Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Book

Life has a method. A predictable method of teaching one about oneself. There is this book of Life that we all have to read. We all have the same author but each of us has a unique set of chapters depending on the lessons we take from the previous one. In the process we all grow. Some of us flourish and some of us don't but each of us is totally responsible for our own success in life.

Life has given me some hard knocks and over the last few years the knocks have become easier to bear. I have learned that the knocks were actually not being given to me, but were given for me. If I simply examined the event and let it lead me towards the true me I invariably opened a hidden cell within, that showed me something new about me - but I found out something even more important than that. I, the person, who only I truly know can never be changed. If I respond in a way that is inherently me then every challenge I face I can conquer and be happy about. If I respond in a way that is not authentic then the challenge begins to eat at my inner peace and joy. To realign myself I have to respond from my inner wisdom. I am often reminded that in todays world authenticity is considered 'too good to be true.' :)

The 1st 10 chapters of my book are the most important ones and I end up 'reading' them very often. Here they are.

1. I love people unconditionally. I do not expect perfection from anyone. They may stop loving me but I never will. I will not let them walk over me but I will continue to love them - maybe from a distance.

2. I trust people blindly. It is only if I have absolute proof that someone is not trustworthy do I stop trusting them. I have been told this is naive. I would rather be naive than compromise with my inherent self.

3. I believe in forgiveness wholeheartedly. I do not forgive the wrong-doing but I let go of the hurt and pain the wrong has caused me because I have no intention of giving my power away. The earlier I forgive the sooner my power comes back to me.

4. The opinion of others about me does not matter. If someone says I am being dis-honest I do not try to convince them otherwise. It is more important for me to know that I am honest than for others to maybe think so.

5. I take my responsibilities seriously. I work with the best of intentions and have no problems owning up to mistakes and correcting them as I go. I am careful to not knowingly make the same mistake twice.

6. I refrain from judging others on hearsay and conjecture. If two people tell me opposing stories of the same event I never side with one over the other - unless of course I was there. I understand the power of perspective.

7. I know that wisdom is not directly proportionate to age - it is only directly proportionate to knowledge. The more I am willing to learn the wiser I get.

8. I cannot change anyone. :) I accept people the way they are. I may attempt to share some knowledge with them but eventually one can only change oneself, no one else.

9. It is important to build a strong character with all the traits that give me the strength to carry the weight of my own ego. If ego is not to take over I must overcome fear and for that, I must have an unshakeable character that can stand up to scrutiny anytime by anyone.

10. I am continuously on a learning curve. Right now my new lesson is French. Oui. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thank you!!

5000 views so far. I will be back to write on a regular basis soon. Have to spend some time learning new things for a while first. New language, new city, new job, new friends, new life. Writing is my go to place during good times and bad and gives me the most joy and solace depending on what I need. I love sharing my writing with others and hope my readers like my word pictures. Through the silence, words creep out onto my fingers and thence onto the screen giving voice to ideas and thoughts which would otherwise most often remain hidden. Thank heavens for this medium of expression.

Take care all. Will be back soon and more often.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Homemaking!

When things and money become life’s motivation we lose touch with what makes us human. Not that we change inherently, just that a heavy veil seems to cover everything good about us, as our focus is for wealth which is inherently transient and volatile. Being wealthy materially, does bring about a sense of security; and poverty is very stressful, so material wealth is important and need not be shunned, but making it the number one priority is self destructive. When one begins to identify with money, status and things the important human qualities like kindness, fairness, inclusiveness are measured through a mind calibrated to count numbers. We stop valuing intangibles and devalue love and care in the process. 

A wife who puts all her energy and time into making a home for her ‘successful’ husband is at best someone to be carried as a burden or at worst a chattel who is dispensable. It is only when she is thrown away that her true value is appreciated, by which time she has already been destroyed. The pain this half of the partnership feels cannot be appreciated because it is invisible in eyes that can only see  beauty in things. Ask a man what value he puts to her contribution and pat comes the response, “It is priceless!” No, it does not mean invaluable, it simply means there is no price to be paid for something that is not tangible, not visible, cannot be quantified, cannot be sold for money! 

This attitude is pervasive and is growing exponentially. Many women are having to stand up and shout out their contribution to family and home simply to claim their rightful identity. Others are leaving materially secure relationships to get away from the hurt. Wifehood, motherhood, homemaker-hood are legitimate quantifiable careers that must be valued because without these society will fall flat on its face. Most women take on these careers with as much gusto and aplomb as they do their paying jobs and yet their contribution at home is largely ignored and taken for granted. This is not because we cannot value our homes and families, it is because these values are superseded by the value of money and things. 

