Sunday, July 30, 2017
THE UNSETTLING ‘SETTLING-DOWN’!
There are phases in life we have been excited about, there are stages we crib about, there are changes we don’t like, there are situations we hate, there is music that is bitter, there are goodbyes that hurt, there is weather we complain about, there are people we dislike. And then comes a phase where it stops mattering, a strange lull that neither shatters us nor builds us. This stage is where we don’t care. Perhaps, a stage where life gets a little too predictable, a little too well known to us, a little too less risky and suddenly the idea of ‘settling down’ is no more comfortable!
It’s strange, we work our whole life towards reaching a stage where we know all that’s future and being prepared for it. Those ambitions, those higher degrees, a little higher salary, a better ‘disposable income’ (Anyway you are gonna ‘dispose’ it!), numerous insurance policies, that house, those cars and then what? Whole of the student life with the feeling of “Just this exam and then life is ‘settled’”. And then the exams actually get over! Whole of life with the feeling, if I earned that much, I would shop every weekend and fill up my wardrobe. And then the wardrobe actually is filled and then you don’t really feel like shopping. Whole of the life with a feeling that one would end up alone. And then one gets someone for life and gets worried if the romance would be as it was before during more ‘unpredictable’ times. Whole of the life worrying if I did right in not saying yes and hurting so much. And then you realize that that ‘no’ was actually good for that someone. Whole of life worrying if you ever will have that city skyline view from your window while reading a novel and sipping a hot cup of coffee. And then that day arrives and you thought you will have only a good thing to say about it on the social media with that lovely sunset picture, while on the inside you kept thinking was that overrated? Did those websites which serve daily dosage of motivational and life-stirring-promise quotes on irresistible templates were just selling emotions? Whole of life complaining that there is so much left on our shoulders, so much that needs to get done. And then suddenly, all that is done. And instead of feeling lighter, you end up searching for the load!
Mid-life crisis hits hard I know, but this one is not that! This is way different. This is not where you feel you have accomplished so less, this is where you feel- All boxes checked, and so what?! This one is not imposed, this is chosen. We made it for ourselves and then we get saturated! We created the palace with the glass walls and then we are surprised that it suffocates us? Strange are the ways of the human head!
So much that happens over time! When did we ever love what was there in front of us? We had never romanticized the classes and exams when they happened and now evenings go by remembering the beautiful time it was and how much we can give to get it back for one moment. Cribbing about that first ‘stupid’ boss was fun only till we had friends, not co-workers. It’s no more fun when you start pitying your boss. It’s no more fun when there aren’t any professors you can enact and laugh off. It’s no more fun when you thank them over emails. It’s no more fun when the most sarcastic and funniest of your friends have reduced to “How have you been? – It’s going on!” It’s scary when it’s ‘going-on’. It’s damn scary when you know that you are caught in a cycle of life that is going to be more or less be as it is planned for a mass of people. Breaking free is something I have always talked about but this time, I am clueless of what is holding me back. What do I break free from?
I guess in life, it’s like crossing the Rubicon. Once you ‘settle down’ there is so less that you want to change and yet hope to. The key perhaps is to not let the calmness become numbness. This age is dangerous - Too much of maturity is expected out of us. It’s important to ensure that this maturity doesn’t kill the child within. It’s important to climb up the roof and get drenched in the first rain, it’s important to still make those paper boats, it’s important to scream out, it’s important to know that “I am fine” is not the only answer to “Are you okay?”, it’s important to know that a next professional ambition is not going to fulfill you, it’s important to sing – however your voice sounds to others, it’s important to jump around on way back from office and not look at the on-lookers, I know you have to buy grocery, but it's important to make friends while you do that, it’s important to go sit with complete strangers if eating alone haunts you, it’s important to stammer in a child’s voice, it's important to wave your hands out from the car and look like a complete moron, it’s important once in a while to be that dumb person people blurt out laughing at, it’s important to not listen when someone talks you into “What will people say?”, it’s important to crack those stupid childhood time jokes and laugh on them yourself if no one else does. It's important to call those long lost idiot friends and talk to them till they are their normal self, it's important to spread the craziness because you don't wanna dance alone, find people who are ready to get embarrassed with you. It’s important to know that feeling of embarrassment is the reason enough to do it again and again and only when you lose the embarrassment, you grow further. It’s important to understand how complete you could be when you let the child and the adult in you walk together. It’s important to know that you are never too old.
