Monday, 25 January 2010

My experiments with Life- Gandhian Living

We have all heard/read about the most popular Gandhian principle- See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.

I tried to find out how relevant this principle is, 60 years after Gandhi's time. Let's see.

See no evil- Unfortunately, we live in a society where evil runs the show. No sooner than you open the newspaper/news web sites, evil starts pouring into your life. Terrorists scheming to blow up planes, Strong nations bombing weaker ones to assert themselves as superpowers. You reach your workplace and you see people trying to step over one another to get to the top, by fair means or foul. You get the picture.

Simply closing your eyes or in the metaphorical sense, ignoring or shutting the evil out won't help. That would be 'escapist' thinking. It will let you sleep better, but it won't change the reality of the world we live in.

So, is this principle no longer valid? - Gandhi was way ahead of his times, his foresight is unparalleled, so we know that's not true.

Was Gandhi an escapist? No, we know better than that.

Or did he mean we must try to eliminate all evil so that we don't have to see it? Yes, he did indeed.

Did he mean we see no evil in anybody, see only good? There is your answer.

Hear no evil-We have already established, the escape route-shutting evil out is not Gandhi. So, what do we do?

Hearing doesn't just apply to others' voices, it could also apply to the ones inside you.

I say, we use our ears as filters. Absorb the good, throw out the bad, drowning out the evil voices in our heads, only listening to the good ones. We know too well, which ones are which.

Doesn't that sound good? There's Gandhi for you- making ever green rules for a better world.

Speak no evil- This one seems the most doable of the three but also the most difficult. We only have to control our own tongue. If only, that was easy. Try going without cribbing, gossiping, finding faults for one day, you will know.

Its very difficult not to have negative thoughts at all. But, we can certainly train ourselves not to say them out loud.

You just have to watch what you say for a few days, if you don't say the negative things out loud, pretty soon, you will stop thinking them.

Easier said than done. But definitely worth trying. Let's try a little experiment with life. Let's try and live by these principles, one day at a time.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

You're probably an Indian living abroad if

* Your home reeks of incense , curry leaves or masala.
* You don't go to a doctor unless it's an absolute emergency.
* You keep the smoke alarm in your house covered.
* You call all your desi friends from the mall/store if you find a good deal.
* You own a Toyota or a Honda.
* You take off your shoes before entering your house and expect others to do the same.
* You vacuum/sweep/mop everyday.
* Your favorite fast food restaurant is 'Taco Bell'.
* You use hair oil instead of styling products.
* You have the idol of an Indian god in your car.
* You stare at other Indians when you spot them at a store/mall/restaurant but don't smile or say "hello".
* You have to spell your name to everyone.
* You keep a stock of Indian medicines in your house.
* You have to visit New York City, Niagara Falls and Las Vegas during your first year in US.
* You are only friends with desi neighbors.
* You either don't have a middle name or its a really long one.
* You return at least two items every month.
* You save half of what you earn.
* You don't know any American outside of work.
* You convert the price of everything you buy into rupees in your head.
* You buy cameras, laptops and ipods for your folks back home.
* Your conversations with Americans revolve around comparison of Indian and American culture/food/traditions.
* You compare prices before you buy a $1 item.
* You have to say "no beef" to every waiter/waitress repeatedly.
* You don't take long vacations because you have to save your days off to take 4-week vacations to India.
* You have to shop for gifts for all your uncles, aunties and countless cousins back home before returning to India.
* You know all the immigration lawyers in your area.
* You clicked pictures of your first snow, first car and first house and sent them to everyone you know.
* You wait till Black friday to make all your major purchases.
* You go to the mall at midnight on Black Friday.
* You have frozen mixed vegetables sitting in your freezer at all times.
* You are very reluctant to buy second hand stuff.
* You go to the temple to make friends/for business networking.
* You always try free dessert samples at the mall no matter how full you are.

Friday, 22 January 2010

My 'Feel Good' strategies

1. Get dressed to the nines: All of us when feeling low, tend to do the exact opposite, dress lousily, often leave home in Pajamas. whenever I feel down in the dumps, I get dressed and wear something I think I look my best in. When you look good (or when you think you look good), you feel good.