There must be a solution for this and I do not believe simply paying mothers and homemakers is it, because that will further devalue the person who never undertook these roles for tangibles! The payment will come automatically when a husband values his wife’s contribution in his success; when children value their mother’s unconditional love and when we, as a society, respect our relationships! As women we have an important role on this path and so must learn to appreciate ourselves and other women for their contribution to family life and so society. Let us first remove the veil of money and things from our own minds and recognize that family, home and relationships are defined not by the size of our homes or our investments but by how kind we are to our circle. Let us stand by one another whether we are financially independent or not and appreciate each other for being the nurturer, the teacher, the lover of the home! Let us teach our sons and daughters to value the intangibles that define relationships and show them how to use their careers as a means to spread love instead of a means of making money alone.

I am re-entering the workforce with an agenda that is very different from the one I had the first time around. I am doing it for me and for other women and I am hoping to raise awareness that we are not the weaker sex of society but the BETTER half of society and so we deserve BETTER! 


I appeal to my friends and family to evaluate the values they have and see if their lives are balanced. Are we living purposeful lives that make a difference to the lives of those less fortunate than us? Are we taking more from the Universe than we are giving in return? Are we contributing to making our environment better or are we contaminating it and corroding it? Are we raising families who stand by one another or are we isolating ourselves? Do we have a purpose in life or are we simply being born and dying with no lasting legacy that enhances the Universe? I appeal to you, that if necessary, re-align yourself so you can be strong, independent, progressive and productive. Generate a legacy of abundance and joy that is shared by many. Share your ideas and pull at least one other woman, child, animal, man close to you and together stand up for those who cannot or know not how. Together we can bring love and fairness back to the forefront. We can make money and things a means to survive so we can find our true selves and live harmoniously as a society and as individuals. Money is important but it is not everything. The downpayment may get you a house but does not a home make. :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

This Day Again.




38 years ago, November 3rd, the day after Diwali my BFF passed away and left me wondering why. I still wonder why a young man of 52 had to leave so soon. My father is my hero. He was far from perfect, but he was my guide, my friend, my soft spot. He was predictable, very clear in his views, very strong and that is what made him my haven. I knew him well not because of any effort I had to make to understand him, but rather because he was as transparent as unpolluted air! He loved us unconditionally but that did not stop him from disciplining us assertively. :) He taught us right and wrong by practicing what he preached. 

I still remember how much he loved the idea of gambling, but he never over-indulged in it. A rupee bet on a horse here another on a lottery ticket there. The fun for him was the anticipation of waiting for the result more than the money he won in return. I learned self restraint from him.

He followed the clock and kept his word no matter how much effort he had to put to do so. Our neighbors would adjust their clocks to my father’s comings and goings. I learned the value of dependability from him.

My father did the most menial tasks with pride. He cleaned the toilets in our home, he packed our suitcases when we traveled, he polished our shoes to wear to school, he sewed the mosquito nets for our beds, he washed his car, he repaired his car, he even darned our clothes. I learned about dignity of labor from simply watching him live life. 

He gave us what we needed without ever having to ask or wait for it. He never gave us what we wanted without wanting to know why. If he felt it was important he willingly gave it to us; if he felt we should not have it he said no and explained why. My father never ever said, ‘because I said so,’ nor did he ever say, ‘I told you so.’ I learned about responsibility by listening to him tell me why.

If ever I had a question about anything, no matter how trivial, how embarassing, how shocking, Baba (I called him that) never avoided it. He always gave me a verifiable answer and never ever hesitated to say, ‘I don’t know. Let’s find the answer together.’ I learned self confidence and truth just by sitting beside him as he helped me find answers. 

He was a possessive man, almost compulsive about personal hygiene and very choosy about friends but everything he did had a reason he was pretty clear about. His decisions were made with conviction and he did not waiver once he had set out on a path. He believed in himself and so in us as his children. ‘I have faith in the way I have raised my children. They know right from wrong.’ This I heard him say when I was 16! It made me strong, confident and a person of worth because I knew he trusted me.

My only regret - I wish he had been there for a few more years for I would have loved for my children and my brother’s to have been fortunate enough to have spent some time with him. I only hope my brother and I have given our beautiful children at least a little bit of what our father gave us, for then his life is worth so much more! 

