It isn’t late, It isn’t hard… [ a poem in memory of 9/11]

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A chilling act of sheer despise
Fire spit out in the name of sacrifice
The world stood still in utter dismay
The pillars that soared sadly fell away

An act so numbing and bereft of love
Killing thousands of poor souls & how
Young & old, some black, some white
Horror struck, manifesting it’s might

Structures built of sweat & toil
Now smelt of cold blood & human broil
What stood so tall in pride as twins
Now reduced to mere grey ash in bins

Man’s great strength had sadly turned
To create his own brethren’s end
Red with Anger, Cold with malice
Bad blood spewed, to his own disgrace

God retorted, aghast & awry
“Nay my child”, he let out a cry
“I created you, but this wasn’t why
Thou shamed my soul, O my, O my!”

“Mend your ways still, it isn’t late
Heal the pain, with love you can create
It isn’t hard, if you try with your heart
To get to love & break the shell of hate!”

So the wounded soul stood up wrought
Bruised & beaten, but not distraught
Gathering himself with all his might
Embraced the sinners with all, but hate

‘Listen, my mortal mates’ he cried
‘Do you not notice Almighty’s plight
It is time we shed our hate, and love
For, He will no longer bless, from above’

Ramesh Narasimhan/-

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Stillness

Stillness 1

The wandering mind reflects a heavenly calm,
The frowning face radiates a blissful charm,
The regretless heart shines, rendering no harm,
Such is the elusive moment, that I so fondly seek

Waves of the river speak in whispers gentle,
Winds from the woods embrace the soul subtle,
Colors of the sky light up the eyes in hazel,
Such is the magical moment, that I so fondly seek

Nightingales sing melody in harmony,
Bees kiss the flowers and spread love as honey,
The tunes of the world revel in synchrony,
Such is the soulful moment, that I so fondly seek

The noise all around instills deep silence,
The horde all around weaves a web of oneness,
The loathe war in the mind dissolves in awareness,
Such is the blissful moment, that I so fondly seek.

The desirous mind, no longer yearns for more,
Gratitude swells up, for all there is and more,
The true giver within, wakes up forevermore,
Such is the still moment, that I so devotedly seek
===================================================

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A Pocketful of Life

book_love_hd_wallpaper_for_dekstopIt was dinner time at the Jones’ 7th floor apartment at Sixth Avenue. As had become a routine in recent times, Alph was preparing to set out the dinner table with a tired smile on this face, as Ronnie, his wife of 20 years looked on. The day at work had worn him out, but he was glad he was back home, to his beloved wife, who he loved coming back to, at the end of a long work day. Of late, she waited for him at the door every day, at the stroke of 6 in the evening and that made Alph want to come home on time, every day.

The Jones’ were blessed with each other’s companionship, with each one finding in the other, peace in times of conflicts, solace at times of distress, a mentor to motivate and guide, a friend who listened & cared, and above all, a soul mate who understood silence as much as words, loved deeply and trusted unconditionally. But unfortunately there were not blessed enough to have kids. Much as Ronnie would have loved to have them and much as Alph would have loved to see them running around the house, the kids were not to be. The initial disappointment of not being able to bear a child, had eventually given way to acceptance, then a state of inevitable normalcy and later on to a sense of realization, bordering at times on a blessed state of awakening, that no one else perhaps deserved to share, what had become ‘their life’. Just their life.

Alph walked up to Ronnie who was already seated at the dinner table and gently kissed her forehead. He then stood by her side, staring at her.

“What do you see in my eyes, Hon” asked Ronnie, after a brief silence, as Alph kept staring into her eyes, like one stares into the eyes of a newly-wed bride.

“I see a pure reflection of myself, my dear” said Alph “But I wonder why I feel so good when I see myself in your eyes!”

“Well, that is easy, Honey. It is so, because you are seeing yourself through my eyes. And my eyes only reflect the beauty in you” Ron said with a smirk, implying that she only reflected his ‘good’ side.

“Ha ha. Only? Right, Only. A fair statement, that” said Alph in a tone that suggested he understood exactly what she implied. After all these years, he could not have known his wife any better.

“Yes, it is only fair, Honey, that what you see is what my eyes show you. My eyes filter out the dark side of you, you see” she said, with a wink.

“Ha! Of course, Of course” said Alph. “Do you remember several years ago, when we first met? It was your eyes that got me attracted to you” said Alph.

“Just the eyes, huh?” said Ronnie with a playful frown.

“Well, yes, it was just the eyes, to begin with, dear. Those lovely, mesmerizing eyes. But it was so magical, that moment! When words and all else, seemed so unimportant. A moment that was to be cherished forever. And so here I am, 20 years on, still fondly remembering that moment”

“Why don’t I recall any one such attribute of yours, then, Mr. Jones? What was it, I wonder, that I found appealing in you? Does it simply mean that you just got a better deal?” exclaimed Ronnie in her inimitable tone.

“Quite possible, dear” now it was Alph’s turn to wink.

“I am sure there were far better looking men than you. I perhaps did not spend enough time looking beyond you. Lucky you. Unlucky me! But it is never too late, you see. I am still young and capable of attracting handsome young men” said Ron, teasing her husband.

