Punctuate Life

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Let’s Help ‘The Help’

Summer vacation! I was so excited that school was out and the kids were home. Not anymore. I wish they would go back to school. Or a maid would drop down from the heavens into my lap – or even better, into the kitchen! I have been maid-free for the past 10 years. In other words I’ve been doing all the work and I’ve come to appreciate maids a lot more. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really notice them when I was younger. I remember moving into our own apartment in the early 90s. It was a nice little two bedroom apartment with running water (unlike the rented house we lived in before). The apartment was on the edge of a slum. From my parent’s bedroom window I could see my maid’s hut. She was just a year older than me and while I went to high school, she dropped out to feed her younger sisters and brother (5 in all).

She was the best maid ever. She never talked back to Mom or complained about the work. She never demanded anything. She used to be my companion when my parents weren’t home. We used to play board games and cards. But things looked peachy only on the surface. And I was painfully aware of that. I had a future – higher education, career, wealth etc. while she was doomed to be a maid because that was all she knew. All because she was born poor? But it didn’t mean she had to live poor and die poor. My family made sure she didn’t go hungry even for a day but beyond that we didn’t know how to help her. Or we didn’t believe we had the power to help her.

My grandma had young girls come and work for her. They used to leave their villages and come stay in our house. They not only gave up their families and hometowns but also any grandiose dreams of being something other than what their moms had ever been. My grandma treated them well and I befriended them and tried to teach them English. All they wanted to know was how to sign their names in English. ABCs are not for me – they all said. They knew that my grandma would get them married off to a decent man and that was fine with them.

So what do we do? I was talking to my Dad the other day and he told me about our neighbors in Chennai who put their maid through college. She worked for them during the day and attended evening college and graduated. Now if enough of us did that we could really make a difference. If you are reading this then you have the means to help at least one person. Educate them, educate their kids, teach them some skill that will help them move up. Whenever I go to India I’m amazed by the amount of work these maids do. All day they clean, wash, sweep and mop. At their home. At job number 1. At job number 2. And job number 3 maybe! I know how tough it is to do all the work around the house and it’s tougher without a maid. If I’m out all day with the kids, the plates pile up, dinner doesn’t cook itself and the trash stays put. So be grateful if you have a maid and bite your tongue when you feel like saying something nasty when she turns up at noon. After all she is human and given a chance she would gladly swap places with you.

A few weeks back I read the book ‘The Help” and also watched the movie. One scene from the movie really moved me. It’s the charity ball, set up by the ladies to collect money for orphans in Africa. The very same ladies who refuse to lend money to their maids or treat them as fellow human beings. That’s how the world works these days. We say we want to feed the world and help the poor. But we forget to feed the beggar who lives right around the corner or check on the old neighbor who lives all by herself. We forget to start right at home with the people that come into our lives. Life gives us many opportunities to help but we are always looking for something bigger. There is no glory in helping your maid but if you sponsor UNICEF you can be really proud!!! This kind of thinking keeps us from helping the people who really help us and impact our day to day lives. I’m not saying don’t help NGOs. Just don’t forget to help the people who fall through the cracks. Help close the gap.

I want to hear from all of you who have maids, do not have maids or aspire to have maids…

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And You Wait And You Wait And You Wait…

In this age of instant downloads and the convenience of getting everything with just the click of a mouse, we are getting increasingly impatient. Life is so much easier to navigate with the host of gadgets that have been invented since the early 1900s and yet we all complain that we don’t have time. We can’t wait for stuff to happen! We want to jump headlong into situations even when we are not ready. Don’t get me wrong. Patience is not to be confused with passiveness. There is a time to sow and reap and there is a time to wait for mother nature to do her thing.

I do know a thing or two about patience. I had to wait 8 years to get my license, after being denied even a measly permit. I had to wait 9 years to get a job. And 10 years to finally find a sense of purpose and finally be happy with ‘me’. And ‘me’ was never the patient type to start with. I had to have everything ‘now’ or all hell would break loose. If I was hungry I wanted the food ‘now’. If I was sleepy I would just drop down and sleep. It was like everything revolved around needy little me.

