Tuesday 21 May 2013

On Vacations

Shortly we will be leaving for our vacation. Oh, and before you think exotic locations and sunny climes - STOP and refresh your mind and read on. This is the annual shuttling between the husband's and my mother's homes. It seems rather strange to me as I have become so comfortable and cozy in my new home that the thought of leaving it for a month leaves me a bit listless. Few months ago, this home was just a house - sans curtains, beds, and other household articles but now the house has gradually turned into a home step by step. The curtains make a huge difference, you see. Once you decide that your affairs need to be shielded away from the peering world and the sun and wind needs to be let in only when one desires, the home starts shaping. Waking up and falling asleep in the room that has come to become a cave of one sort forces me to wonder about the soon arriving vacation.

But it wasn't always like this. It was not as difficult when I was in my mom's house. Perhaps that home was a home in a different sense - that home was shaped and contoured by my mother - It was a ready-made home that was always there unlike my home which was lovingly made up by me and my husband. It sounds rather mawkish when I seem to think that I can do better without a vacation after all, my home is my comfort zone where I have done things that are close to me and more than that I dictate the rhythms of my day and chores. Going to another place takes the power of my own rhythms - I have to subscribe to another routine and have to comply no matter what. It's a different matter altogether when we were children - Children adjust quite well to any kind of change. That said and done, I'm not resisting change. I'm just resisting going away from here. Come to think of it, it's only five months in my new home. But isn't five months long enough to establish a deep connection that binds one to the walls, nooks and crannies (cockroaches included) and the doors and windows. It's almost like leaving behind a part of oneself. And, I can't wait to get back into my skin and pet peeves.

Five days to go. Perhaps you will not find me popping out much in your comments and news-feeds on Facebook. Well, you may think that a break is good and I trick myself to think the same when in reality, I can do well without boring breaks. Anyway, I can take deep breaths anywhere I choose. Life goes on . . .

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Image 2: Internet

Thursday 16 May 2013

Better said than done!

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

- David Foster Wallace -

I have the habit of putting up a quote as my Facebook status and today's quote was the above one. It prompted a zillion thoughts in my wee head. Wallace, indeed sums it up pretty well, "The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort . . ." A friend was lamenting the fact that she always needs to prompt her children to be aware and observant. She is quite aware that children learn by observing and all that jazz but she wants to instill that being aware is something which needs to be cultivated and practiced. When adults can't be aware of things, instilling the same in children seems like a tall order. I wonder if awareness is also genetic and there is gene somewhere which can be possibly called the 'Awareness gene' something like the 'Selfish gene.' And what exactly is being aware? I would see awareness as being intuitive to oneself and also to the immediate environment that surrounds us - Let's take this simple example (again quoted by my friend): A person is having her breakfast, there is no water in the vicinity. An individual who is aware will be immediately pushed to go and fetch a glass of water and place it next to the person who is eating. This simple task does not need much training. It comes from a sense of having observed that there is no water and the person in the due course of the meal might have the need to drink water. This needs attention to the needs of others and an awareness of something not being there when it's needed. My friend's angst is that the young adolescent is completely oblivious to the situation and for nuts cannot bring herself to do any task without being asked to. Now why is my friend so very frustrated at this behaviour? Her defense: While she and her siblings were kids, they were quite attuned to the situation and did not need any nudge or command to act on their own. In short, she had the awareness of a particular situation while her child hadn't inherited that trait. I hope you get the drift that I'm not talking of the awareness that is attained by intense meditation and power yoga!

I wonder whether she can instill awareness? What do you think? One either has it or not. I've seen many adults who don't seem aware of their bodies, their physical environment and many other subtle aspects that go unnoticed. Mindless eating, wasting natural resources and spewing unnecessary words definitely mean that there is nil awareness otherwise how can one explain the extreme mindlessness of people. Some of us have been doing many thoughtful acts without knowing that these acts arise out of awareness and attention. A photographer does not just click pictures - (S)He is aware of what is happening and then (s)he pays attention and then clicks the image which is a beautiful blend of his/her attention of the subject. My friend Jim Brandano would accept that.  Just possessing an expensive camera will not make someone an excellent photographer! Well, I'm not talking about photography here. 

I'm not making sweeping general remarks about awareness here. I have just set to words some niggling thought processes. My sympathies lie with my friend who is struggling with her teenage daughter. I pray that her daughter learns to observe, pay attention and be aware of what's happening within and outside of her. 

I would like to pose few questions to you, my reader: Is awareness a natural trait or an inherited one? If it's intuitive, why aren't many attuned to it? Does awareness have a specific age bracket. Pray, tell me . . .

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Wednesday 15 May 2013

That suffering is a virtue . . .

For a while now, I'm trying to trace patterns that exist in many aspects of the society we live in. One of them is the exaltation of supreme sacrifice and suffering. From the local vegetable vendor to the grand soaps on the telly seem to sending messages that often praise suffering and the need for it in an individual's life. Come to talk of it, I've sensed certain relatives' face falling (albeit not visibly but me being me can pick these unconscious emotions that involuntarily get displayed on one's visage) when they hear the response that "All is well." I wonder why. Perhaps it is the notion that something amiss might happen if one seems to be happy and fulfilled colours the minds of many individuals. I tend to think that being sad and unhappy is but an easy way to live life than be happy and content.

