Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happiness is ....

How does one stay happy? As Anne Frank says in her diary, there are two ways you can go about it. One is to count your blessings, think of all the nice things that have happened to you, and feel good about it. The second is to look at all the misery in the world, especially at the people who are in worse conditions than you are, and, feel thankful that you are better than most. Anne says that while her mother always adopts the second method, she prefers the first, 'cause, when you take the latter path, you are continually reminded of all the misery in the world.
I agree with Anne. Though most of us generally go about in the second manner, it ensures that your happiness is dependent on the continual misery - greater misery - of others. It is only when you are convinced that there are people who are suffering more than you are, that you start feeling a growing sense of sadistic pleasure. But, if you go by Anne's choice, you see that your happiness is independent of other factors. You rejoice in the person that you are, in all the nice things that have happened so far to you, in all the joy you see around you - and, this means that you can always be happy, no matter what, for you are the person that you are, and no one can erase that.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Generation Gap

When we are small, our parents take all our decisions for us. We trust them absolutely. The fact that their decisions might not be the optimal ones never even crosses our minds. As we grow up, we start thinking for ourselves, comparing our lives with that of our friends, seeing the world and learning from it. And, there comes a point when we decide that we would rather take our own decisions. There comes a point in the lives of our parents too, when they feel that their kids are grown up enough to look after themselves without parental intervention. The whole problem arises because the former occurs much earlier than the latter.

By the time we enter our early twenties, we want to be the masters of our life, take our own decisions, make our own mistakes and learn from them. But, our parents still feel we are young, inexperienced and not enough worldly-wise to survive without their supervision. Then begins the Struggle for Power. We feel they are fuddy-duddies, they feel we are foolhardy. We feel they are domineering, and that they don’t want to let go, they feel we are disrespecting their wishes, disregarding their opinions. We feel they are old, out of touch with the present world, and, that our peers and seniors are better advisors. They feel they have seen more of the world than we have, and, that we are young, gullible, and might end up making those very same errors that they have made in their youth. They try to warn us against them. We resent their mother-hen attitude, and, ask them not to cluck around us. We finally think, condescendingly, that after all they are our parents and, mentally tell ourselves, that once we are parents we will not do such a thing, that we would give all the freedom to our kids. But we do not realize that Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs ever. To bring a kid into the world is only the first step, but, to bring them up, to see that they grow up into sensitive, responsible individuals, to ensure that they learn enough skills to have a comfortable living – all of this is a huge responsibility. No wonder the parents sometimes end up being over-protective, to the point that it becomes over-bearing. It is very tough to know when to let go. You can’t back off too soon, when your kid is still immature and not ready for the world. At the same time, you can’t hold on too long, for it would suffocate the already grown kid. Guess, once we become parents, we might do the same. We would justify over actions, saying, the ends define the means, the intention – that is, the welfare of our kids - is pure, etc. But, our kids end up feeling shackled, misunderstood and frustrated, the way we feel now.

And, for this very same reason, I greatly respect Rash’s father. Rash has now finished MSc and is getting ready to leave for the US for her PhD. It is that stage where parents feel most insecure – about their child’s future in an unknown place and also about their own standing in their child’s life from now on. In this situation, her dad spoke to her one day and told her, that she might be exposed to so many things in the US – stuff that she’s never tried before. He told her, that if she ever wanted to indulge in them, she should, from now on, just consult her own conscience. Peer pressure shouldn’t instigate her actions and fear of parents shouldn’t deter her either. She is the master of her will from now on, and, she is the only person she is answerable to. Only her judgment should guide her actions. It is such a tough thing to say, to be able to know when to say it is tougher. And, I immediately felt an immense respect for the man who had managed to do it.

I am documenting all my thoughts now, when I am in the position of a child, so, that once I reach the position of a parent, I would still be reminded of what one feels when one is at the receiving end. I might, some day, read this and understand why I am having trouble understanding my kids instead of just mouthing the cliché, “Generation gap”.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You lose hope, you lose it all

However hard I try to steel myself, there are some things which pierce the armour I am trying to build about me. Like today. Went in the morning to the hospital and brought the physiotherapist home. She tried so hard to cajole Ajja into doing some exercises , and, to try and make him sit up. He was stubbornly non-cooperative. Refused to open his eyes and look at her. No amount of coaxing from us could get him to open an eye, utter a word or move a limb. He lay - passive, non responsive, non cooperative. As tough he couldn't hear us. Or may be, he didn't want to hear us.
He's been so since Sunday. Till then, in spite of the fall, in spite of the operation- he was communicative, responsive. Always talking - sometimes coherently, sometimes incoherently. But, when he wasn't sleeping, he would at least be awake - with eyes open. Since Sunday, it is as though he has given up. He is slowly shutting himself out. Sometimes, when I repeatedly call out to him, he opens his eyes for a second - and, I find a pair of grayish blue eyes staring bleakly into mine. The gaze is scary - scary because there is no hope in those eyes. No zest for life, no emotion - except, at times, while we struggle with the duties like cleaning him, clothing him etc, I see a glimmer - is it Pain? Am I imagining it? It feels as though he is mutely asking me - "I've given up. Why wont you refuse to let go? Why do you coax me to eat and exercise? Leave me".
But, Ajja, you should understand. We can't let go. Even if you have given up, we can't. We have to keep doing all that is humanely possible to keep you comfortable, and, try and improve your condition as much as possible. We have to keep on fighting, even if you have decided that the battle is lost. We cant give up on Hope, cause it is the only thing that is keeping us going. Maybe one day you will shake off this stupor, and may be our Hope will rub off onto you. Maybe you will start fighting again. With that hope, we will go on.