“Sure, Why don’t you give it a go then, baby?” said Alph

“Where are my brittles, by the way?” asked Ronnie, as her eyes fell on the empty jar that usually houses the brittles, on the shelf just below the TV in their living cum dining room.

“Ah! There you go” said Alph with a sigh.

“But where are my brittles? Did you eat them up again?” asked Ronnie now in a somewhat irritated tone.

“Nay Dear, Not this time. Remember we served them to the O’Brien’s last evening? said Alph.

“Ha! The honorable O’Brien’s! Right. ‘You’ served them, Mr. Jones. Not me” Ronnie sighed. “Makes me wonder why they had to arrive unannounced during our dinner time. That was so very thoughtless, wasn’t it?” said Ronnie. “And if they had to anyway arrive like that, they could have done themselves better, by buying some brittles rather than the so out-of-fashion Ferrer Rochers”

“Well, Well…. Dinner is ready, Darling” said Alph in a tired tone.

“When was the last time we went hiking, Alphie?” asked Ron after a brief pause “Don’t you think it is time to go again?”

“For now, why don’t we finish our dinner, baby?” said Alph in an indifferent tone.

“Oh yes. Let’s eat. Lucky me, that I should have such a lovely husband. Who makes dinner so delicious every day. Lucky me, indeed” exclaimed Ronnie.

“Today’s menu is only Soup and Garlic bread though, dear. Nothing extravagant. But yes, we have apple pudding after that”

“I have you, my love, for company. And that completes my dinner. What more does one need in life anyway?

They had a quiet dinner with Alph feeding her the first bite himself, as he so often did these days. Their bonding had only grown stronger over the years and especially lately with Alph getting to spend a lot more time at home.

“Would you have rather married Rachel, Mr. Jones, as your mother so desperately wanted?” Ron shot an out-of-the-blue question at Alph, as was so typical of her.

Alph let out a “Aah, there you go again ” in a tone of resignation, as he began to clear the dishes from the table.

Ron went on “Just imagine. A blue eyed blonde with absurd idiosynchracies & disheveled hair walking hand-in-hand with a meticulous and discipline-crazy gentleman would have been a pretty sight. Even God would have let out a laugh”

“But you know she had lovely long hair and half the college swore by her unconventional methods” Alph said teasing her.

“Right. I can see that you were secretly adoring her too, Mr. Jones”

Alph looked at her smiling, as he served dessert “Here’s the apple pudding, Ma’am!! But let me warn you – this is a new recipe from the TV show. So you know whom to blame, if it is not up to the mark”

“You would have been forced to start your day with 2 scoops of chocolate ice cream and end it with a bowl of cornflakes and fruits and nuts!” Ron said still talking about Rachel.

“Try it and let me know, hon” said Alph pointing to the apple pudding.

“Thank your stars you did not get tied to her. The marriage would have been a disaster. It would have either ended abruptly with you ending up at the asylum for mental retardation or led to you guys being branded social outcasts for your preposterous mannerisms. Imagine walking into a birthday party and asking for an Oats & Quinoa cake. Ha” Ron let out a deliberate loud laugh.

Rachel was the only daughter of Alph’s mother’s close friend. Her dad was an extremely rich local businessman and rumor had it that his residential property alone was worth over two billion dollars. He owned four villas in the most expensive locations of the island and two private yachts off Sentosa. Alph’s mother had laid out plans of getting him married to her, secretly hoping that she would then get to live in one of their palatial Sentosa properties and sail in the yacht. Ronnie brought up Rachel every now and then to tease her husband and also to hear him say he could never have married anyone else.

“How is the pudding hon” Alph insisted, with a smile on his face.

“Great, except that it may be been a few hours early, as per the Rachel Diet Chart. This would have been the first thing to have in the morning” she retorted.

They finished dinner and sat there in silence sipping green tea. There was this thing about silence that Alph had lately discovered and found to be very discomforting. Silence showed up promptly in situations when you did not need it, just as one sought it in utter noise, and perhaps in a more telling manner. It was at such times that, Alph had discovered, silence could be a crude reminder of reality, of what you did not want to be reminded about. He was beginning to learn that the more you shooed it away, the more it lingered on. The trick was to make friends with it and allow it to let you speak.

Alph made an effort to finally break it. “You know Hon” he said. ” I could never have married her”

“Why so?”

“Well, to be honest with you, she had a bottom far too big for my liking”

“What” she exclaimed, shocked at what she had heard. “You never mentioned to me that you married me because my bottom was to your liking, Mr. Jones, whatever that means. Where on earth did that come from?”

They looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Alph held her hand and kissed it gently as he whispered ” I have got to get to work now, hon. I have over a 100 pages to clear tonight. I will be right back with my laptop”

Alph came back with the laptop, as Ron sat there looking at the life size wedding photograph of theirs, on the wall, opposite to where they sat.

“All these years haven’t changed you much, Alphie. Look at you!” She said pointing to the photograph.

The photograph was taken 20 years ago, at the time of their wedding.