Maturity is not in growing up only once. Life is too short to live childhood only once. That is only if you wish to live and not just keep it “going –on”. Even while I write this, I am not sure if the invisible chains are invincible too. But that’s only the adult in me. The child is already out on the streets looking at the beautiful pixie dust that the raindrops make as they touch the rusty old yellow street lights. The child is in love with life as it has always been. It’s time to shut-up the idiot that the adult is! It’s time to make some crazy stories that you could be proud of telling your grandchildren while your children are not listening! J
Sunday, November 27, 2016
I still remember the red sharpener my Mom got me when I entered my first school. I never shared it with anyone, lest they might lose it. I have still held on to the only winking doll my Dad got me when I was 6. It was easy to hold on to them. So easy to keep them. I have always been a person very cautious of not losing my belongings. Always checking on them. And then I grew up. The list of things that could be held on to kept growing smaller. As we start preferring people over things, we start preferring loving over holding on, belonging over possessing, trying over fear of failure and sadly sometimes even getting hurt over never having someone by our side. It’s a miscalculated gamble, for each one of us. Over years, the choice between letting someone into our lives and being by ourselves, between taking those independent solo trips versus couple resorts, between the bike rallies and long drives, between the books and someone to read beside becomes a decision, a rather difficult one. More so because people are so different from things.
“Life is made up of a collection of moments that are not ours to keep. The pain we encounter throughout our days spent on this earth comes from the illusion that some moments can be held onto. Clinging to people and experiences that were never ours in the first place is what causes us to miss out on the beauty of the miracle that is the now. All of this is yours, yet none of it is. How could it be? Look around you. Everything is fleeting. To love and let go, love and let go, love and let go...it's the single most important thing we can learn in this lifetime.”
― Rachel Brathen
― Rachel Brathen
Sunday, April 17, 2016
The Tantalizing ‘Temporaries’!
“Forever” and “Happily Ever After” are the way we have always seen a perfect life as. I feel it has got nothing and everything to do with those diabetically sweet fairy tales from childhood. The prince and the princess who spent a lifetime together, the couple that got married, the true-love kiss that brought the princess to life, the grandparents who grew old together, the brothers who got lost and met again to spend an eternity happily, this is all that we heard and read about.
What about the ones who didn’t? What about few people who just crossed your way? What about the lovers who couldn’t make it? What about them who assumed that all love went down the drain because it couldn’t end in a marriage? What about the relationships that ended in misunderstandings and what about those that never took off due to society? What about those who had too much love but a matching ego? What about awesome friendships that got lost in distance? What about people who could never forgive a loved one? What about a little love that remained for the ex-es even after marrying someone else? What about brothers who fought over property when they grew older but somewhere the childhood love kept haunting them? How about those who couldn't have their ‘forevers’?
My father often quotes his favorite poet, an age old one, where he talks about life being like a water bubble, life itself being the most temporary dimension and then we talk about ‘forevers’ and ‘eternities’. Although I myself am a believer of a few constants, a few things one’s life revolves around, but are they the only things in life? May be the centre remains the same all through, but what about the varying orbits? What about the distance we cover during a lifetime while the centres stay in their place, always there for you?
Perhaps the ‘temporaries’ do claim a space in our heads and heart, but how often do we mouth them? How often do we gather courage to tell our spouses that we still remember our first love? How often do we have the courage to look at our own journals from a decade back? How many of us can bring ourselves to listen to the music that we once loved and then hated for such a long time? How often does the silence not deafen us with sounds from the past? How many of us can think of our past without flinching? How many times have we avoided memories, good and bad alike? Good because they are not there any more and bad because we don’t want to revisit times when we fooled ourselves. How many of us will walk past the memory lane and accept the physical and mental scars, acknowledge their presence and then return to our forevers (which sadly again are temporaries)?