Ajja [Grandpa, in Konkani] fell down and broke his femur head [hip joint]. He had to be operated. Now he is still bedridden - a complete dependent. Weak in both body and mind. Wanting to walk again but unable to walk, unable to strengthen his mind to overcome the pain experienced while trying to walk with his reconstructed limb. He aches. I ached, looking at him facing this hardship at such an advanced age. I worried about where this would lead, how this would affect my parents. I cried, helpless, unable to alleviate Ajja's pain or to allay my parent's fears about the complications that might arise, if he remained bedridden. I was confused, a continual drone within my head, where thoughts tried to sort themselves out. I tried to look into the hazy future, and saw no solutions to my questions. I called Prati, to talk to her. She said - "It is all in the mind. Your pain, your confusion. Your helplessness arises out of ego. It is because you think that YOU can help, that the fact that you actually can't, frustrates you." I asked her "Why this pain? Why this illness?" She said "Pain is catharsis. You learn from pain, from treating loved ones in pain. You grow from such nursing". I almost laughed - at the absurdity of the statement. I wanted to believe her, to put my mind at rest, but, couldn't bring myself to accept the veracity of her statements.

But, a week later, I guess, I am beginning to understand. I learnt how to stay unaffected, yet care with all your heart. Earlier, I had a misconception. That to care, one must genuinely feel what the other is going through. But now, I realise that this would just wreck your mind and cause havoc within you. Then, you would need caring as well! In fact, one can care better if one can stay detached.

I learnt not to peer into the future, or ponder over the past. Some questions shall remain unanswered. Maybe, because it is better not to have them answered, or, even more so, because their being answered isn't necessary. To be in the present, to concentrate on the need of the hour - is highly soothing.

Above all, I learnt to love my Ajja again. Over the last couple of years, Ajja had grown slightly senile. He would keep repeating himself, asking the same questions over and over again. I know it is despicable, but, I developed a growing sense of irritation about him and his ways. Now, all my childhood memories come rushing back to me. About how he used to brush my teeth, how he would carry me around to the temple, how he would read out stories to me, give me hand-made cards on my birthday, taught me how to write letters, how to draw maps, nurtured in me this love for English, realised each of my whims, doted on me, treated me like a princess. I learnt to love him again. I realised that I can't make him walk, I can't take away his pain, I can't make him recover miraculously - but I could love him. Give him all my love - and that, I am doing. I now , therefore, feel that taking care of him - feeding, bathing, cleaning up - isn't a chore. He did the same for me when I was small, and was unable to do them myself. Now the roles are reversed. But, the drive to do these things, isn't a misplaced sense of duty. It is love. And, it makes it all worthwhile and bearable.

Now, I can understand why Prati said that the experience is cathartic. It gave me back an important part of myself which had been suppressed in the past few years.
It cleansed me.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Eleven minutes

In these holidays, I’ve been indulging myself – no, I don’t mean “binge eating” :D . I mean to say, I’ve been indulging in one of my passions – Reading. Finished a few books – ‘The Namesake’ [just ok, nothing extraordinary, usual NRI-identity crisis stuff], ‘The Sleepers’ [damn good, hard-hitting], some novel by Rosamund Pilcher [crappy sloppy love story :D], ‘A town like Alice’ [really good, and again, hard-hitting, but felt it slightly dragging and, in places, wandering away from the main focus, which slackens the grip it has on the reader].

Now, reading this really awesome book called “Eleven minutes” by Paulo Cohelo. One of the best books I’ve read in recent times, and, after a really long time, it’s been one book which got me so involved that I could almost feel the protagonist’s emotions as I went through the book. The protagonist is a prostitute and the book speaks about sex [“Eleven minutes is all it takes” to quote Maria, the protagonist]. But, there’s none of the taboo that generally accompanies it. Usually, the books which speak about sex – project it as either sinful [esp. religious texts do so], else, in a technical manner [as in all the “guide” books], or concentrate just on it, missing out on other accompanying emotions [as in the M&Bs]. Here, the treatment of the subject is entirely different. It is a male author, speaking through a women protagonist, so, I guess, both men and women can relate to the book. Maria is portrayed as a really strong woman. Her very positive attitude towards life strikes you as you go through the book. It is all about where life leads her. Her quest for love, the repeated disappointments, her utter frankness [and lack of shame] about getting into her profession for the money and the adventure, the occasional qualms she has – all have been brought about in a simple yet touching manner by the author. Though she is business like, and very professional in her attitude, there’s a woman within her who is a romantic and hopes to find the “Love of her life”. Though she faces hardships, she takes them positively, takes home lessons from them, and moves on. It portrays her journey, her growth as a person, her views on sex and love, and how these vary with her experiences and as she grows as a person. Here’s an excerpt from one of her accounts about love :

“All my life, I thought of love as some kind of voluntary enslavement. Well, that is a lie: freedom only exists when love is present. The person who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves most wholeheartedly.

And, the person who loves wholeheartedly, feels free.

That is why, regardless of what I might experience, do or learn; nothing makes sense. I hope this time passes quickly, so that I can resume my search for myself – in the form of a man who understands me and does not make me suffer.

But what am I saying? In love, no one can harm anyone else; we are each of us responsible for our own feelings and cannot blame someone else for what we feel

It hurt when I lost each of the various men I fell in love with. Now, though, I am convinced that no one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone.

That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.”