“Barring a little bumpy speed-breaker at the tummy” she continued with a laugh.

“Yeah” said Alph ” and barring a few grey strands of hair adorning the beautiful woman by my side!

As had become a daily routine, Ron quietly sat down next to her hubby, watching him edit pages of copyright material & fell asleep before long, resting on his shoulder.
Peace lies in the knowing that you are safe and secure in the warmth of a loved one beside you, not so much in the mere existence of a dwelling place.

An hour later, Alph woke her up and said “think you should go in now and sleep, hon”

Ron answered half asleep “are you done yet”

“No baby, I have only barely started” he said “I might easily take a couple of hours ”

“Ok take me in then Alphie” said Ron. “But will you be ok by yourself?”

Truth was: he dreaded to be alone at this hour of the night. Several disconcerting thoughts hurled themselves at him. Besides, he was exhausted, worn out after another hectic day and more so at the thought of the long night that lay ahead of him. But he had no choice since he had committed to work that had to be delivered by Monday morning. And he could not let Ronnie sleep in that position through the night, for his sake. He knew she needed to sleep more than he did.

“Most certainly hon” he said, as he got up to do what had become to him, the most burdensome task ever. That of pushing along, his beloved wife of 20 years, his love, one who had yielded purpose to his life, one who stood by him at all times, now couched helplessly on the wheelchair, into their bedroom.

Divinity puts you through a test more severe than the severest you have known, just when you feel you are strong enough to face up to any adversity, exposing your vulnerability once again, breaking your faith shackles once again.

It had occurred exactly three months ago. The accident. It had completely shattered the Jones’: emotionally & financially. Just at a time, when the Jones’ had begun to believe that life could not get any better. Alph had been promoted recently as a Senior Manager with a well deserved raise and they had had dinner by the riverside to celebrate.
A drunken middle aged woman in a Ferrari had lost control at high speed, failed to brake at the red light & rammed into Ronnie, while they were crossing the road on that fateful Friday night after dinner & dragged her for atleast another 100 m before stopping. She had suffered multiple fractures in her hip and legs & remained unconscious for 15 days thereafter. She was declared paralyzed hip down. A month and a half later, when she was discharged on a wheelchair, the doctors gave her a remote chance of being able to walk again, even with support. She was advised six months of intense physiotherapy.

Alph had to go on unpaid leave. His savings were wiped out in no time and he had to borrow money to pay Ronnie’s medical bills including the wheelchair & the intense physiotherapy sessions. Once Ronnie was home, he had to hire a maid during the weekdays to take care of her. He got himself an easy paced job in an accountants office that let him go at 5 pm sharp every day. Of course that meant a lower pay than what he was used to, even without the recent raise he had got on promotion, but at least he reached home on time to be with Ronnie. He took up an additional job of a copyrighter, editing and re-editing thousands of pages of text at night to cater to the medical bills, when Ronnie slept. On weekends, he happily helped his wife with her entire routine and even cooked for her. That also meant he saved two days of wages that would have been otherwise paid to the maid. Life had become extremely hectic and emotionally Alph felt drained.

During the first check up, after a month of physiotherapy, the doctor had remarked that there was ‘very, very slow progress’! Ronnie had begun to sulk after what the doctor had said. To her it almost meant loss of hope. Alph realized it was up to him now to keep her in good spirits. He started buying her little things everyday – things she liked such as brittles, butter cookies, m&m candies. He watched movies with her, sang Beatles numbers for her and watched her favorite soccer team Arsenal win. He did anything & everything possible to keep her spirits up. Ron too then began to look forward to these little things, that actually became big events in her otherwise morose daily life. So much so that she would get extremely irritated, when she was denied any of it, for whatever reason.

One Monday morning, as she watched Alph getting ready to go to work by her bedside, she suddenly noticed how much weight he had lost. His face looked scrawny with his cheeks sucked in as if he had not eaten for days. The figure that stood before her was a much toned down version of the Alph she had known all these years. She was struck by his pale demeanor that conveyed to her a deep sense of sorrow. Not just that, she was also struck by the realization of a sense of loneliness that seemed to have engulfed Alph. In the process of yielding her the moral strength to wade through this period of distress, his own morale seemed to have taken a beating. In the process of yielding her a shoulder to cry her woes on in her time of utmost distress, he had all of a sudden, himself lost a companion to shares his own distress with.

It suddenly occurred to Ron what Alph must be going through. She never left him alone thereafter, even when he was working on his laptop & she did not understand a thing of what he was doing. She realized she had to take responsibility for Alph’s health and his state of mind. She had to make him feel better. And she had to get better, for his sake. Or at least appear so.

The realization that here was something she ought to work for, for the sake of her beloved, energized her. She started to paint. She painted a picture of a happy home with kids running all around, another one where the two of them go hiking, up the Himalayas. She named the first “In Dreams, Until Reality” and the second “To be, Will be”

Alph was touched by her paintings and wanted to cry. They looked to him, as Ron’s dreams presented on a canvas, begging for life, for realization.