I learnt my first lesson in patience when pregnant with my first child. You see, you have to wait the whole 9 months to see or hold your baby. You don’t want to rush it and harm the baby in the process. So I waited and waited and she finally arrived and brought with her lesson 2 of patience. A baby’s cry takes precedence over other mundane things like cooking, cleaning, showering, changing clothes stained with spit up and even sleeping! They simply have to wait while you attend to your wailing baby. She was like my earlier avatar – needy little ‘me’. By the time baby number 2 arrived I was on my knees begging for mercy. No more lessons in patience for me please!

Gardening teaches you a thing or two about patience. You sow your seeds and keep watering the soil even when you don’t see any seedlings. You know the seeds are in there because you put them there. If you continue watering them (given that you are patient enough to do that) they will eventually sprout and poke their tiny heads through the soil. Now imagine all your wishes are seeds you plant in the universe, you can’t be like me and say you want it now! You have to be like the gardener who keeps nurturing that seed till it blossoms and manifests your heart’s desire. You can’t pull the petals of a bud open, you will ruin the flower. You have to let it take its time to blossom.

I remember when we had science projects at school, we often used mustard seeds to create ‘paddy fields’ in our dioramas. Why mustard seeds? Because they sprout very quickly. In just 2 days you’d have lush green miniature paddy fields. Something that tiny has the power to sprout and grow if the right conditions are provided. So have the faith of a mustard seed and you can manifest things out of thin air! I think faith and patience go hand in hand. It’s my faith that the universe will deliver that keeps me from throwing in the towel too soon.

If the things you want don’t turn up then you need to take a closer look at the gardener (that’s YOU) . Have you provided the right conditions for your seed to sprout and flourish or are you choking it with negativity? Weed out the negativity and see what happens.

Be patient but not passive. If you need to take action do so with courage and one-pointed focus.

I know people who waited 10 years for a baby or 6 years for the right man to show up and they all think it was worth the wait. Don’t ever settle for second best or compromise on your dreams and aspirations, just because they don’t show up when you want them to. Divine timing is always perfect and God is the world’s best gardener. All good things come to those who wait.

Who or what has tested your patience in the past? What arrived in your life after years of waiting and was totally worth it? Share it now!



Word Power

Thanks to all the wonderful words of encouragement and appreciation that you have been showering on me, I’ve been floating around with my feet six feet off the ground.  And just the other day I met my first critic who brought me crashing down to terra firma. So picture this. A room full of people who think my writing is ‘soulful’ and this one person who refuses to join the party. So instead of ignoring this person and being the life of my party, I dwell on the person just outside the door and their hurtful words.

Did your Mama ever say to you – if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I think Mama was right after all. Words wield a great deal of power. The power to build and destroy. You see, ever word has its own vibration which can affect the physiology of a human being either positively or negatively. Positive thinking alone aint gonna get you anywhere. It has to spill over to your words and actions. Pay attention to your words. Do they match your thoughts, your dreams and the seeds of change you want to sow? Or are they polar opposites?  For instance, if you keep thinking about wealth but you complain to everyone about the huge bills you have to pay, guess what? You will always be one step away from acquiring wealth. If you want to improve your health, then talk about how great you feel. Or if you are recovering from some illness, use positive words to describe your progress.

M’s sister wanted to become a doctor and she worked very hard for the medical entrance exams. But on the eve of every exam she would develop a high fever and it would affect her performance. Guess what she was saying? She kept saying to everyone – I want medicine (as in I want ‘to do’ medicine or ‘study’ medicine). She was missing some important words there. So the universe gave her just what she asked for – medicine or fever medication to be precise! Every exam she was popping pills. So there you have it. Be very careful when you are asking for something. Don’t skimp on the words or the details. Be as descriptive as possible.

