonating through the Chakras and finally the really tangible reason – to wake up our consciousness before we enter the place of worship.

Moving away from the temple of worship to the temple of learning, there was Pavlov and his bell. Pavlov took his bell ringing to an entirely different level with Druzhok, Zolotisty, Sultan, Tygan, Zhuchka and the others. The poor Pavlovian dogs never ever associated the bell with Christmas. Sigh. Or rather woof!

In school, saved by the bell was a memorable classroom situation that most of us have been in. Today, a phone call pretty much does it.

And for years music has paid tribute to the bell.

Today’s young lovers will not get it if they hear what Anita Ward has to say about the bell. But they can well learn. 

And then Abba asked for a ring…

And coming back a full circle to where we began, there is this beautiful hymn, which I discovered has found its origins in H.W.Longfellow’s poem, I heard the bells on Christmas Day.

Enjoy it while you can, because another 5 days and we’ll be ringing out the old and ringing in the new!

And as the hymn says:
Peace on earth, goodwill to men!

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

May it bring to you its true meaning...

Happy Diwali!

May this Diwali bring to you its true significance of all its five days of celebration.

On Dhan Teras day Diwali is about Dhan and Dhanvantari - the Physician of the Gods

May it bring you a wealth of friends, opportunities and the joy of good health.

On Naraka Chaturdashi, Diwali is about triumph.

May it help you win endless victories over evil, over temptation and over your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

On Lakshmi Pujan Day, Diwali is about the worship of Lakshmi.

May it bring to you the benevolence of the Goddess of Wealth with mental, physical and material well-being.

On New Year Day, Diwali is about new beginnings.

May it open up new avenues and new windows in your mind.

On Bhau Beej, Diwali is about Brotherly love

May it bring to you the significance of the love of the family and the brotherhood of man.

May this Diwali bring to you its true significance.

May the significance of this Diwali shine through for you right through the coming year.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Now there's more than 50! More than 50 pick-me-uppers!

And Paul McCartney sang a song, I could (if I could) sing now...
"I'll get by with a little help from my friends.."

( I was wrong! Ringo Starr sang this - aptly corrected by Ravi. Thanks Ravi!)

So here they are - the more-than-fifty!
With contributions from Nishant, Roopal, Praveen, Baku, Naresh and Parveen!
Thanks guys! Much appreciated.
 Friends are definitely a great upper upper!

(I will not elaborate on these!. It's just what it is ..a list!)

50 quick pick-me-uppers

1.       Have a hair cut

2.       Read a book

3.       Reread a book you’ve like

4.       Buy a book

5.       Get a friend a gift

6.       Take a 30 minute holiday

7.       Plan a holiday

8.       Go for a massage

9.       Go for a spa appointment

10.   Indulge in chocolate

11.   Drink one glass of wine over one hour

12.   Go for a walk

13.   Look at the sky

14.   Observe a tree in detail

15.   Don’t speak for an hour

16.   Meditate for 20 minutes

17.   Start a new hobby

18.   Plan to start a new hobby

19.   Shop for something you’ll never use

20.   Revisit old photographs

21.   Revisit old memories

22.   Call a friend you’ve not spoken to in a long time

23.   Write a postcard to someone you don’t know

24.   Donate to a charity

25.   Connect with a neighbor

26.   Reconnect with a neighbor

27.   Watch a film alone

28.   Take a picture that tells a story

29.   Write a story that creates a picture

30.   Read an old poem you love

31.   Revisit a quote you love

32.   Go to a coffee shop alone.

33.   Tip a security guard an insane amount

34.   Ask the office janitor his name, write it down

35.   Find out which ice-cream the person sitting next to you likes

36.   Get your immediate neighbor their favourite ice-cream

37.   Read a book/story you loved as a child

38.   Count the number of trees around where you live or where you work

39.   Listen to a song you like. Listen to it again. And again.

40.   Rearrange the furniture in your room

41.   Revisit the lyrics of a song you like. Decipher them

42.    Indulge in colony gossip (Thanks Roopal!)
43.  Get the whole family together! The extended family but all blood relatives - Mama, Chacha, Bua... (Thanks again Roopal... this is scary but worth trying!)
44. Write a blog on how you feel (Thanks Nishant, after number 44, this should do you good!)
45. Music (Thanks Praveen. I suppose any kind of music. Whatever floats your boat, right? )
46. Retail therapy! I agree... nothing like shopping -even if it's just window shopping- to lift up those flagging spirits! (Thanks heaps Kamal. I'll even send you the bills!)
47 Corny pop songs from The 80s
48. Food, food, food

