Punctuate Life

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A Place to Call Home…

Where is this elusive place called home? It seems like I’ve been searching for it all my life. Growing up, I had two homes. I spent the early part of my childhood with my grandma, missing the company of my brother and hoping to live with my parents. My teenage years I spent with my parents and for the most part it felt like home. But I always knew I couldn’t live there forever. Marriage loomed large and I couldn’t shake off the uncertainty that came with it. Would I still live in Chennai or would I move to a different city in India? Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d move to another country. A country so far away that you had to take two planes and travel across many time zones to get there!

That’s when the sickness began. This homesickness. But I think it was always there. This feeling of not belonging and wanting to be somewhere else. In the hope that ‘somewhere else’ would fill the gaping hole in my heart. But it never did. Some people can make a home anywhere and be happy anywhere. I do envy them. One friend said to me, “Where ever I am is home.” Wish I could say that!

Sometimes I think this whole alien conspiracy theory is true. Maybe I’m actually an alien from another planet who got left behind during a mission. They must have scrambled my memory because I have no idea who I am! There are days when people and the world makes no sense to me. I’m completely spaced out so to speak.

Then again maybe I have a memory of another lifetime when things were simple. When people mattered more than things or money. When mother earth was not taken for granted and everyone shared her bountiful resources. Maybe that’s the thing I’m missing. Maybe home no longer feels like home – a safe haven where you can be yourself and nurture yourself.  Everything seems to have changed since I last visited. Much like the city I grew up in – Chennai. Every time I go there something has changed – new buildings, 10,000 new cars, people everywhere. So much so that the very vibe of the city has changed and it doesn’t feel like the place I grew up.

Going home, for me,  is just a matter of booking tickets and boarding the right plane. Many others face the grim reality of never being able to go home or fearing for their safety when they travel to their homeland. One friend booked her tickets two weeks prior to the turmoil that erupted in her country. Now she fears for her family and would lose a lot of money if she cancels her tickets. My heart goes out to her. She just wants what I want – to spend the holidays with her family. I do hope and pray she can make it there safely and back.

For us going to India involves tackling visa issues, traffic, mosquitoes and the heat (in the summer). Our lives are not threatened nor our freedoms compromised. I did call this place home but over the years all the changes in me and in India make it feel less like home. The sad truth is no other place I’ve lived in feels even close to what Chennai felt like.

When I close my eyes and let my imagination fly, I can see that place. That place I would delight in calling home. The land is green. The people are smiling. Food is abundant. The smell of fresh earth mingles with the aroma of fresh vegetables stewing on a stove top. Children laugh and play. People come together and celebrate life everyday. They share and love and grow. Learn and teach. Worry and fear are alien emotions. Lack and disease, unheard of. Maybe I’m dreaming of Utopia. Maybe Utopia is the home I’m yearning for. And my quest continues…


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Don’t Forget to Count Your Blessings

Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done… I remember singing this song in school and never really paying attention to the words and the powerful truth hidden in them. The power of gratitude was something alien to me, since I spent most of my life taking things for granted and whining about the things I didn’t have.

It’s easy to take things for granted, even things you really struggled to bring into your life (if you are not careful).  Just happened to me a few weeks ago. Remember it took me a long long time to get my driver’s license and how thankful I was for it? It has only been two years and I have shamelessly forgotten the time, effort and emotional trauma that went into getting one. It has been such a gift. A gift of independence. A gift of confidence. A gift of convenience. I get a taste of what it is like to not be able to drive every time I go to India. God am I thankful for my driving privileges!

Sometimes when I crib about all the work I have to do around the house, I forget all the work my husband does. Like paying the bills, keeping the cars (even the one I drive) in top condition, buying groceries and doing dishes when I’m sick or the kids are sick and I have my hands full. Thank you God for a loving and caring spouse who has got my back 24/7.

This week had me battling a sore throat and hacking cough. I do take my good health for granted and this was a reminder to take better care of myself. Thank you God for 51 weeks of good health and thank you for my wonderful neighbor who hastened to send hot rasam to soothe my throat and warm my heart.