Something similar happened to me. I kept saying I want to go to Florida (when I was still living in Boston). Ideally, summer would have been a good time to visit Florida. But that summer we went to our usual haunt in the Berkshires. We stopped at a gift shop to purchase a magnet, a souvenir. When we got back I put the magnet on the refrigerator and gasped. The magnet had the words Florida, Massachusetts on it. My wish was granted. I had visited Florida. But not the Florida I had in mind. The magnet is still on my fridge and is a constant reminder to choose my words carefully!

For many years I envied people with the gift of the gab. How they could break the ice and have a conversation with a total stranger, was beyond my understanding. I loved their chatty, friendly nature and wished I could be one of them. Now I’m pretty happy with the way I am. Many a time I have witnessed loquacious people tie themselves in knots by saying all the wrong things because they just can’t help it. It’s like they have to announce every thought that passes through their head. There is no pausing, no gauging the impact, no stepping into another person’s shoes. I was that way as a kid and I paid the price. I made up mean nicknames for some relatives, which they remember to this day. I told people exactly what I thought about them. I preferred brutal honesty to kindness and compassion.

Fortunately, life has a way of giving you a taste of your own medicine. It sent me people as obnoxious as myself, people who mirrored my flaws, who helped me see how hurtful my words could be. It’s a hard habit to break but I slowly stopped the free flow of words from my head to my tongue. I put a dam and a Quality Control Inspector somewhere midway. It works ninety percent of the time. But when there is a great deluge of emotion, the words break through the dam, onto the ears of my unsuspecting victim. Still working on my storm water drains!

Although the expression take back your words exists, in reality you can never take back your words or the impact they have on others. So choose them carefully and try to refrain from verbal diarrhea.


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Collective Consciousness

I was at a basketball game in February this year. Orlando Magic vs Atlanta Hawks. To get to the part I want to talk about I have to cut to the fourth quarter of the game (sorry guys!) Magic was trailing by two points. The Amway Center was full of Magic fans and they really wanted them to win. I was one of them. We rose in unison, chanting at a feverish pitch, the energy filling the stadium, pushing the players and the ball to do their bidding. A two-pointer! The crowd went wild. The clock was ticking. Just seconds to go before the end of the fourth quarter. Atlanta scores. The crowd roared and we continued to chant in unison – one voice, one soul, one vision! Magic scored again and the timer beeped indicating the end of the fourth quarter. I’m standing, my hands raised, screaming ecstatically. Even my usually reticent husband is screaming, thumping my kids and giving high fives. What just happened? Ever been to a concert or game? Then you would know that the fans exude so much energy that the air is electric and charged. So much so that spontaneous combustion is possible! To me the collective energy was palpable.  Almost like a force driving the players to tie the game. If the game had resumed immediately, the energy that hung around the room would have propelled Magic to win. But as the seconds slipped by and the game went into 5 minutes of overtime, I could sense the energy dissipating, people disengaging from the whole, the collective if you will.

The game resumed but the energy had shifted, the audience had lost it’s one-pointed focus and I could taste the disappointment, feel it in the air. Atlanta scored. Orlando missed twice and the timer went off. Magic lost and I knew they would even before it happened.

The mind when applied properly is a very powerful device. So several minds working together on a common goal are unstoppable. If only the people in the basketball stadium knew that. Enough of them. Just to tip the scales to obtain a win for Magic. Imagine what we can do right here, right now. Why work alone when you can improve your chances of success by working together. Many of us want the same things – a job, a partner, inner peace, money – may be not in that exact same order. But if a buddy can help you stick to an exercise routine, he/she sure can partner with you to get something you both want. So why not make the journey together, why not help each other along the way. Why go alone, get disappointed and give up just when the goal is within your reach. There is so much we can change just by working together. In our lives, in the lives of several people we haven’t even met and even life here on earth. So get cracking and get involved. No more standing in the bylines. Come on out to the forefront and focus your collective energy for the highest good of all. Find something worthy of your attention.

How will you (and your buddies) apply the power of collective consciousness today? Please share below…