49. Shoes, shoes shoes (Thanks Baku, for all 47, 48 & 49 - my favourite! Am so off to DSW right now!)
50. Watch a funny flick like "my cousin vinny" or "angoor" or even AFV 
51. Forgive and connect , reach out to the friend you know needs you but is awkward to ask
52. Try on a lip colour like a deep red or fuschia pink (Parveen thanks so much for 50-52 - am sure Maybelline or Lancome will be happy to sponsor us on #52! Hahaha)
53. Getting acknowledged for little things
54. Being pampered for major accomplishments (after a significant time lapse of the said accomplishment)
55. Meeting an old friend that you can just hang around with
56. Drives - long peaceful drives - not sure how one can do that in Bombay any more, but we sure can do this here in Toronto.
57. Watching a good comedy (Thank you Naresh - all good... and yes peaceful drives in Mumbai are sometimes possible at 3 am on a good day!
So there you are... take your pick from my list or the contributed list.. and it isn't over yet... keep it coming!
Should I even say "Cheers"? I'm feeling better already! (See #44)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

50 quick pick-me-uppers! (I wish there were 50!)

Confucius said (besides a lot in Chinese)
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
I am not even sure Confucius said this, but it's a thought-provoking statement. And yet, when one is down, one is down, and definitely not thinking of glory or for that matter Confucius.
Recently I was feeling a bit low.
And I thought what if I had a checklist of some 50 things that I could pop like a pep-up pill or ingest like instant coffee to get that spring in my step back again.
So I started.
And I did the first 10 very quickly, the next 10 fast, the following 10 after some thought and then I managed some 10-12 more with a struggle.
And I stopped.
As you can see I need to get to 50 (and if possible 100). I so need help... before I feel low again about this!
I am giving you my first 10 to inspire you to get going but please, please start contributing in the comments below and I will incorporate it in my master list of 50 (and we will all be world-famous and we will solve hunger, poverty and unemployment and the falling-rupee-value issues in one fell swoop. Really! )
So here goes...
1. Have a hair cut
Ask any woman. Nothing does wonders to your mood like a good hair cut and some time and money spent in a salon. Add colour and highlights to the deal and you are likely to walk out of the salon feeling like a model straight out of Fashion TV (but smiling - those models just don't smile!)! Because I am a woman, I write many things from a woman's point of you but I don’t see why men cannot follow my advice. So a hair cut it is... an instant (well, couple of hours) pick-me-up. Men - ensure you have some hair on your head before you fix your appointment. Better still get a clean shave!
2. Read a book
There's no greater joy than immersing yourself in a book to make you feel better. If you let someone like P.G. Wodehouse do it, the effect is instant. For someone like Raymond Chandler the smiles come in a bit slowly and wryly. Or if it is one of the newer scribes, it's simply the joy of discovering new things and the added joy of discussing it with fellow book enthusiasts. Go for it. Curl up with a book. (Add coffee if you like!)
3. Reread a book you’ve liked