I love you Baba. You are always with me and always will be. You guide me today like you did when I came to you as a child, the only difference is that I could touch you with my hands then and now I experience you with my being. I do not believe I have another relationship that can touch the one I have with you - a relationship that only a father and his daughter can have and I feel blessed to have had you as the king to me your princess.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another Puja Gone


Durga Puja is celebrated all over North America in cities and towns, small and big. Anywhere there is a Bengali community, there is a Puja. Much planning goes into making it a fun event with the three staples of Bengalis - food, music and politics. On the sidelines, but no less important, are new clothes, a lot of jewelry, and a handful of men and women helping the priest to conduct the elaborate rituals of four and a half days of Pujo into one regular weekend. In most places Pujo is held on the weekend that is closest to the date as indicated in the almanac, as it would be blasphemous to consider taking time off from office and school for 4 consecutive days to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. After all such worship is only symbolic and does not really mean anything today. The celebration is just that, a celebration and has no significance other than a social gathering to have fun. A lot of planning and hard work goes into it but the true spirit of the sanctity of life is only fleetingly visible if at all. 

Our life has become about the pursuit of material pleasures, not just for today but for the future. There was a time when couples would raise their family with the intent to retire and go for pilgrimages to holy places and meditate and delve into holy scriptures. This had nothing to do with age but more to do with recognizing that living in the ‘present’ was important. The thought process was that fulfilling responsibilities of a family life required full attention and was service oriented. People made sure they passed on the right values to children by living a pure life, working hard; demonstrating compassion, respect, love, integrity; and disciplining children with the intent to teach life lessons. This is the method to raise successful and respectable human beings. Today our value systems have changed.

I am in my mid fifties now and as I look back I recognize that this change in value systems has been brought about largely by our generation. Success became a measure of financial worth and respect a measure of professional status. A leader today no longer leads - he simply has followers. A parent today is no longer a teacher - he or she simply provides. A mother no longer nurtures to bring out the best in her child - she pushes her to be better than others - in everything. Fathers are no longer ideal role models - they are just deep pockets. Good and evil are not absolute anymore which is so evident in the way crime and criminals are dealt with today. Justice is not about truth and facts it is about strategy and technicality. 

I am not claiming that all of this is new to our generation but we are definitely responsible for lowering the bar. The Durga Puja is a time for reflection for me, and each year I feel saddened by the fact that we continue to bring out the idols and decorate them and instill ‘life’ into them through rituals and then simply put them away in crates to be brought out again the following year. Instead why don’t we do away with the rituals and gather together to reflect on how we as individuals and communities have lived the last year and how we can raise ourselves to be better people in the next? Let us redefine right and wrong and pledge to increase the good that we can do. It will bring purpose to our lives, it will leave a positive impact on the world that is far more valuable than the large mansion and the bank balance we will leave for our future generation. Let us destroy the evil within us and let our inherent good emerge in all its splendor. That is my wish to all my friends and relatives for Bijoya. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Ugliness in Us


We, as a people, cover up our ugliness and put our best forward to others. Our lawns, make-up, fancy clothes & accessories, plastic surgery, dentures, manicures, shining cars, picket fences, are partly a reflection of this. Everyday, we put time and effort making sure that first impressions are great. We all know though, that there is another side to us that is not all manicured. We need to improve on that side, rather than covering up the blemish. We recognize and acknowledge it, so we should be able to change it, otherwise the ugliness grows and shows up at inopportune moments and exposes our deception. 

One such blemish is our need to be separate, distinct, better than others. Watching the Zimmerman case unfold, along with the dialogues that it has raised in the public domain has opened my eyes to a side of people in this country that I never acknowledged. I did not recognize it because it is veiled like the missing teeth and the rough hands. More importantly I could not see beyond the veil because I have not openly been discriminated against unlike many others who face it day in and day out. I know that being a woman I needed to work harder than my male counterparts in the workplace, and I accepted that as a challenge because I am up to it. I cannot imagine being discriminated against because of the color of my skin or the clothes I wear - discriminated against to the point where my life is in danger everyday or to the point of being feared or hated. The sad part is that many of us do not know that we are discriminating. 

“I am not a racist,” we say. “I have mentored ‘these people!’ I have many ‘Black/Chinese/White/Indian/American/Muslim/Vegan/Men/Gay’ friends.”

‘These’ people as opposed to people; ‘identifiable’ friends as opposed to friends. That is the face of discrimination peeping out from behind the veil. Our discrimination is hidden behind an outward appearance of broad-mindedness. Subconsciously there is a bias and it is not based on merit but on preconceived prejudices. The more we get to know ‘these’ people and mingle with them, the more we identify with them. When the gap is bridged we no longer need words that identify people as different from ourselves. 