Some time ago, I cannot remember when, I happened to read an article which mentioned that it takes a great deal of beans to be happy and content. The bottom-line - being unhappy is something very easy for the human race. The article baffled me. I always had assumed the opposite:- That being happy is the most natural state of being. I was wrong. After reading that article, I wanted to do the difficult - Being happy in spite of the difficulties that seemed to drown me and boy! it wasn't easy with all those whiners and groaners  around me. I tried and it didn't seem that difficult. But there was a catch: It was swimming against the tide of people who hailed suffering and sadness. That suffering is for a while before the sun comes up is completely lost on some people.

Now, what is the suffering that I speak of? No, I'm not talking about the suffering after the loss of a beloved one or the suffering caused by depression. I'm talking about the daily activities that can be taken in our stride without causing much flutter and ado. I heard an elderly aunt advising her niece - "You should suffer in life, only then you will be happy" and what exactly does this suffering mean - it means doing a lot of work for the entire family in spite of being able to afford a domestic. Well, hard work and sleepless nights are translated as something that will earn brownie points in the latter part of life but isn't it a bit cruel to assume that one has to suffer in order to be happy later.

I have taken a decision that whenever possible, I will choose to be happy. Maybe it is a tall order when one is surrounded by people who seem to think otherwise but still I attempt to preserve my well-being.

My words did not keep pace with my thoughts in this post which would've led to a rambling of sorts. I hope that you pardon me and tell me about the roles of suffering and happiness in your cultural background.

Image: Internet

Thursday 2 May 2013

With or Without?

When you happen to go to God's own country, you would hear people placing an order for tea/coffee add a word to the waiter - 'Without.' To someone unfamiliar, the 'without' might sound strange but those who have been living there for a while or have relatives there know that the word, 'without' stands for 'without sugar' and extending the without to a metaphorical level - devoid of the sweetness that has left their lives some time ago. It is a well known fact that Kerala has often been cited at the Diabetes capital of India and having been there, I have seen the great mutualism that exists between sugar and people in Kerala. They are either having tea "without" sugar or talking about their history of sugarless lives.

Recently while participating in a programme organised by Malayalees in Goa, I was quite amused that while serving tea, there were two trays of teas - With and Without. The two W words (I'll call them W Words to add an extra zing to the state of having or not having sugar) are somehow like code-words that bear special reference to those who know the connotation. Now to hear words such as With or Without outside of Kerala was definitely sounding a bit out of context for me but needless to say, where there are Keralites, the W words always hold good.

But what surprises me is the fact that Kerala does not have many sweet dishes, which I think may lead to diabetes but I would be naive to come to that conclusion, I reckon. There are studies which say that one can get diabetes by virtue of being born in Kerala. Well, I'm not here to discuss the disease per say but the various quirky aspects of the D disease. By now you would've realised my penchant for code words ;)

One can start a conversation based on the sugarless state in God's own country. I find it pretty amusing that a state can be called a country. Whoever christened Kerala as 'God's own country' should have been on a high sloshing in local toddy and hence mistook a state for a country, me thinks. If only people in Kerala had struck to drinking local toddy instead of the great coloniser tea, then perhaps the W word syndrome could've been possibly averted. You know one should always stick to local brews instead of exotic ones.

And the W words hold good not only for tea but for juices as well. And, in every meeting/gathering, the serving tray will have at least two or three 'without' glasses which are for people with the D disease. And, no matter what, no food item can be taken out of a person's food habits. He/she will continue having that glass of tea/juice/milk/coffee albeit without sugar. Why not leave the habit of having tea altogether - That is never possible. You can take the sugar out of the Malayalee's tea but not the Tea!

Thus the saga of With or Without continues . . .

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Quirky family members and squirming expressions

When one is a teen, everything done by parents and extended family seem unacceptable and often one tries as  best as possible to keep them away. As one grows older, we turn more acceptable towards our folks but the squirming still remains and my guess is that by the time we're very old and of course a bit wise to recognise our own quirks that we start leaving our people alone.

Well, I'm at a stage where I see those quirks and do squirm occasionally. Take for instance that uncle who laughs almost every time he talks over the phone. His talks are interspersed with so much laughter that you fail to understand as to why he laughs so much. Let me tell you that he's not a man with a funny bone. He just laughs.

Oh, let me tell you about that aunt who loves to always talk in English whenever anyone talks to her in our regional language. Not that she is good in English but always wants to converse in English especially to  the person to whom she converses doesn't know English! Squirming? I do.

And there are the children who pop up questions and statements that are usually out of context and very embarrassing. Sample this: My grandfather always farts after his meal. And where is this statement uttered: In the dining table of all places.

There are these ubiquitous uncles and parents who are known for different quirky behaviour which almost always drives me a bit crazy. I think whether it's only me or do others also notice it. Perhaps I notice this because I tend to spend a lot of time analysing these quirks and gestures. After reading an article titled, How I learned to Relax and Enjoy my Family Quirks, I realised that I'm not alone in this trip.

Now, I am opening myself to the fact that all of us have quirky behaviour which are usually unnoticed by us. I tried an exercise where I was aware of my behavioural pattern and found that I have many such squirm-inducing quirks. I wonder what my family thinks when I obsess compulsively on cleanliness and discipline sometimes causing uneasiness to people around.

My word for 2013 is 'aware' and in the process of my awareness, I'm learning to be aware that I have certain quirks in me and that I should be more open to accepting the quirks in my family and friends. Life is beautiful with some quirks . . . why should I crave for homogeneity, I wonder.

What's your take on this?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet


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