I have been blogging for nearly a year now and I remember how happy and grateful I was for the blog. And I’ve also seen that feeling slowly fade away. It’s being replaced by a feeling of everyday mundaneness. And so it is with everything that you hold precious in your heart but don’t take the time to appreciate. So thank you God for my blog and all my readers who remind me of how human I am. It feels like I am surrounded by their love and support at all times. It is a feeling second to none and for that I am deeply grateful.

Before I put my pen down and head off to sleep (which I have no trouble with – Thank God!) I have to thank God for my beautiful children. They remind me of the importance of play and the simple joys of life. Their innocence and love keeps my heart alive and open. Thank you God for my children, my two bundles of joy. Thank you God for my wonderful friends who reach out to me when I most need them even if they are miles away. Thank you God for my family. Thank you God for the many blessings yet to come…I’m done and now it’s your turn to go. Count your blessings. Name them.

And once you count and name your blessings be sure to let all the people who are on that list know that you love them and are deeply grateful for them in your life. Silent gratitude serves no purpose. Shout it out from the mountain tops if you must…you sure will light up someone’s day!

May gratitude fill the hearts of all my readers and open your lives to many more miracles of love and grace – God bless everyone!


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Peace Anyone?

The World cries War! War! War! and my tiny heart weeps and cries for Peace. Peace and brotherhood beyond the confines of nations, religions and race. Isn’t it high time? Do we want the 21st century to be named the Darkest Ages Ever? Seriously! Have we progressed? Look back at history and you see the same pattern. Yes we had kings and queens and dictators but they all did the same thing. Religious persecution. Political supremacy. The same old nonsense.

And we are at it again. Our democracies are a joke…leaders go for war even when the people are turning out in huge numbers for peace rallies. Are we truly civilized? Does any other species hunt down and kill its own kind? Or even better, call the murderers ‘heroes’ and shower them with medals. Sometimes I think I’m part of a minority that believes all life is sacred and no one has the right to kill! But the people in power and the misguided media loves breeding intolerance. Why do you think something as personal as religion and spirituality is a topic for debate?

Then again my ‘righteous’ anger serves no purpose and my intention is not to set you afire. My intention is to help you hold onto peace amidst all the turmoil. To not get pulled into the drama and lies. Killing cannot be justified. Period! Let judgement be left to the higher ups and I don’t mean mortals! We are incompetent as human beings to judge our brothers or sisters.

A few years ago I wrote about the Peace Pilgrim – a woman who had dedicated her life to peace. Much like Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi did not resort to violence when the British did. The freedom he won for India did not involve any killing or blood shed. That is the power of peace. It’s like how in the Tao, Lao Tzu talks about water and how it is soft and weak and yet it has the power to carve canyons and erode rocks. Both Gandhi and Peace had inner peace and believed that if a majority of us choose peace, then violence will have to burn out because there wouldn’t be anyone to fuel it. When you react to violence with violence, you multiply it, make it stronger and it turns into a monster that consumes all. Not only the unjust and evil but also the righteous and good.

If you are married or in a relationship you know what I mean. If your partner is in a bad mood and says something they don’t really mean it’s better not to react or the whole thing blows out of proportion and before you know it you are serving your spouse divorce papers! Well, we all learn it the hard way. After years of tears, heartache and harsh words both me and my husband know when to bite our tongues and when to fight our battles. And in a our own small way we preserve the peace and our marriage!

If God is love and God is peace, how can there be room for war, hatred and strife? If God were this judgemental and wrathful he would have sent a million lightning bolts to strike all of us every time we did something wrong! Chances are He wouldn’t have missed and humans would be an endangered species!

Remember God or the forces of good (if you prefer) are with you as far as your attempts to find common ground, forgive and compromise, prevail. The moment you think you are better than ‘them’ and set out to defeat and destroy your opponent, God has left your heart and something else has taken over. And however much you justify your actions you are not coming from a place of love, a place of peace and definitely not from that place in God.