Do we really ever forget the butterflies in stomach when our first crush looked back at us? When our best friend (among the tens of ‘besties’ we had every year!) held our hands while we were literally thrown out of the classroom? When the first date (and nothing else) happened!!? When although someone might have broken our hearts, they were the ones who made it pump in the first place? How many of us can acknowledge that there were people, who came into our lives for a really short while, but changed it forever? That we are who we are, because they existed?
Life does come a full circle.
At times, people forget their anniversary, take each other for granted and hurt each other beyond measure while the relationship is going. They then forgive each other on an ‘anniversary’ , years later, after there technically cannot be an anniversary!
People promise an engagement and then move away the same year. They bump into the same person with their ‘another’ love of lifetime and look into each other’s’ eyes and know that they have been forgiven.
Couples cheat on each other, cry, fight and separate. Then one day, one of them becomes a parent with someone completely different. And yet that day, they look their kid and can’t think of christening them by any name other than what they decided in their very first relationship!
One day a mother who can’t explain her son’s explicit love for all the things she used to hate in her first boyfriend, calls him to say, “Now I understand you. Thank you and sorry”
One day a widower calls his girlfriend from college. When she picks up, he only says “Sorry…wrong number”. She forgives him for not being brave enough to marry her, but dies in peace of knowing that he wanted it as much as her.
Friends fighting over each other’s time get together after a decade and it doesn’t even take a moment to realize nothing ever changed. They just had to look for a little longer.
Brothers fight a lifetime for a property that doesn’t even matter and then beg for forgiveness from each other. A pat from the elder soothes the younger, just like old times in the playground.
Temporaries never really leave our side. We carry their burdens our whole life. Sometimes without realizing, sometimes in full consciousness. Time undoubtedly is lost in between all the commotion, but when we see back, perhaps all will be worth it. Because the first girlfriend/boyfriend cheated, you chose the next one more carefully. Because the first relation couldn’t work, you put more into the next one. Because the first ever relationship you thought will last a lifetime, the third one actually did! Because it couldn’t work with the wrong person, you found the right one. Perhaps there was nothing wrong ever with the ‘firsts’ and yet they didn’t work, you stopped dreaming and then you actually found your ‘Neverland’. Because you kept fighting for something worthless, you came across something that made you worthwhile! The challenge only is to accept the existence of temporaries and give ourselves time to absorb its importance.
One day we would realize that destinations are truly overrated. It’s the journey that matters. All the hands that we held in the process matter. All the smiles that we gathered, matters. All the moments that we thought were permanent and which then became temporary matter. Scars that make us more beautiful and memories that make us stronger matter.
You value it because they don’t exist any more. If there was no end to life, no uncertainty around every day, would Gods still be jealous of the human life form? Would we really rate permanents over temporaries? It’s commas vs full stops and when you realize every full stop is just a comma, extended a little longer. After all, our day is a mayfly’s ‘forever’!
We are a little of every hand that ever caressed our head, a little of every voice that soothed our loneliness, a little of every smile that adorned our day, a little of every hand that reached out for us in melancholy, a little of every moment that made our lives worth living, a little of every person who touched our hearts.....They say, nothing is permanent, and yet "forever" is what we want, "permanent" is what we find enriching....Not at all challenging the importance of things that we hold constant since whenever we have them, but in the ever changing world, should we sometimes reflect on the temporary and embrace them with all the love they deserve? Perhaps it's time......
The best part is, like the constants in your life, once you had a temporary, no one can take it back from you. Temporaries also stay with you, FOREVER! J
Monday, December 21, 2015
The magic of intangibles!**
……….. and the Happiness therein!