2. Dump junk,Eat healthy: There is scientific evidence to prove that healthy foods like fruit, raw leafy vegetables can actually lift you spirits. But, what do we do when we need to comfort ourselves-go for a bag of chips. I do, too. Will remember to reach for a banana instead.

3. Take a long hot shower: Hot showers help circulation and my mood too. It is a great way to clear your head when in doubt.Always works like a charm.

4. Don't indulge in self-pity: We try finding comfort within ourselves when we don't find it from others.But self-pity does more harm than good. If you start thinking about the ways you have been wronged or hurt, your mind will quickly furnish a lifetime of moments of anguish.You don't want to go to that dark place. So when that tinge of self pity gets too inviting, I think of the my biggest accomplishments till date. Self-pity goes out the window..

5. Take a walk: when the going gets tough, the tough get walking.I get outdoors and just enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like watching a sunset, listening to birds and rustling of leaves in the wind. Good-old people watching helps too.

6. Talk to a long lost friend:We all have friends, with who, we kind of lost touch, but would love to reconnect if had the time. Go ahead, make that call. Or simply go online and chat with anybody who will chat with you.

7. Act like you feel on top of the world: Sing, dance, shout from the rooftops if you must, but whatever you do, don't look like the way you feel. Feelings stem from the mind and if you can control your mind and fool it into believing "all is well", your feelings will change. Its true that you act the way you feel, but the converse (you feel the way you act) holds true as well.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Life lessons my family taught me

1. Chase excellence, success will follow- I was surprised when I heard a similar dialog in the movie 3 idiots, I kept thinking, ' this writers' parents think like mine'.

2. Education is your true wealth-Something that can never be over emphasized.

3. The best revenge for cruelty,-kindness- When I was little, if some kid wouldnt treat me well or hurt me, my parents would not let me get back by treating him the same way, rather I was encouraged to be extra kind to him so he would realize his mistake and become my friend. This is a golden rule for our 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' society. And I have observed that if I refrain from paying someone back in the same coin, more often than not, people come back and apologize for their behavior, even become great friends.

4. You dont have to visit a country to learn about it when you can read about it- I was a very curious kid, used to ask my learned grandfather hundreds of questions, he would almost always point me to a book on that subject. When I bothered my mom too much, she would ask me to go read a book. During long train journeys, whenever my brother and I would have nothing better to do than eat and sleep, my parents would give us a book each and would pit us against each other in a reading competition. Those little reinforcements have made reading not only a rewarding way to get through idle hours, but a passion for me. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this passion has made me what I am today. I cant thank my parents and grandparents enough for it.

5.The tree that bears the most fruit hangs the lowest- Humility is probably the most stressed virtue in my household. There are some pretty well accomplished people in my family but they manage to keep their feet on the ground. This has always helped me put things in perspective whenever I think I have accomplished something big.

6. Things have a way of working out in the end- My dad always says, "You are a good kid, why wouldn't things work out for you?" That always brings a smile to my face, no matter how big the trouble, and even though I am not that good a kid :)

7. Don't fret the small stuff. Think-'Big picture'. All of us have a tendency to over-think little things. My family has taught me to rise above and beyond the petty, and think big. 'Is it really going to matter in the long run?' is an oft repeated question at my place.

Things people do

We all have the same kind of experiences with other people.We make the same observations about other people but keep them to ourselves thinking we are the only ones who notice. We like to believe each one of us is different but, we are alike in more ways than we know.

1. When people hear about someone praising them behind their back, that pleases them more than a lifetime of compliments delivered to their face.

2. People take pride in rising above differences like colour, ethnicity yet tend to mingle with their own kind.

3. People are ALWAYS judgemental.

4. People are too occupied, thinking what others think of them, to think about others.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Last Christmas

Last christmas was the best christmas ever as we celebrated it aboard a sunset cruise over Gulf of Mexico, starting from the southern most point in continental USA.

A week-long sojourn to Miami and the Florida keys-Oh, what a week it was!