At the same time, Alph was glad Ron had started to paint – at least she had gathered herself to keep her mind fruitfully occupied and importantly, distanced from the daily pain of reality.
She presented Alph on his birthday, with a beautiful painting of him playing the guitar and singing on big stage, with her sitting in the front row and cheering. Something that was once Alph’s dream. She called it “The real side of me”, signed Alph at the bottom.

Alph loved it and bought her a life like 6 ft X 12 ft white canvas to paint on, as a return gift, which brought tears to her eyes. The bigger canvas meant a bigger avenue to paint her dreams on and that gave her a greater sense of hope that her dreams would be indeed realized one day.

Back in his living room, Alph now sat down to complete his latest assignment about a soon-to-launch wellness company. It was well past midnight and he could no longer concentrate on his work. He shuddered at the thought of the following morning’s appointment with the Orthopedic, at the end of two months of therapy. He walked out to the balcony and stood there, staring at the sky in a resigned state of mind. He had no idea if she would make it, especially after what the doctor had hinted at, during the previous checkup. Besides, even now after two full months of the therapy, she could barely walk. He feared the worst at times when he was alone.

At the same time, he had no idea how he would service the ever increasing loans he had contracted. He had taken personal loans from two banks and a local money lender. The money lender charged him twice the interest the banks did, but he had had no choice. His body threatened to collapse at times, burdened by these thoughts and compounded by lack of proper rest and sleep.

But he knew he had to pull along. He had to drag the precious wagon along the rough terrain, inch by inch, fuelled by hope that easier, smoother roads were ahead. For Ron’s sake. For their sake.
He began to re-assure himself that she would recover and get back on her feet one day, hopefully not very far-off. She would be able to walk again and he would then make sure that all her dreams were fulfilled. They would indeed go hiking, up the Himalayas and get to the Kanchenjunga ranges. He started to believe in his mind, that this would indeed happen. And he would wait for that day, whatever time it took.

As he stood in the balcony, all of a sudden, he noticed how beautiful the night sky was, with thousands of bright stars adorning it. The crescent moon shone enough to spray a blanket of light, dispelling any darkness that lay on its path. The erstwhile still trees in front of his apartment had started to sway gently, as a cool breeze was now blowing, caressing his face. He felt a sensation down his spine and it was then that he heard an inner voice, from deep within his heart, speak:

“Hang in there, Alph! The divine force is only testing you and your love. The test that man is put through is a continuous process, a process of re-setting the finish line, just as you reach one. This resetting continues until you have reached the ultimate goal that you are meant to reach. Every hurdle has a purpose, has a lesson, which strengthens you on the path. Every hurdle that you overcome will ensure you have grown, you have expanded. Your ability is not just what you limit it to, but much, much beyond your imagination. The force thus guides you one step at a time, one hurdle at a time to make you realize your true abilities. The key is to trust it unconditionally. So let go, let you be guided, let you be led”

The moment was magical and Alph went to sleep peacefully that night.

He woke up the next morning with a renewed sense of hope and energy. When he looked at the first rays of the morning sun, through the dark curtains of his bedroom window, he knew that the divine was on his side.

Faith, fuelled by the voice the night before, kept him going. His love for her, magically merging with her own new found love for life, manifested through her paintings, kept her going.

And so, life carried on.

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Trust: A victim of the Modern Era

TrustTechnology has had an increasingly profound impact on our lives, especially in the last couple of decades. With mobile phones & I pads / tablets, high speed internet & wireless technology including blue tooth, smart televisions & interactive ATMs, mankind has come a long way since the days of dial telephones and hand-written postal letters. It has evolved to levels perhaps unimaginable two decades ago, yielding utmost comfort and convenience in day-to-day life. The manner of interacting with fellow human beings has been redefined, so to speak, with many day to day transactions today seldom requiring human to human interactions. Mechanization has yielded a new medium for conducting interactions, to fulfill rudimentary modern day needs. Be it for conducting transactions with the bank via the ATM, which today is equipped to handle a repertoire of requests, or for communicating with friends, relatives or anyone else across the globe via the internet, machine is the new face of modern day transactions, which man interacts with. As a result, human-to-human expressive touch points have drastically reduced.

Some essential human virtues governing the success of human interactions, at the centre point of which is trust, have suffered in the process, arguably so, rendering bereft the application of ‘heart’ in any of modern day transactions. It is more about the brain. Well, let us ponder over this.

Let us take the example of Mobile phones. Mobile phone invention perhaps is the next best thing to have happened to mankind since slice bread. An estimated 10 trillion messages were sent globally in 2013 through the mobile phone. This number has been on the rise consistently year after year.

I recall, when I was in college about 20 years ago, that one woke up to the morning newspaper (I was a ‘Hindu’ loyalist I must confess. The reference here, I must clarify, is to the National Daily, rather than my religion, lest it rakes up any non-secular sentiments) with or without freshly brewed filter coffee. Today, one wakes up to either an I-Phone or a Samsung Galaxy or the like, with or without freshly brewed filter coffee. We must be thankful, that the filter coffee has sustained the test of time and the advent of technology. But back to the mobile phone. It wakes you up in the morning, keeps you company during the day and puts you to sleep too at night. You are being tracked as regards to your whereabouts 24/7 and hence your family members could know exactly where you are, at any point in time. The mobile phone is your news agent, your interface to the external world, your entertainment means and your transactional medium to deal with banking chores, socializing with friends or even with ticketing for a movie or a holiday. It is a phone which is in substance much more than just a phone.