All my writings talked of the magic of smaller things, the misnomer for the biggest of things, the intangibles. As I delve deeper into the more inhumane side of the world, I feel I keep finding more of emotions. A little of business in fact taught me a lot more of emotions than 'the better side' ever could. This writing comes from a world that duly underestimates the power of the smaller things…Let’s get down to business!
While we were running behind the ‘dot com’ boom or the ‘recession’ or ‘big data’ for that matter, did we stop striving for something far more important to our existence? While we were chasing towards success and expanding business, did we forget to live? Did we forget that businesses are run by humans, humans who have needs?
Today, a generation which is more educated, earns more and lives longer compared to any previous generation is one of the most depressed generation in world history. Perhaps, the most ignored fact in businesses today, is the human content of business. Chip Conley, a noted businessman and a renowned speaker emphasized on the fact that some of the biggest companies around the globe already know that customer loyalty, goodwill and brand-value are worth much more than sales, margins and material assets. Around 80% of assets on Apple’s balance sheet is comprised of intangibles. In fact Harley-Davidson, Whole Foods Markets, Southwest Airlines and Google are all intangible-driven companies. We do know that the intangibles are worth a lot more than tangibles, but in the absence of ways to quantify the intangibles in a definite way, we end up having to ignore them.
It was in early 1970s when nations started realizing the value of intangibles. In 1968, during a very memorable speech, Robert Kennedy stated that “GDP measures everything other than what makes life worthwhile”. It was a game changing event in the political and behavioral scenario. GDP must have been an important metric during industrial revolution when production was synonymous to development. However, with an 80% decline in poverty, was produce of a country, the only way to quantify it?
In 1972, Bhutan’s fourth dragon King succeeded his father at the age of 17. At a time when Bhutan was known to be one of the weakest nations financially, he was asked about the GDP of Bhutan by a journalist. The king in his answer changed the way people looked at Bhutan and the way we judge nations based on only what they ‘produce’, not what they ‘have’. He proposed ‘Gross National Happiness’ as an all-encompassing metric. He not only mentioned it, but also set up a procedure of quantifying the same through 4 pillars, 9 KPIs and 72 different metrics. Today more than 70 countries use GNH as a metric. UN recently identified happiness as one of the key ingredients of development.
Prof. Daniel Gilbert, psychology, Harvard University has done commendable work on importance and analysis of personal happiness. He has studied multiple cases and reached at a few results very intrinsic to human behavior. He very interestingly says that people are bad at forecasting the reasons for their happiness. One might feel that they will become happy if they get a promotion, a job or a partner they wish for, but even after they get everything they want, do they remain happy forever? After a period of time people learn to deal with ultimate grief and similarly dissolve extreme happiness. The fact is there are many things that can ‘make’ us happy, but there exists nothing that can ‘keep’ us happy. Who would believe that having kids actually takes one’s average happiness levels way below?! I clearly remember asking for a doll to my dad when I was a child and believing it while I said – “This is the only thing I will ever ask you for. I will always be happy if you buy me this doll”. My dad just smiled and got me the doll; knowing that I will never end asking him for more toys and a lot more in life. We keep striving for a goal to become happy and the moment we reach that, we shift the ‘goal’ itself and hence end up making ourselves unhappy for eternity! It can be said for the mankind in general that the frequency of happiness is much more important than the intensity of happiness. Also, generally a situation of no alternative surprisingly keeps people happier than people who have alternatives. The good part is one can’t remain unhappy for life and humans have a way of finding a way around situations.
In Prof.’s words, “The secret of happiness is that it’s not a secret; it’s like weight loss – You know the right things to do, you just don’t do it.” Happiness can be generated only by knowing what counts for you. Chip Conley devised a simple equation to explain the mathematics of happiness; which is more like gratitude/gratification; what you have vs. what you want to have. It's up to us to increase the numerator or denominator! :)
As our worlds grow bigger, we start to realize smaller the things are, the more they matter. Days that just go by waiting for our hours to get over, moments that just pass in a need to be noticed and people who just cross right before our eyes in hope of being acknowledged, all the small things that keep looking for our attention till the time we lose time and start looking for them when they are lost. A silent day, a lukewarm coffee, a half read novel and peace at heart is the way a perfect life is! Sunlight meshing from a canopy of leaves, droplets of rain on your face and a smell of the mountains, what else can a life wish for?