When I was a child, my mother never quite understood why I sat with a book (called Gordon the Goat!) all the time. I read and re-read the book. While it was a hard cover book, over time the book jacket was in tatters and the cover changed shades from a pale yellow to a kind of muddy green. But whenever I was sad or upset or simply had time, I read the book. Something about its familiarity and predictability gave me comfort. That's what re-reading a book still does to me.
4. Buy a book
I once went shopping with my daughter when she was a lanky 8-year old. Tall for her age, most of the clothes that we tried did not fit her, or did not appeal to her or were uncomfortable. After a futile 45 minutes (that's a lot for an 8 year old) we walked out of the shop disgusted. And then we decided to walk into a bookshop. As soon as she entered she said, "Mom, look... the books fit!" And they sure did! Truly, buy a book suited for you and it fits no matter what your size! (Now would you like fries with that?)
5. Get a friend a gift
I was at the airport recently and browsing around. Usually airport shops remind me of all the stuff I don’t have! But this time I saw something appropriate for a friend. A birthday gift six months late was bought. What joy... just knowing I've got something perfect and being absolutely sure it will be liked. Instant joy of giving! (P.S. for the cynics: it WAS appreciated!)6. Take a 30-minute holiday! Sometimes when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or low... a 30 minute break is perfect. Do a 'runaway-and-hide'. Just 30 minutes of not doing what you are supposed to. 30 minutes of reading writing listening to the music you love - no guilt involved. Set a timer if you have to. Rest assured you'll come back refreshed. Of course, this is best done on a working day when the world is getting you down!
7. Plan a holiday
I don't share this secret often. I do get an instant kick out of just planning a holiday: deciding on a destination, however out of the world it is (pun intended). There is so much joy figuring out how to get there, what to do when one gets there, how many days and all that jazz. Once you mentally calculate the prices and figure out that your schedule won't really let you go, you can calm down a bit and put it in your bucket list. But those 'planning and dreaming' moments are pure joy!
8. Go for a massage
There's nothing like someone else doing the working out for you for a change. A bit of pampering and relaxing and kneading is probably all you need. Follow it up with a sit in the sauna and you’re sufficiently detoxified to have a glass of wine! (Well… choose your poison!)
9. Go for a spa appointment
Unless you yourself work in a spa, I think a spa is a great place to go to. (Come to think of it, where do people who work in a spa go to relax?!) But I digress. Make some time. Take an appointment with yourself. Take a spa break. Just one hour can take away weeks of stress, late nights, and work-life imbalance. That me-time is a sure pep pill – in the real sense of the word.
10. Indulge in chocolate
To date, I’ve not found a better synonym for indulgence than chocolate. To steal a phrase: The overweight’s envy. The slim one’s pride. But calories apart, there’s nothing that’s more of a mood upper than a bite or two or more of chocolate – white, milk, dark, hazelnut, orange or liqueurs! Mmmmm… I feel better already!
So here are the first ten… I have 34 more to go… but I need your help to reach the full 50.
Contribute your best pick-me-uppers and I’ll publish them next time…
Till then... chin up!



