Tag Archives: courage

Signs I Can’t Ignore Anymore…

As my long-term subbing assignment was nearing its end, I was plagued with questions about what I would do with my time. My future lay ahead of me, glimmering with innumerable possibilities, enough to confuse and confound me.

One day I walked into the classroom and was told that it was author day at the school. A famous children’s author was going to give a talk for most of the morning. I did not think much of it. Even thought that I should have simply taken the day off, for there wasn’t much work to do, except sit in the old gym and listen to a man talk about his books. Anyway, I was already there, so I simply followed the class to the gym and settled down to listen to whatever he had to say.

The author, Paul Owen Lewis lives in Washington and is a very gifted orator. A few minutes into his talk, he had all of us spellbound and hanging on to every word he uttered. He didn’t always know he wanted to be a writer. He practically stumbled upon a writing career when he was a substitute teacher in a local school. They had an author day at that school – you can imagine what was going through my head – this is no coincidence! He thought it was pretty cool to write books. Paul loved to draw and was pretty darned good at it. The author spoke about different ways to write stories. All stories did not have to start with words he said and this struck a chord with Paul. He loved telling stories through his illustrations. The rest is history. He now stood before us as a famous published author of children’s picture books.

He also compared the process of writing to putting the pieces of a puzzle together. You may only have a few pieces to start with but you can always find connections and link the pieces together. The idea appealed to me. Thinking that I needed a logical story line that flowed from one scene to another from beginning to end kept me going around in circles. In the planning stages nobody has the complete story or knows how to put it together. I only had a bunch of disorganized ideas. I had to put them down on paper and try and connect the pieces and add details to my story.

The morning session ended and I saw some teachers and students go up to the author, talk to him and pepper him with questions. Something within me was urging me to go talk to him but I quietly followed the kids back to class. A few minutes later I was back in the teachers lounge taking my lunch break. I was almost done when the author walked in. He smiled and asked if he could sit at my table. I nodded. I told him how much I enjoyed his talk and also added that the kids loved it. I blurted out everything about my dream to be a published author. He listened quietly and good-naturedly answered my questions while trying to chew his meal.

I knew wannabe authors like myself probably run up to him all the time asking for favors, tips and publishers’ contact details. Maybe that was the reason I did not approach him in the old gym. But when he sat by me at the table, I could not hold myself back anymore.

I knew this was a colossal nudge from the Universe. The term ‘in your face’ comes to my mind. I have seen signs before, subtle, faint, quiet whispers or visions that were sometimes hard to decode. But this time around the Universe gave me direct and perfectly clear orders. It didn’t get more direct than this. Or so I thought until later in the week another sign showed up. I was talking to a new friend I had made, who had just started reading my blog. She really liked the way I wrote and just like that out-of-the-blue suggested that I should write a book. She even mentioned an Indian author who grew famous through her blog and then ended up writing so many best-selling novels. I had heard of this author and even read her blog. I had even harbored this silly idea that if she could do it so could I.

Anyways, that’s what it always remains – a silly idea. I might get all fired up to write a scene here or a scene there or research a few publishers. Or follow an author’s blog as he tracks his word count and daily writing process. But soon enough the fire dies out and my enthusiasm flags. I just felt like I did not have the juice to see this thing to the finish.

The very next day, the Universe deciding that it was not done with me, but definitely done with my excuses, set-up this chat session with my cousin S. She is an aspiring writer between jobs, mulling about her future. Coincidence you say? I think not!

She said to me – I spoke to my cousin yesterday and he told me to write a book. I gasped at the impossibility of what I was reading. Those of you who were with me from the beginning know that I wrote my first ever blog entry after talking to my cousin. He asked me to write and some force outside of me took possession of me and before I knew it I had written and published a note on Facebook. In two months I had my own blog and three years later I still have so much to say – something I had never imagined possible!

Three years later the Universe wanted to remind me of that leap of faith, to get out of my own way and just do it. Just write and see where it takes you. Don’t worry about selling the book even before you type it up.

Paul Owen Lewis said to me – if you are looking to make money or become famous, don’t do it! For me it is more than that. It is about reaching out and touching someone else. It is about sharing life’s ups and downs and knowing you are not alone. So I’m going to do it and I know I am not alone because my cousin and every one of you reading this will be cheering me on much like you did ever since I started my blog. And for you – yes you! I am very grateful.

 

 

 

Guest Blog: 26/11 by Dinesh Damodaran

I wasn’t in Mumbai at the time of the attacks. I did however happen to visit the home of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed in the operation, to offer my condolences. I wrote this verse after that visit. I never knew the Major personally, but there was a profound sadness in me after speaking to his father and some of his OTA / NDA batch mates.

The pain doesn’t diminish every time I reminisce
about the day I met the parents of a son who perished,
enlisted to protect & serve, deserved
to be decorated, not separated from those he loved,
or to die by the gun of a terrorist scum,
The courageous Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan

I entered a home plunged in grief, shattered belief
TV hummed in the living room, channels playing footage of the siege
Relatives debated on what-ifs and what may have been
Father stood in the hall, hands folded
In the bedroom the mother wept on a relative’s shoulder,
distraught at thoughts of her son aged 31 who wouldn’t grow older
Not consoled by whatever they told her, forever wounded for being
the mother of a martyred soldier.