Going back to my college days, would the current generation believe it, there was no phone at home. I grew up without a phone, yes! I would leave for college at 7 am in the morning and come back home in the afternoon, sometimes late, with no mobile phone in my pocket. My folks at home knew it and did not find the need to track my whereabouts or even to confirm that I was safe and would come back home that afternoon too, like I did every other day. Nor was any need ever felt in my heart to call and tell them that I would be late on a particular day. Or take my father for instance, who travelled tirelessly on work, many times for days together and without any sort of communication in the interim. We all knew though, that he would return after 2 or 3 days and invariably he did so. Ha! This always worked and life went on. There was perhaps a more fundamental connect that went beyond the realms of and worked much better than, mobile phone wireless frequencies of modern age.

Could you at all imagine something similar in today’s context? Not letting your near and dear ones know where you were for hours in succession and even worse just letting them wait for you to come back at the end of a long day at night or from an overseas journey, without any interim messages or calls? Clearly, this Is not something that can be fathomed by the sane mind of the modern world.

One could argue in favor of the modern world, highlighting the precise merits of modernization and telecommunications which keep us connected all the time. Sure they all make perfect sense, but inherently somewhere deep inside all of us, the element of trust that we would place on any or all the things surrounding us, has got diluted. The ‘fundamental connect’ seems to have gone missing and we have to rely on the lifeless electronic medium to be informed, even without the connect.

Another classic example is that of the Email. I cannot help but go back again, to those college days of mine, when postal mails were the order of the day. Email was an unknown, an alien. Human interaction was the main mode of communication. Distance communication mostly transpired through either postal cards (for short text) or postal inland letters (for longer text) within the city and across cities within the country. Unless there was an emergency, in which case, the telegram or phone took precedence as a mode of communication. Intimation of a relative arriving, invitation card for a wedding or any other social gathering, intimation of examination roll numbers, birthday greeting cards would all make their way through the efficient means of the postal system to their destined locations. And arrive they all did, always. There was an expected standard duration for transit from one place to another and the postal delivery system never failed it. Seldom did we doubt the intentions of the person who was to send the mail or for that matter the credibility of the system which was expected to deliver it.

Fast forward to today’s world of Emails and SMSs. We have at our disposal, a plethora of Email engines to send mails from. Innumerable number of mails are sent to one another across the globe, which are delivered instantly. Undoubtedly, this has brought the world closer by reducing the lead time for communication significantly from what it used to be. However, we have abused email as a means of convenient communication by resorting to it, even when the intended recipient is within our hearing distance. For instance at the work place, Email is often insisted upon even after a face to face conversation with a colleague for ‘record purposes’. While a written record may be desirable for external communication, why should there be a need to communicate on email with the person on the next desk? Also, why should there be a need for a simple verbal request of a colleague to be supplemented by a written email request? It is a sheer matter of trust, isn’t it? When the person is within your hearing distance, would you not rather have a face-to-face conversation?

To me, such a behavior points to a lack of trust that the message intended would indeed be communicated well and responded to. An inherent lack of trust on the intended recipient and also perhaps on the system delivering it, to some extent. At times, it is also for self cover, that an email is resorted to or insisted upon. There is perhaps an inherent fear of a potential backlash, which in turn points to a sheer lack of basic trust in a fellow human.

Some imperative human relations virtues have become conspicuous in their absence in the modern era. The ‘new’ world has pushed us to a state where we have come to trust machines and virtual mechanisms more than humans. It is sad, but true. If you dig this a little deeper, it is not surprising. We, as privileged souls of the modern world, conduct our lives largely by interacting with mobile phones, the internet and ATM machines. Human to human and face to face interactions have taken a subconscious backseat in the overall scheme of things. In other words, the more we interact with electronic media, the lesser we interact with fellow humans. And the lesser we interact with humans, the lesser we tend to trust them. Trust presupposes familiarity with a person or thing supplemented by an expectation for that person or thing to behave or conduct himself or herself or itself in a certain way. The greater the familiarity, greater is the scope for trust. Such is the nature of the mind. With reduced human interactions, the scope for familiarity and therefore trust is much lesser.

Our dependence on the E-media has been driven to such proportions today that we even rely on it to function sometimes in substitution of our memory and intellect. We expect the electronic calendar to remind us of important events and meetings. So much so that, if the reminder fails to work, we do not battle an eyelid before blaming it on the e-medium, feeling little guilt for not utilizing that part of our brain which has a memory capability many multiples sharper than that of the e-medium. Somehow our intent to use it well and the trust that it will work have both dissipated. We have only ourselves to blame. We are both culprits and victims.

At the pace we are all running, exaggerative as it may seem, that day is not far when man will look to a machine to manage his mind or even breathe for him.