Sunday, August 4, 2013

To the one who is my friend

To the one… who is my friend...

The one whose house is always open for you
The one whose house is open for you at 3 am

The one who talked you out of stupidity
The one who talked you all the way home on a late night drive
The one who listened while you talked

The one who always had time for you, no matter what the time
The one who was so busy she always had time for you

The one whose sister is now your friend
The one who is your friend’s sister
The one who is your sister

The one who started as a colleague
The one who lighted up when you met her
The one who lighted you up when all was dark

The one who laughed with you
The one who laughed at your follies
The one who laughed with you just becuase

The one who did not let you cry
The one who cried with you

The one who let time stand still till you met again
The one who has been with you since forever

The one who you thought was the one
The one who simply walked by your side
The one who didn’t let you walk on the sidelines

The one who knows when you need a friend
The one who knows when to leave you alone

The one who called back when you called
The one who called when you didn’t call
The one who called because you didn’t call

The one who is there no matter what
The one who is no longer there
The one who is there no matter what no matter when no matter where.

To the one, who is my friend... I am grateful I have you as a friend. May you be as blessed in your friendships.

(And luckily for me there is not one…)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Humbled by Gold #FiveDaysOff - Part 5

I don’t really know why, I love the bustle of big cities. I mean I like the bustle, mind you. Not the noise or the traffic.
In my younger days I loved Bombay (yes, it was Bombay then). Bombay had that buzz, the bustle. I fell in love with the pulsating energy of New York the minute I stepped into that city. And then there’s London. I loved the very first time I visited it, its combination of quaintness and modernity.  (The very same reasons why I love it still.)
What I am getting to, is that there are a lot of cities that have won my heart. That make me want to go back there. Stay there. Leave, knowing I’ll come back. Revisit. Reminisce. All of that. So when I made the plan to visit Amritsar it was just that. One more pin on the map. One more flag on the ground. But no, that did not happen with Amritsar. Amritsar did not win my heart.
Amritsar won my soul!
Our hotel was supposed to be very close to the Golden Temple and we had decided we’d go there as soon as we had checked in. Which we did. A quick bath and change and we were on our way. It was well past 10 pm when we entered the temple precincts.
When we took off our footwear, washed our hands, covered our heads with our shawls and stoles and gingerly stepped into the little step well of water before descending down to the entrance of the temple we did not know what awaited us.
There amidst  the gleaming waters of the Amrit Sagar stood the holy shrine! Harmandir Sahib. Resplendent in gold. Glistening in the night lights. Gleaming with the mystique it has emanated over the centuries.
If I said the aura was magic, I’d be misleading you. The air was electric. It was the time that the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book , the designated last Guru of the Sikhs was being taken to its resting place for the night. The crowd was huge. Right from the courtyard, way into the long corridor that led to the inner sanctum of the Golden Temple, the entire passage was crowded with people, waiting eagerly for a glimpse of the Guru. But more impressive was the silence. The utter silence. Devout respectful silence. And we watched the proceedings in that awe-inspiring silence we grew new respect for the place and its people.
I am not a Sikh, do not know much about Sikhism, and I am not religious. But I have great respect for the religion and for its people.
Let me quote a bit from Wikipedia - Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a "Sant-Sipāhī"—a saint-soldier. Which means to love God, meditate on God, keep God in the heart, feel God's nearness and also be strong, courageous and ready to fight to protect weak people from cruel injustice attackers.
True. Most religions rely on some basic principles that are preached from high pulpits to the common people. Rules that make for a better society. Do’s and Don’ts. The good and the bad. The blessings and the recriminations. But here is one place where the religion is lived. Practised. Manifest in its essence.
Take the entrance where volunteers take your footwear for safekeeping before you enter the temple. Note again, these are volunteers, who have come there with a spirit of service.
Inside the respect you get as an individual is that of what should be due to all as a rule. And all are welcomed here – it does not matter what religion you follow.
Take the Langar, the community kitchen. Hundreds of volunteers feed thousands and thousands of devotees every day, every meal.
The large eating hall itself is a lesson in service and humility. I cannot describe how the simplicity of the food beats the finest Masterchef winner in the spirit with which it is served.
The museum portrays saints, soldiers and seers with an equal respect. Sant-Sipahi again. Tales of unbeatable valour and courage intertwined with tales of devotion and service.
And all around you have the opportunity to serve, to serve the temple, the devotees or the people in general.
Or you can simply sit by the Amrit Sagar and listen to the hymns that ring over in the electric air – songs of praise for the Lord which have not stopped ever since the temple was first consecrated.
The Golden Temple cast a spell over us. And over two days we went there three times. Just a pull that drew us there willingly and gave us a sense of peace.
In stark contrast, a visit to the nearby Jalianwala Bagh created a deep sense of disturbance. Bullet holes in the wall told a heart-rending story. So did the Well in which hundreds jumped to their death to avoid a fate worse than death. It is said that General Dyer who ordered the massacre of the innocents didn’t ever get a good night’s sleep after that. Troubling as the reality is, no one would. One can only come out of that experience wounded, bleeding, silent.
The Wagah border, another facet of Amritsar spoke the language of patriotism. This is where country meets country in a large, pompous, noisy ceremony. Enough YouTube videos can show you the ceremony but none can compare to the air of patriotic unison that the cheering crowds bring to the place when you are there.
Amritsar got me thinking. Here was the one of the most religious of places, rubbing shoulders with one of the most tragic and violent historical sites in India touching the threat of a livewire border of the neighboring state.

And my respect for its people knows no bounds. I am sure every resident inherits its DNA, a chromosomal combination of religion that intertwined tragic history with unparalled valour, courage with humility and a fun loving nature inextricably combined with humility and sense of service.   The Golden Temple embodies all of Amritsar in its resplendence. The gold that shines outside only brings out the essence within.