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Archive for March, 2010

How does one become a joyful person? Someone whose company others seek. Can’t be with one of those lip jobs (or tucks or whatever they call it) that gives a permanent smile to the face. Can it be then someone who has a memory bank of jokes? If you have noticed, it becomes a pain to keep listening to jokes. Try it. AFter a few, it is a strain to keep at it. Guess the mind needs variety.

Could it be people who are always bright and positive? Alive every moment to the world around them. Not lost in yesterday’s memories nor calculating tomorrow’s fortunes. People who are steeped in this moment.

Now, tell me, how many such people have you met? Who are constantly alive? Not for a few minutes, or hours, but always.

Those I believe are the joyful people. They take things as they come, no tears, no guffaws, just a smile. They breathe, they eat, they play, they talk and do anything intensely and wholly. Try looking out for such people.

I can remember my grandfather as someone close to this category. Whether cooking food, listening to music, relishing a meal, or simply taking a walk, he was in the act. Never overjoyed or depressed, there was a comforting plateau of feelings with him. He was stable, he was alive wholly.

But life being the way it is for most of us, these things never strike us till late. I wish I had had more conversations with him on how he lived that way. What it takes to stay alive.

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A recent meet on geo-engineering saw advocates talk of the need for technological interventions to ‘save’ the planet! True, things are a bit too bad to just sit back. And yes, we have been doing geo-engineering with our soil and waters in the name of fertilising, dams, etc, so what’s new?

But scattering sulphur based aircraft fuel high up in the atmosphere may reduce sunlight hitting earth, as was shown by Russian scientists last year. But if every nation starts spreading sulphur up in the skies, do we need to imagine what next?

Having done the damage, and now saying we have the quiver of new tech from which we can use any one, is a little bit more than immature. More like a kid so impatient to use his new toy.

And wont this attitude only encourage wasteful lifestyles, given the assurance we always  can fall back on technology to help us out? Is that better or simply to apply some forethought?

Is it so important that every family owns and uses a car? Or is the fact that climate is changing for the worse,  and resources dwindling, so let us take a bus or simply walk?

I find this a very dangerous trend where faith in technology overrides any other alternative to wise living. Why this fascination for technology? I am amazed the way people are fascinated by gadgets. Anyone have a theory on that?

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World behind bars

Things are getting dangerous in our cities. Two recent crimes in Kerala bear this out. Women murdered for their jewellery, one a handicapped elderly woman and the other younger. Reason behind both crimes was money.

What does this signal? Besides the rising insensitivity. Most of these ‘criminals’ are first timers and otherwise normal people. A spur of the moment decision turned them into criminals. A need for money? A desperate situation?

Now compare this with the latest news that rich Indians are not good philanthropists. A survey by bain & Co found that while the number of high net worth individuals has grown at a high of 11 percent since 2000, charitable giving was only around $7.5 bn in 2009, equivalent to 0.6 percent of the GDP.

We know that 40 percent of India’s 1.2 bilion live at less than Rs 70-80 a day, but yet the charities are nowhere near. Sadly, we will donate lakhs to temples and churches, but not to charities and organisations involved in social work.

The disparity between rich and poor is a widening gulf which does not seem to closen given that all government policies and projects only take the GDP and growth (read as industrial) into consideration. True, some jobs are created but that is more by the way than substantial. Standard of living has improved for some but not all.

Worse, thanks to media, the aspirations of the poor are set on the path of the glitzy, gadget-filled world of the rich. If you cannot buy a mobile phone, simply steal one. Or snatch a jewel off a woman and buy a phone. Material goods are coveted and when the means are not sufficient, it suggests robbery and murder.

Consumerism has to stop, that is, the mindless buying we indulge in. A new consciousness has to come in. Or else it seems like there is no salvation for our race. Only unhappiness, violence and unrest. We will al be living behind bars – some in the bars of prison, and others in the bars we errect for our security.

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Colourless rainbow

It was ‘sparrow day’ yesterday. How long since you have seen one? Yet, at one time we had only sparrows. Habitat destruction, of course. But again, coming back to the topic of birds, how adaptable they are compared to humans. Trees are being felled in clear precision in my city and yet somehow the birds seem to be lingering. The eagles and kites have merely switched menus and started haunting garbage dumps. We even see sunbirds, parakeets, mynahs, pigeons and the occassional strangers. How sweet is their chatter! My heart, mind and soul are elevated. How long will they stay?

Not to forget the dogs and cats. Belonging to nobody and everybody – the strays. So ready to accept a morsel of love. Have you felt a deep stirring of joy at the wag of the tail of the stray that inhabits your road? Look into his/her eyes ever? You can see pure love, if you are open.