Electronic devices and machines of the modern world were always meant only to be a means of convenience. They were never made to make you happy and healthy in the long run. Happiness lies in the simple things that no machine or device can give you. In fact, things that matter in life in the long term, are not derived from and cannot be yielded by technology: happiness, health and peace of mind.

Truth be told in simple terms, the crying need of the hour is to revert to basics.

Find time to listen to your body, it tells you what it needs. Trust your own intellect and memory. Your mind is more powerful than the most powerful computer that has been built. Listen to your heart, it knows what is important to you in your life. Spend more time with nature, because nature has a way of connecting with your body and mind. Ditch the treadmill and go for a run early in the morning. Listen to the birds chirping and feel the freshness of the morning breeze against your face.

Talk to fellow humans and loved ones more often. Conduct face to face, trustworthy, caring, loving, considerate human to human conversations. Forget SMSs, forget emails. They do not carry emotions. An email cannot convey to the reader if you were caring or considerate or loving while writing the email.

Albert Einstein once said “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will then have a generation of idiots”

That day is perhaps not far away, if we do not attend to some of the basic virtues of human to human relationships.

It is success in relationships that will eventually lead to happiness in our lives. And that to me is true success.
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Temptations

walnutbrowniesA sizzling hot brownie with vanilla ice cream, topped with hot chocolate sauce, beckoned Adi from the menu card he was holding. It was a Friday evening – an evening that Adi was glad had arrived – after a relentless and hectic, but resourceful week.

As he relished the possibility of devouring the treat that lay, still on paper, in front of him after a sumptuous meal, two inevitable, conflicting views inside him seemed set for a duel.

The yielding, softer part of Adi, urged him to gesture to the attendant waiting to take orders and call out for the brownie from the menu. Adi had reason to believe that he had earned the brownie, especially following a continued spate of stressful late nights at work. Pressure situations generally brought the best out of him, which made him immensely proud, but what was even more special this time around was that he had not given up, despite all the political odds stacked against him. There were people who did not want to see him succeed, who seemed to despise him. Adi had paid little heed to their intentions and kept marching ahead, over achieving his targets, winning every accolade possible from his superiors. And this, at the least, deserved a brownie.

As he was about to give in to the luscious prospect, precisely at that moment the rational, conscientious part of him spoke up. It warned Adi of the generous sugar and calorie levels that the brownie was packed with. He was not getting any younger after all. Yes, they said that 40 was the new 20, but he knew they did not really mean it. For instant taste bud gratification, one was actually inviting a layer of potent flab that innocuously lay hidden beneath the appealing brownie. It would perhaps mean painful additional hours at the gym and lesser hours of sleep on the weekend. Was it worth it?  After all, while the week had no doubt ended well, it wasn’t as if he had hit gold! He still had a long way to go before he met his target for the year.

The smile on the face of the attendant waiting on Adi’s table was blissfully oblivious to the tussle in his mind. Whether Adi ordered for a brownie or asked for the bill, the attendant’s smile would stay unaffected. How Adi envied him at this moment. He gave the attendant a helpless smile and pretended to look composed, sitting on the edge of his cushioned seat, even as his eyes stayed fixated at the brownie. He politely asked the attendant for five more minutes to decide.

Was I the only one to have to deal with situations of this nature? Adi thought.

There were temptations galore that life had to offer, that Adi could easily succumb to. Indulging liberally at the SPA, skipping the morning run, skipping the gym routine, helping himself to an extra cup of coffee with sugar or an extra ounce of butter on toast, indulging in home cooked fried snacks or ultra-rich, sinful sweets, were a few of his vulnerable sources of both joy and thereafter guilt!

Sometimes it could even be as simple as taking a cab back home at the peak hour (which was outrageously expensive), when the train station was well within sight. At other times, it was the added helping of rice at dinner time. The list the lady of temptations had seemed endless.

She seemed to have the guile to trap even a saint with her repertoire, Adi swore. And succumb he always would, although it was not before there had been enough mental drama and conflict, between his well-meaning, ‘rational’ brain and his friendly, flexible, impulsive brain, his partner many-a-time in crime. His rational brain prescribed the ethics to be adopted and actively controlled his dos and don’ts. His indulging brain on the other hand believed in taking things easy and just yielded.

Science had it that, in a day, the mind had to contend with as many as sixty thousand diverse thoughts on an average. Wow, some number that was! And several of these thoughts were to do with temptations. The lady of temptation coaxed you to undertake a fulfilling action every single time, but with no assurance that once fulfilled, she would not show up again. The rational side of the inner self advised you to refrain from paying heed to such thoughts. But this other side of the self, the friendly one, just wanted to give in, without listening to the rational side.

Irrespective of what the lady of temptation had on offer, at the back of his mind Adi knew that once he had given in, the aftermath would hit him with a splurge of guilt and helplessness.

“Why did I do it again” his mind would go typically! He would then, tend to spring to action, any action, typically one that would qualify to be rightful and would somewhat mitigate the guilt of having given in to the lady of temptation.

For instance, he could end up confessing to his wife or a close friend and take pleasure from being reprimanded for the guilt creating action, almost as if that would undo part of the ‘sin’ that has already been committed. Phew!