You and I sit in our living rooms and watch the madness unfold on television. Sometimes it’s easy to feel totally removed from what is happening in the world. But know this. Peace is cumulative. If you find peace in your heart and if you make peace with all the people who have wronged you, YOU are making a HUGE contribution to peace. The world needs every tiny heart that cries peace to join in the chorus. We will be heard eventually. But I need you to spread the word and embrace peace in your life everyday. Soon our deafening cries will be heard and truth & peace will definitely triumph. This insanity has gone on far too long. Enough is enough. Rise and shine on all you peace mongers!


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Love Never Dies…

Sandy hit last week and took many people with it. The pictures of the damage were heart wrenching. One cold December not too long ago we woke up freezing. A freak ice storm had left our town without power. We had to live in a friend’s place and then a hotel for five days until the power was restored. We did not lose our home or our belongings and none of us were hurt. But just being without a home for a few days is enough to make you feel displaced and uncomfortable. Imagine the plight of millions who not only lost power but also their homes and some even their loved ones. This week an earthquake in Guatemala killed many people and caused severe damage. I couldn’t shake off the sadness and then before I could pick myself up, I was dealt another blow.

My former colleague passed away. He is two years older to me and leaves behind a wife, twin toddler boys and a newborn. I spoke to his wife this week and I could feel her pain. I bit my lip and fought back the tears as I spoke to her. Just a couple of weeks ago I started writing the story of my grandma and this is how I started – right on the day my grandpa died, leaving my 36 year old grandma a widow with no work experience, no college degree and a little money. My Dad had just started college. When I wrote it was from my grandma’s perspective and in her voice. I almost cried when I spoke to my colleague’s wife because the feelings associated with losing one’s spouse were fresh in my psyche.

The feeling of loss is universal. It’s something no mortal can escape. It doesn’t matter if it’s your grandma. grandpa, mother, father, spouse, sibling, friend or child. It just leaves a huge void. One that all the love in the world cannot fill. All the people in the world cannot fill it. You feel orphaned, abandoned and forced to deal with life without your loved one. It’s not fair! How can you go on?

A dark mood swept over me this week and even though I planned to write this post, a part of me was saying – What are words? Just empty symbols. How can I make the pain go away? I can’t. No one will believe me when I say I feel you. I’ve been there. We become one in our experience of pain, grief and loss in very much the same way we become one in love, happiness and prosperity. There is a saying that goes – when you laugh the world laughs with you and when you cry you cry alone. I’m not so sure about that one. Here is my experience taken from an older post Daring and Different…My Dadima…

I was foolish to think she had touched but one life – mine. When people came to me with stories of her kindness and love, I cried copious tears. It felt like their pain was my pain. We had all lost someone special. Someone who thought we were special and treated us like royalty.

The pain you feel is real. No one can replace him/her. But time does heal and love will find a way to make you ache less. The loss of my grandma was not easy to deal with. I grew up in her shadow (or should I say aura?) I was lucky that I got to be with her when she passed away (braving winter storms, cancelled flights and long stop-overs). But still I felt guilty for the time I spent away from her. I could never get that back – it was gone and she was gone. I cried alone when no one was watching. Every birthday and holiday I would miss her terribly and cry. Every February (that is the month she passed away)  I would plunge into depression. It took me two years to make peace with her passing. I cannot give you a timeline for grieving or a date to move on. It will take time, it will take help and it will take a lot of prayer.

I keep going back to my grandma because I think she dealt with death in the right way. She never feared it and was never in awe of it. She just accepted it. She did however lose faith in God and Astrology after her husband was whisked away from her far too soon. Astrologers had predicted that the couple would live a long, happy life. And here she was 36 and widowed and with no clue how to carry on. She did however have a strong will to overcome the odds. She also had this – a strong connection with my grandpa even though he was not physically present. She often talked about dreaming about him and telling him her problems. Looking back at her life I can tell she most certainly got help from the other side. She always had enough money to take care of herself and pay the huge hospital bills. She always had helpful people and synchronistic things kept happening to her.