Yet, we are out to sterlise our streets of them. Why? Because they bite and injure people. Who cares if the poor animal was only responding to being stoned? Who cares if the animals are developing a violent strain being fed on garbage we throw carelessly? Nobody cares. Today’s ‘smart’ person believes the planet is meant solely for the humans. We do not care to amend our ways, we will doctor other ways!

Inspite of all the power we today possess to change and alter things, how little joy we experience. The other day, a teacher was asking her group of adult students to narrate the last time in 24 hours they had felt joy. Very few hands went up.

We do not need a Gross National Happiness index like Bhutan has, to know how miserable we are. What is this rainbow we are chasing? What is it worth without joy?

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Need to belong

On the same lines of job identities, a thought that comes to mind – we so badly need to belong, don’t we? Whether it be to an office, a state, a country or whatever. Seems to give some comfort that there is a place for us somewhere… when I quit my workplace (the English daily Deccan Herald) after 14 years, I felt very sad. I was leaving a part of me behind, a part of my memories of some good and learning times. I belonged to the place as much as it belonged to me.

And yet, there is a loss of community feeling among people. Nobody wants to know what the neighbour is up to, or what problems the community faces. At the end of long days of work (grrr!) all we want to do is forget the outside world and stay indoors with family.

Getting people to act together for a cause is so difficult these days. Nobody cares unless the roof of their homes are going to cave in.

This locking the world outside has given us some immunity to the suffering around. Ever gone shopping to the mall, paid atrocious bills and then felt a twinge at seeing the beggar at the traffic signal? Here we are indulging in frills and there go millions with no assured food the next day.

Where has our sense of humanity gone? Don’t we ‘belong’ to the same race? Do we need a lable before we feel camaraderie?

What can we do? We can’t feed all the hungry. the replies will be many. But be sure, there is plenty that can be done, if you and I want to. A collective action that starts with the conviction that something needs to be done. 

Everywhere, even at schools and colleges, the individual has taken centrestage over the society/community. It is a world for the grabs right from there. Will this surge in individualism see the end of the race as a civilisation?

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What are you?

A stock question when you first meet someone. but no one is making a philosophical query, more a mundane one meaning to ask – what do you do? And somehow we seemed to have made that very important. Our jobs. Our livelihoods. Even in large gatherings where we introduce ourselves, somehow it does not seem enough to say a name or interest, but ‘what we are’. (I must say there are some people I have met who have no such pretensions, Goodwill Gopal is one!)

Ask most people to give a honest answer – is their job so important to their heart? No. But in our society that is how we get defined. Oh, there goes the IT chap, or there is that social activist, etc.

Most days to many of us Mondays are a dread. Back to work. Back to the slave camp! Why then do we do it? yes, of course for our tummies and filling them. But if it is only that, cant a small piece of land farmed well do? We need more obviously, we need that money to buy all the things we fancy. So we join the rat race that leaves us with no time, no health, no joy.

We simply do not seem to be able to say ‘enough’. I will do this much, this is all the money I need, I will not work anymore.

Work! what a crazy word. Work towards a joyless life. Work towards adding stress in our lives, more unhappiness. Passing much of life unseen, unexperienced. I hate that word – work, in its normal context.

But yes, there are people who love their work, who get their stimulation from work, their challenges, it allows them to exploiit their full potential. But again, full potential of what? The brain? And towards what? Helping the company make more money. Helping your allowance to grow bigger.

Is their real soul satisfaction in such activities? Just think deep on what exactly you get, how better a person you are….  would love to hear a different opinion!

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Do you dream?

.. and if you do, what are your dreams like? Who people them?

Me, i have been visited by all kinds of exotic dreams from quite some time. During childhood there were the usual nightmares of going unprepared for exam, or falling from the sky, etc. But of late, the variety has become rich. While kin and friends do pop in many times, many dreams bring in people totally unknown in this life. But mark me, they are as real if not more real, than real people!! reminds me of what my favourite author Jostein Gaarder says in one of his books, is our waking life the real one, or the one we dream of?? I am not sure.

Could these people who appear in my dreams be people living somewhere, people I meet in a different realm? Could these be the parallel lives Richard Bach believed in? Could dreams be dipping into the collective unconscious of our minds, where you and I cease to be different but merge? This state is believed by thinkers to be the one that makes coincidences happen, usually called telepathy…

To this day I cannot forget the joy I derived from one dream a few years ago. I was in heaven, and what a heaven it was. A valley of shimmering colours that beamed joy…

Try as I did, I could not go back again!

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