And then came the promise. That he would not yield to it, the next time around. The mind drew some more comfort there.

A few days then passed by merrily and with no event, but then the lady showed up again, with a different bait to prey him.

The inevitable conflict once again sprang in the mind. The aftermath was a heavy toll to deal with. It rather seemed easier to say no at first instance.

‘To yield or not to yield’ as William Shakespeare would have put it.

His quote years ago “How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds, made ill deeds done” was apt to this day, Adi thought. If the brownie had not shown up, he would probably have not been tempted by it.

All of a sudden, recollection of the quote gave Adi a stir. If Shakespeare had to come up with that quote many years ago, it only meant that man’s ability – or actually inability – to deal with temptations was well known. He was not alone, he thought. Strangely, that made him feel better.

The attendant appeared again promptly after the five minutes that Adi had sought.

Save him the trouble, said Adi’s inner voice. He looked up from the menu with a renewed element of confidence, thanks to William Shakespeare, but yet, not with the decisiveness he would have liked.

The smile was still intact on the attendant’s face. At that moment, Adi knew what he was going to do.

“One Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream, please”, said Adi. Eating a brownie after all, was not so much of an ill deed, he thought to himself.

“Sure, Sir” said the attendant, turning to leave.

“Make that with an extra topping of hot chocolate sauce” he called out, heaving a big sigh of relief and sinking into his cushioned seat.

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The Connect

The Connect

The Connect Pic

Abi was like any other child – cute, innocent and heavenly. She brought boundless joy in the lives of Raghavs, when she was born. Born after a wait of nine long years, it was understandable her parents became overly possessive of her. Prasad Raghav took a sabbatical for six months just to be with his new found love.

Prasad’s connect with his daughter though, was not instant and natural. It was to be established over time. While he was overjoyed when Abi was born and he first took her in his arms, Prasad learnt that connect of a father with a new born was very different from that of the mother.

Naturally, the mother connected with the child, even before the child’s birth. As they say, you could never beat a child’s relationship with the mother, since it was always going to be nine months more.

The Sun’s rays emanated from the soul of the Sun. The rays were not separate from the Sun, but there were a mere manifestation of the light that was already contained in the Sun.

The fragrance of a rose petal sprung, with love, from the deepest part of the rose itself.

A fully blossomed flower was not separate from the tree – it was a mere manifestation of the love that the tree is pregnant with.

The waves were not different from the ocean – they were the unending expressions of love of the ocean.

Likewise, the mother was not separate from the child – the child was a mere manifestation of the mother’s love, expressed in human form. Prasad understood this.

The father, on the other hand, had to, establish a relation with his child afresh, in a way.

To Prasad’s delight, Abi had made the first move in establishing that bond. Abi had smiled first at her father as if to acknowledge his newly donned, somewhat anxious, fatherhood role. ‘Wow!’ Mrs. Kavya Raghav had exclaimed. ‘Look, she is smiling. First time!’ That was a moment of pride for Prasad – the first time he had felt a special connect. Tears of joy magically filled his eyes, to his own surprise. It was a never felt before feeling that connected to the deepest part of his heart.

At the end of Month 1, Prasad felt exhausted though, especially with his sleep routine having dramatically changed, given the little one’s unpredictable sleep patterns. Coupled with that, was the untold need for the mother to rest more after the delivery than the father, as was natural, since it was the mother who had undergone the physical pains of delivery, not the father. Prasad had after all become a father, simply automatically, after Kavya delivered the baby, without any bodily changes or pain.

Days and Nights alternated at an immense pace, as the new parents stayed on their toes to ensure they did all the right things as much as making sure they did not do anything wrong. A new dimension to time presented itself before the Raghavs, measured only by when Abi woke up, when she cried, drank milk, threw up, excreted, cried, drank some more milk, threw up some more, smiled, played and cried again before sleeping.

Abi was connecting with her dad in more ways than one and Prasad’s amusement never ceased.

Two weeks into Month 2, Abi had held Prasad’s finger as she slept, which he was delighted with. He let the grasp be and did not move an inch lest she would wake up, until she herself let go, after a good two hours. Until then, he lay down next to her, just savoring the moment.

When she was 50 days old, Prasad started singing to her to put her to sleep. He would sing fast paced rhythmic tunes to begin with and gradually switch to slow soothing numbers, which would coax her to sleep. And she had responded beautifully by falling asleep to a particular song, every time he sang it. He thereafter sang in the same sequence, always ending with that song, which she would sleep to like magic, even before he had finished it. Prasad was amazed at how this would repeat every single time.

At the beginning of Month 4, Prasad discovered a sort of connection between her baby actions and his thought stream. One morning, when he had to step out for some official work, he reluctantly pushed himself to get ready. When he was about to leave home and bent down to kiss his beaming daughter, Abi had held his tie, refusing to let go, as if to want to hold him back and suggesting to him that she knew what was on his mind. This had moved him immensely. It was as if she understood all that he felt and responded accordingly.