Seeing ourselves as individuals is important for self development, and it is just as important to recognize ourselves as part of Family, Community, Country, World, Universe and beyond - important for self development. We are as limited as we make ourselves - inherently we are infinite. Opening ourselves to receiving others in, and giving others of oneself, only helps us broaden our view of the world. Information is powerful and the faster we stop depending on ‘beliefs,’ the more we blossom. 

Our unique personal experiences give us unique outlooks on life. It is impossible to experience everything; impossible to know the perspectives of all people. That is not what non-bias is about. It is about accepting that there are viewpoints outside my own. These are valid and as much a reality as my own are. We need to grow out of tolerance into acceptance. We tolerate those who are ‘wrong,’ we accept those who are different. ‘Wrong’ when compared to me being ‘right;’ whereas different has no element of right or wrong. What goes into acceptance is knowledge, tolerance is about belief. Every culture, every country, has a history with some privileges, some oppressions, some good, some evil, some that enhance and others that diminish - leaving an impression on an entire people. These impressions express as our differences and deserve our acceptance.

The world is physically coming closer through developments in travel, technology and education; it is time now for us to understand and empathize with each other, so as a people we come closer together too. I feel strongly that the intermingling of cultures through friendships, partnerships and marriages is an essential part of closing the gap. We need to talk more, visit more, get to know each other more, adapt more so we can break through the barriers of bias. 

Knowing oneself is important. It leads us to acknowledge that we are a part of a much bigger Universe. Self knowledge reveals that we are not only part of the Universe but that the Universe is a part of us. When we hurt, insult or even ignore others we are hurting ourselves. Bias is not a reflection on the person we are differentiating against - it is a reflection of our own ignorance. Ignorance is ugly, discrimination is about fear and cowardice. Education needs to be about knowledge, so love and acceptance replaces fear and insecurities. Knowing about every thing inanimate only tells us about the world outside, it is only when we learn about the animate that occupy this Earth can we know our inner world, the one in which we are all One. Where love is the driving force; where kindness is the first choice; where acceptance is the only way.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sad!


I am saddened by the verdict on the George Zimmerman case. Not that punishment was what I was looking for - that would not have changed the event that took place on 26th of February 2012. The sadness comes from the fact that the system we have, makes it possible for a young 17 year old to be killed by another person. The message the system sent out was that our society is okay with such events. We all know that we are not, and simply because wise lawmakers chose to write and approve laws that make it not just possible but probable, more innocent lives will be lost.

I saw the court case as it played out. A lot of the graphics and language could not be shown on TV, but from what I did see it is evident to me that the jury had no option but to give the verdict they did. There was more than ‘reasonable doubt’ in my mind as  the case was heavily favored towards Zimmerman - only Zimmerman’s perspective of the whole story could be presented. Where was Trayvon’s whole story? There wasn’t one because Zimmerman pulled out a gun and shot him dead. He did not choose to shoot him in the leg or in a place that could have stopped him, but to shoot him through the heart. If Zimmerman did not have a gun on him that night, he would not have been following Trayvon. He would have called the police and gone straight home - especially since he was aware that he had zero fighting skills - considering he was a 0.5 on a 1 to 10 scale after 18 months of MMA training. We told him it was okay for him to have that gun - our laws gave him permission to shoot Trayvon dead and then confirmed that he was right to have done so.

All that is needed is for one to feel threatened of bodily harm to take the life of another. That is how self-centered we are being made out to be. I am not that person. I do not want to be that person. I am neither that fearful, nor am I that hateful towards my fellow men & women. That is where the sadness comes from. The outcome needed to say that every one has the right to be walking on the streets of the country and unless there is proof of wrong doing one cannot be treated like a criminal. We do not have the right to simply look at someone and presume he/she is ‘a problem.’ Suspicion based on conjecture cannot be excused. In my opinion Trayvon should have been afforded the right to defend himself for being targeted - the benefit of the doubt should also have been his. If two people are defending the same right why is one ‘justifiably killed’ and the other ‘justifiably not guilty?’ 

The whole truth never came out. We are not truth tellers. We as a race are known to twist words, omit others, stay silent and manipulate our capacity to speak, simply to protect our selfish interests. A 17 year old died and we have no way of knowing if the 28 year old man who chose to shoot him is telling us the truth. We do not know if he knows the whole truth and chose not to tell it; if he does not know the truth as Trayvon saw it and so could not tell it or if he knows the truth and is telling it. Even if he is telling the whole truth about what ‘happened’ - he could not have felt what Trayvon was feeling when the altercation happened because he had not lived for 17 years in Trayvon’s body and head. Yet the dead boy and his family received a horrible punishment while the killer got his gun back along with the permission to repeat what he did to Trayvon. There is something wrong, something sad, about such a lop-sided system.