After her passing I felt her presence. Many things I had wanted in the past, came to me more easily. Like getting  a driver’s license, moving to a warmer place, even making friends. You say it’s a coincidence. I say it’s her putting in a word for me up there. In each case I have received signs that she has intervened on my behalf to bring me things in this mortal plane to make me happy.

Some of you may be reading this and not really understanding the full purport of my words. I’m saying that our souls never die and are not limited by the body. We go on forever. We are infinite beings. You are never alone even if you do not realize it. It’s like having air to breathe – you don’t think about it. There is more to life than death. Death is not the end. It is the beginning of another journey. We get a glimpse of this world when we sleep. In sleep we don’t feel our bodies, don’t remember the past and are blissful. We also travel to other magical places in what we call dreams.  A soul does the same when it leaves its body.  Even though we feel they are gone, they are free than ever before and can be with us if we want them to – in the most gentle and nonthreatening way. Supporting us and loving us even more than they could when they were alive and amongst us.


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The Power of Prayer

I started jotting down my prayers in a journal sometime in early July this year. I was intrigued by the maid Aibileen in “The Help” who wrote down all her prayers in a prayer book. Everyone thought her prayers worked. I read about the same thing in “Write it Down, Make it Happen”. So I finally started writing down my prayers. It started off as a gratitude journal but soon I found myself asking for many things on behalf of my friends and family. The cool thing about a prayer/ gratitude journal is that it helps you keep track. Keep track of your mental state and petty needs from yesterday. When I go back and read the prayers it reminds me of the person I was and how my needs have changed and how I have changed. And also how many of my needs have been met and prayers answered!

Yes prayers do get answered. Every prayer you utter is heard. Buddhists believe that the Goddess Kwan Yin hears the cries/prayers of every soul that is suffering. She is a Bodhisattva but instead of detaching herself from the world, out of infinte compassion, decided to be amongst us and alleviate suffering. She is like  a Mother Mary from the East. It really doesn’t matter who you address your prayers to. It’s just important that you pray. Even if all your prayers are answered, you could most definitely pray for the millions of souls who and lost and suffering.

A friend of mine told me how she feared for the safety of her kids. I remember being that person. Always afraid. Always overprotective and I remember how it felt. Somewhere along the way I had the good sense to replace my fear with prayer. I think it was when I started driving (one of my worst fears in the past) and I was paralyzed by the fear that I would crash the car and injure myself and my loved ones. I couldn’t go past 5 m.p.h. and the instructor joked about ‘granny’ being faster than me.

It has reached a point where I had to face my fear. Where I had to simply let go and believe that by some miracle I would fly instead of falling hard on my face. So I prayed. Please help me. Please help me drive safely. It became a habit and now I always send out a prayer every time I start the engine.

So it is with things I have no control over. When I see suffering beyond my scope to help, I pray. I have to pray because I know that the moment I stop, fear will clutch my heart and hold it captive forever. Fear that will congeal my blood and my thoughts and make me buckle down in defeat. When I pray, I look up and there is hope. Hope in something bigger than me that knows the greater order of things. That will overcome the fear and darkness that is rampant. That will light up our souls and cure all our ills. Prayer holds within it a promise of hope and redemption. A promis of help from afar. A promise of comfort. A promise of triumph. When you pray you give all your worries away to be transformed into solutions that come back to you in good time.

I will leave you with a prayer I wrote in my journal after Hurricane Sandy hit the North East.

10/30/2012

Dear God,

                  Today I would like to pray for the millions of people in the path of Hurricane Sandy, who were affected. Who lost their homes, lost power, lost their loved ones. Please console them and be with them. Give them strength and help them remember you. Bring them togther so they can help eachother. We have friends in these States – please keep them safe and keep all families safe. Let people evacuate from their homes and not get trapped as the flood waters rise. Please help the emergency workers who are trying to help ease the pain and suffering of these people. Please surround them with your love and your angels. Please bring light to the darkness. Please help ease their pain. Please help me help in whichever way I can.

Infinite love and gratitude,

Damayanti