Yet another time, early one afternoon, which was her favorite time to play, she had pushed away the smart phone from Prasad’s hand, even as he lay alongside her, but engrossed in the phone, as if to demand his attention on her, rather than on the phone. Realization dawned on Prasad on how ignorant he had briefly become and never after that moment did he let his phone interfere with his time with Abi.

There were many such instances that increasingly convinced Prasad that the connect he now felt with his new found love in life could not have been stronger.

If the mother and child were one and the same, it was also true that the child was incomplete without the father. If it was the mother’s love that brought the child into life like the sun that sprayed its bright rays, it was the warmth of the father that kept the baby blessed. If it was the mother who fed her child, like the tree feeding its flowers from her soul, it was the father’s energy and vigilance that ensured the baby stayed safe.

Six months sped past like a breeze and it was time for Prasad to return to work. That period, as he now looked back, would be more valuable than anything else. Something he would cherish for the rest of his life. By the time he went back to work, the father-daughter duo had established a bond that Prasad had never earlier imagined to exist.

Above all, his daughter, Abi, had shown him what it meant to be a father and also in her own way taught him, how to be a good one at that.

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Twilight

Twilight pic

The evening sky bore a striking resemblance to the picture, that was etched in my mind, of the sky I had grown up spending hours on, watching and adoring, from the living room balcony of our residence in the southern part of India. The vast expanse of blue, the sporadic burst of snow white clouds, the flight of varied flocks of birds chirping away as they made their way back to their dwellings, the solitary eagle that stood tall and hovered way above the birds and the descending sun that was more gentle to the human eye at this hour spraying different shades of crimson and gold – they all made a familiar, yet a visually absorbing sight.

I had loved simply gazing at the sky as the clouds went by, even as I grew up. I could easily spend hours just doing that.

Now, after all these years of much change that the world around us had brought about, as I stared at the evening sky through the broad window of my living room in another part of the globe, it was heartening to see that there were still some things that had not changed whatsoever. It brought a sense of comfort to the mind.

The crimson dominated sky was now interrupted by a few streaks of anxious grey, as if to signal the impending onset of the night, even as the sun hid behind a puffy cloud. The smile on my face diminished somewhat. How a little change in the appearance of the sky can change one’s mood! I sat still, as the sun reappeared from behind the clouds, for what was to be one last time. I could, however, see how rapidly it was going down.

The farewell chirps of the birds heading back home filled the air, even as the eagle floated high and handsome, in no particular hurry, as if to provide oversight, to this all familiar routine of day. There was a sense of monotony to this routine, yet there was a freshness yielded by the luminescent rays of the sun. It seemed like just an act performed on yet another day, but at another level, it seemed to have a sense of perpetuity, of an act that transcended time, rendering all that transpired in this so called world of ours, the material world, absolutely irrelevant.

By now, the sun had set, slipping into the distant ocean as it appeared, as verily as a compact disc that would slip into the vertical slot of a music system. There were still beams of light that the sun had left behind, that continued to illuminate the sky. The last few flocks of birds – [ there are two types of birds as I have observed: one that head back home well before time of dark playing it safe, like many of us, and then the other type, who I call the risk takers, who like to devour every morsel of time left of day before scurrying home at the last minute of daylight ] – were now rushing hurriedly back with a vigorous  flapping of wings, after making the most of the last few minutes of their day, like kids who liked to make the most of the last few minutes of their allotted time at the play area.

I switched on the tall tower lamp at the corner of my living room as a prepared act to offset any darkness that may have started setting in. I turned the music system on, as soft instrumental notes of the saxophone filled the room. Ironically enough, the silence that may have prevailed, seemed more pronounced with the music now coming on.

The light gradually faded away and the dark of the night crept in, silently, yet in the most potent way.

Nature had announced the end of day. The birds had all returned to their respective homes by now. The chirpings had ceased. The music playing in my living room, stopped too, as a matter of sheer coincidence, as if to respect the onset of the night. Nights were meant to be silent after all, as even portrayed by scores of poems and songs over the years.

The sounds of silence, of stillness, took over. The mind was silent too, although the darkness brought along with it, shades of anxiety and apprehension, as if to bear on the confident mind, as if to wear down on its ambitions and fuel its fears. The dark of the night had this quality that seemed inexplicable.

I stood up and walked to the balcony adjoining my living room, still looking at the dark sky. The trees at the background were no longer clearly visible. The squeaking sounds of the insects and the intermittent croaking of the frogs in the nearby pond added flavor to the eerie silence. Strangely these sounds always seemed to add to the silence, rather than break it.

A lazy, cool breeze graced my face. The solitary north star showed up in its glittering self, dispelling somewhat the darkness, that still overshadowed the sky. Gradually, a few more stars appeared across the sky, like scattered pieces of crystals.

And then, at the far end of the sky, from behind the trees, as if from another world, silently appeared the silver painted moon. The moon, in its full manifestation, cast a blanket of welcome light over the dark, black night. The ambience lit up instantly and poured over any apprehensions that the darkness may have brought along. The night sky now appeared complete and settled.

My mind too, magically tuned to the mood of the sky, now felt settled.

A smile appeared on my face, as I made my way back indoors, into the inevitable material world.

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