**Originally penned for internal usage at Mu Sigma Inc. – Please take permission before copying or reproducing
Monday, June 29, 2015
As I skim through all I have written, each piece relates to an event in past and I realize that I have been only as mature as the hardships I have faced. Perhaps everything I ever wrote seemed the most important emotion at that time and at different times, having faith, forgiving, loving, letting go, changing and living to the fullest seemed to be the most thing….however, through all this, we forget something important, more important than everything else and that’s – Loving ourselves.
*Going by the trend, this piece should contain wisdom from all events of my life and should be at all-encompassing level of maturity with all emotions intact! :D
Despite the popular belief that everyone loves themselves, very few of us actually do. Being selfish should not be confused with loving oneself. We all have been involved in acts of selfishness; Adam couldn’t hold himself from having taste of the apple and that’s what led to the human race, so guess being selfish is being humane! Not wanting to lose on my atheist audience, my intention is to drive attention to being there for oneself. Knowing all the weaknesses inside us, knowing that we are not as good as we are perceived, knowing that we look pathetic without make-up, knowing that we thought ill of someone, knowing that we harmed someone, knowing that we have a devil living inside us, knowing et all, even though no one else knows, and still wanting to embrace ourselves without having to act is the act of loving oneself.
There have been times in everyone’ life when we have felt lonely, betrayed, unfit for a gathering, not capable of living, grief beyond bearable limits, unable to let go and worse, unforgiving of ourselves. We tend to hold ourselves for everything that went wrong. Someone broke our trust, and it was our fault to trust too much. Someone didn’t give us due attention, and it was us who let them take us for granted. Someone didn’t love us back, and we were not good/attractive enough. Someone hurt us beyond measure, and it was our mistake to let our hearts open. Someone thought of our competitiveness to be cut-throat and moved away, and it was us who couldn’t be good enough friends. Our stories all cross each others’ and more often than not, end sooner than expected majorly because constants come with small frequency for anyone and everyone. Through all relations we build, all actions we take, if we end up blaming ourselves, we end up disliking ourselves and sooner or later, stop loving ourselves. There is no denying that we have made mistakes and we act to like ourselves despite them, but it’s important to know that once we stop loving ourselves, we don’t only become incapable of seeing good in ourselves, but also in everyone and everything else. Also, while we start loving ‘self’, we ensure that we will never be lonely, however alone we are left, that however brutal the world turns, we can still hug ourselves when night falls – however long and however dark, that whoever betrays us in however unexpected ways, it’s not our fault, that whoever crushed all that we believed in, we still have ourselves to fall onto, that love might have disappointed us once, but we can give it another chance because someone right will come to love the person we really are and because we love ourselves, that being happy doesn’t require a particular thing, person or place, it’s within us, that every emotion hits us the way we perceive ourselves – we cry if an important person betrays us, we fight if that person is not-so-important and we don’t care if the person holds no importance.
One of the most gifted actresses of our times, Kalki Koechin once observed something really deep:
How fabulous a thought it is! How can you possibly love someone who you will never know well enough if you don’t love yourself whom you know, who will never leave your side, with whom you have spent all the days and will spend the rest of your life? If someone else’s attention, respect, love, faith and togetherness are an essential to your happiness, rest assured, it will wane away much sooner than expected. I would never deny the importance of people and loving them because, there should be some axis for our revolutions; these constants are a huge part of who we are, but never completely us. As we grow, we know however painful, it’s crucial to get hurt, rebuild and give everything else a second chance….even ourselves. Know that whatever you did in whichever situation was the best you think or could fathom. Know that one day it will all make sense, one day when the huge pieces of jigsaw fall in place and you smile back at life. After everything that I and my ‘self’ has been through, I love myself…do you?