The brilliant sun, silver sand, the sea and every imaginable shade of blue and green.

I just wanted to capture every beautiful sight and scenery in my memory forever and revisiting it in moments of despair.

It was beyond doubt the most beautiful place I had ever visited.
Miami was a delight. I usually dont enjoy visiting big cities. But the ocean, pristine beaches and those wind blown palms along the road made me forget I was in the downtown area of a bustling city.

It was quite late in the night on christmas eve that we reached our Miami hotel. But I could hear the waves in the distance and couldnt wait for the morning.

We started out towards key west the next morning.

Florida keys is a bunch of beautiful islands accessible from Miami by a narrow road aptly named 'Overseas Highway'. At most places along this 150 mile route, the road is as wide as the island itself, so its flanked by the sea on both sides.

The colour of the sea was like a spectrum starting from a light turquoise near the sand to the deepest violet at the horizon.

I was worried we were going to crash into something looking at the sights around, we just couldnt take our eyes off of the sea.

We stopped at a couple places along the highway when just couldnt keep going and miss the scene.

The water along the road was crystal clear, you could see the bottom.

Then there were long and charming bridges connecting the islands. The view from the bridges was divine.

We went straight to the cruise harbour, Key West, the last key and the southern most point of USA, and went on this sunset cruise on a clear bottomed boat. It turned out the bottom wasnt as clear as we had imagined, but it was quite an experience being able to see the coral reef from there.

We saw a beautiful sunset over the gulf horizon that seemed to set the water ablaze. Dont you just love sunsets over water?

Key West turned out to be a little disappointing, what with the stink of dead fish and crab and grimy, greyish waters but once you are a little far from the shore, cruising, that is when you can fully appreciate the beauty of the coral island.

The next day, driving back to Miami, we immersed ourselves in the beauty by the Overseas Highway once again.

Our first stop was the Bahia Honda state park and beach, voted the world's best beach a couple of times in the 90s.

The beach turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

It was the silverest of all silver sand beaches I had ever seen, in person or through any other medium.

It was cloudy so the sea was the most delightful shade of - I dont even know how to describe that colour, let me call it a very light turqoisish sea-green, almost hazel.

We also saw a couple kite boarders taking advantage of the wind and the weather. Their colourful chutes presenting an even more pleasing picture to our eyes.

We couldnt tear ourselves away from there. I felt I could spend an eternity sitting on that beach looking at the sand, the sea and the sky. all three of which by now were the same exact colour- quicksilver. It was surreal. It seemed as if I were transported to some other world and this silvery sea had some secret magical power.
But we had to move on. We stopped by the Harry Harris park next. It had a most interesting walkway. There was this lagoon of sorts created by a concrete crescent shaped walkway over big rocks running from one end of the beach to the other. It was like walking over water with the sea on one side and this small lagoon on the other.

We also saw John Penekkamp state park which is a favorite snorkeling destination because of a submerged statue creating a unique coral society wrapped around it.

But neither of us was in the mood for snorkeling, we just wanted to admire the beauty above sea level.

Next stop was Miami but it was again nightfall by the time we reached.

Next morning, we explored the world famous Miami beaches.

Biscayne state park, home of an old light house open to tourists from the top of which we saw somemore marvelous views of Miami harbour.

We walked by the harbour and enjoyed the quiet for a couple hours, the only noises were the wind and the tiny waves on rocks. It was therapeutic.

It was Virginia Key next followed by the swanky South Beach Area and the renowned Ocean Drive. It reminded me of quite a few Bollywood movies shot there.

It was a good spot for people watching if only we could get a roadside table in one of numerous cafes and restaurants. Everywhere in Miami, the ocean was a true sea-green.

I was almost sad when it was time to go back home.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Little Life

We all think about not thinking about little things, but isnt trying not to think about little things thinking about little things?

Little things are never little, its the little things that make big things big. So little things actually arent little, they are big.

Life is about little things, little things make up a big life.

Its the little things that matter the most in life and if you ever have your whole life flash in front of you in a second, little things are what you would surely see.

Life's Source Code