I stood paralyzed, tongue-tied
I had to really control myself
or I would’ve cried
Mustered courage to walk up to the Major’s dad and say
“Excuse me sir, I’m sorry for your loss today.”
“Don’t be. He died serving his country.”
“Are you a Friend of my son?’ he asks
“No sir, I’m just a citizen.”
Took leave, headed home,
Thinking back of how Mumbai
turned into a war zone

A date that’s etched
in my mind’s slate
26 November 2008 –
the day people of Mumbai
became terrorist bait.
Attacks came late in the p.m.
innocent lives left to fate,
in the capital of the MH State.

The Other Side of Shiva…

Blue and pink. Fairies, princesses, ballet and gymnastics. Legos, pirates, superheroes, cars and trains. Even before they are born, our babies have their whole lives planned out – what color their rooms will be, what clothes they will wear, what toys they will play with and preferred activities and games. We put our babies in neat little boxes painted blue or pink and label them boy or girl. When they try to crawl out of the box and get into the other one we push them back into the box we think they should be in. Think about it. Do we truly honor our children and see them as unique marvels of creation? Nope. We thrust our preconceived sexist ideologies on them.

Try dressing your baby in blue even if she is a girl and take her out for a stroll. I did that! Everyone went on about what a beautiful baby boy I had. Keep your girl’s hair short and again she gets mistaken for a boy. Once in school, girls with short hair get bullied for keeping their locks cropped. When boys grow their hair long it is cool – except in India. Schools out there don’t like boys with long hair. I’ve heard that they send some of them with their hair tied up in rubber bands just to make a point.

I recently dug up some old tapes with footage of my kids as toddlers. My son was walking around with a pink baby doll and kept calling it “baby”. As much as I encouraged him to play dolls with his sister, somewhere along the way he got the message that dolls are girly. It makes me sad to see my kids drift apart and do their own thing when at one time they used to play together for hours.

But this kind of bias runs deeper than just the color pink or dolls. It is like a subliminal undercurrent that sometimes catches us by surprise. Like the time when I was talking to my kids about growing up and having families of their own. My daughter who decided pretty early in her life that she wants to be a doctor asked me, ” Ma, who will take care of my kids if I go to work?”. It never occurred to her that her future husband shared the responsibility of raising the kids. I was stumped by her question and instead of telling her that raising kids was not solely a woman’s job, I offered to babysit while she worked!

While women have been excluded from boxes labelled ” A Man’s Job”, even if they were worthy and competent, men seldom crawled into boxes that had roles specifically for women. Remember Ben Stiller who played the male nurse in “Meet the Parents”? He was constantly ridiculed for his career choice. In my own life I theoretically believed that I (being a foodie and all) would love being married to a chef. In real life I turned down an alliance from a chef who worked in a five star rated hotel. So somewhere deep in my psyche I felt women needed to do all the cooking, maybe?

Back in my grandmother’s days women were not allowed in the kitchen because they had male cooks. My great grandmother who shares my name must be tut-tutting – two generations down the line her infamous great granddaughter has surrendered to the patriarchal system.

Born in the 70s I must have imbibed some of the energy from the Women’s movement. I grew up with a brother and we got treated differently, especially in our youth. He got to stay out late, go to clubs and discos and New Year’s eve parties, while I had to stay home. Anytime this happened,  I would raise a red flag and rant and rave (till I was blue) about discrimination of the girl child and women’s rights. My parents married me off young lest I go rogue.

After I got married my husband and I took on traditional roles – he worked and I stayed home and cared for the kids. I didn’t mind it at first but over the years I felt like I was taking on more and more. I was resentful and constantly nagged him about doing more around the house. Fortunately we both realized that our relationship is constantly growing and changing and that to make it successful one needs to adapt. Now I get more help from my husband and sometimes I don’t even have to ask.

Things are far from equal when we compare the two genders but in an ideal world we’d be equally balanced. There is a story in Hindu scriptures of a time when the mother of the universe playfully closed the eyes of Shiva. The entire cosmos was shrouded in darkness and all living beings suffered and perished. When the mother removed her hands, Shiva chided her and pointed out the destruction that she had caused. It broke her heart to see the suffering that she had inadvertently inflicted on her children. She set off to do penance and obtain Shiva’s forgiveness. At the end of her severe penance, Shiva and the mother merged as one so they would never be separate. The story is symbolic of the oneness of the male and the female aspects of the universe but we find it hard to picture that as humans. So the result of the merging of the mother and father of the universe is depicted as below. All we can do is hope for a time when we would honor the male and female aspects of ourselves instead of suppressing one or the other. For one cannot flourish without the other and they are inseparable.

Tried and Tested Steps to Change

So the new year is here and you’ve written your resolutions and sworn to stick by them only to find yourself stuck. Stuck with the same old, same old. Many of you started making changes and then found that your enthusiasm fizzled out and some of you haven’t found enough strength to take that first step. Whatever your predicament, the following steps will ease you through the process of change. They have been tried and tested by yours truly.

Taking that first step

So now you have made up your mind to change but you have a big problem. Every cell in your body has turned to lead and it seems impossible to overcome the heaviness. It’s hard to take that first step. You want to just give in to the heaviness and slump down in a heap on the floor. It’s too hard or too scary to change. Fight it! Muster all your strength and make that all important first step.

Do it as long as it takes to form a habit

You took charge and started making changes but somewhere along the way life and its complexities got the better of you and slowly but surely you went back to the old ways. It takes time to form a good habit or make a positive change in your life. If you do it every single day for a month you end up making it a habit. Consistency is the key to success. Make time for what is important to you every single day and victory will be yours. Now you own the new behavior and you can work it like a pro.

Make a small change

Don’t try to change everything at once. It took years to get into the mess you are in so it will take time and a lot of WORK to get out of it. Don’t be discouraged. Take that first step and make a small change – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. It will have a ripple effect and before you know it you are in a completely different place in your life.

Don’t listen to that negative little voice in your head

Your worst enemy is your mind especially if it is constantly playing negative events and saying negative things about you. You say you want to change and it says you can’t. Shut the voice out for long enough and it won’t have any power over you.

Be your own cheerleader

If you can get that little voice to cheer you on, you will be unstoppable. Replace all the negative mind chatter with positive stuff. Keep repeating it like a mantra and soon your mind will catch on. Fake it till you make it baby!

Be strong in the face of opposition

Not only do you have to deal with that inner voice in your head (like that isn’t enough!) but you also have to deal with the voices of your loved ones. They are guaranteed to react adversely every time you try to change something in your life. It’s just a test. They (or their ego) wants to figure out if you really want to do this because it means they cannot continue behaving the same way. They feel threatened. Ultimately your change will transform those around you. So they better co-operate or bail out.

Remember your victories

This is important when you are afraid to take the next step. Remember how far you have come and step boldly to face the next challenge you have decided to take on. Usually what is most scary to change is the one thing you will really benefit from. It is your most important lesson. Once you cross that hurdle, all else will be easy.

Persistence

If something doesn’t work or doesn’t give you the desired result try something different. But don’t give up. Persistence has its rewards.

The buddy system

This works if you find it hard to motivate yourself or are not clear on what steps to take to reach your goals. Friends help you work through your fears and insecurities and also help put things in perspective. It goes without saying that it is fun to have someone share your journey with you. When you are slacking they will give you the much needed push to get up and get going.

A word of caution before you embark on this glorious and extremely fulfilling quest. Don’t try to fix your spouse, your boss, your mother or your kids. I guarantee you that you will fail and end up right where you started. Your job is you and that in itself is a daunting task. Be clear about your motives for change. Do it for yourself and know what you want and why you want it. Doing it for others only gets you so far, doing it for yourself is what keeps you flying high.

 

 

 

 

The Rose that Couldn’t Bloom

     rose

  In our small balcony we have several flowering plants. Some have been with us for years and others we have collected during our travels and here in Florida. Amongst them is a rose plant that blooms bountifully, yielding sometimes 15 blossoms. Cold weather in my part of the world has stymied this proliferous plant. It has one lone rose bud and knowing how tender they can be I half expected it to shrivel up and die. Not this bud! It stands there stolidly pointing its head up.

The bud seems to be saying – I’ll be patient for as long as it takes. I will fulfil my purpose as a bud. I will blossom one day to reveal the deepest and most beautiful part of me. So every morning I wake up and look outside to see the bud as it was – big and rosy, waiting to burst into bloom. I don’t want to rush it. I don’t want to push it. I know that could have a disastrous effect. So I wait with it.

I remember going to a temple once and getting a lotus bud. It is a sacred symbol in many religions and spiritual practices. So I hold onto it reverently until I get home. I put it in a tall vase filled with water. I watch it every day, waiting for it to open up. But it simply refuses to bloom. Me in my impatience (so characteristic of youth) tried to pry it open. I pull the petals apart but the result is not pretty. It ended up being neither a bud nor a flower. I discard it with a heavy heart.

When I look at my brave little rose bud outside, I marvel at its quiet strength. I would wish that kind of strength on my former self. The young 20 something, full of potential and raring to go only to be stalled by less than optimum circumstances.  Circumstances over which I had no control whatsoever. But for which I took all the blame. Unlike the rose I felt crushed, defeated and hung my head in shame. I even forgot that inside of me was this radiance that would never dim. Unlike the rose I forgot to put on a brave face, stand tall and wait it out until the heavens smiled down on me.

So valiant bud I bow to thee. Ever so silently you have shown me a lesson worthy of emulation. As things get tough as they are wont to, let me remember you, your graceful beauty and strength to stand up against all odds and triumph. I see today that you have bloomed and fulfilled your destiny as a perfect flower in perfect weather.