Alive Enough?

I’m alive today but what guarantee do I have that I’ll wake up to see tomorrow’s Sun? Guarantee- I have none. It’s just faith that I have and Hope that I cling on to before going to sleep that I’ll wake up to see another morning.

How fickle is our being. Alive in this moment- in all glory and naught in the next. Even the thought of it brings jitters and send a cold chill down my spine.

Everyday we keep making plans about the things we will do and the things we will be. We sew together an elaborate dream each night, a dream in which we are what we have always wanted to be. And day after day, everyday- we keep deferring those plans and those things thinking that we have our entire life ahead of us for fulfilling our dreams and desires. We believe that right now, it is time to become someone, to prove to the world that “I am also a force to be reckoned with!”

Well, honestly, I am not against the mentality of becoming something and sacrificing my present for a better future, but what has recently begun to haunt me is not future but “uncertain” future. The thought that- what if I’m not supposed to live till the average age and that, this time now, which I’m sacrificing in becoming something worthwhile is actually God’s gift to me, which I’m wasting because I won’t have time left afterall, when I’ve indeed become something.

(Actually these are the moments when I really believe that Ignorance is Bliss. But that’s not the point right now.)

I do say that ZNMD is my all time favourite movie but I must also supplement my above claim by adding that societal pressure is a tad too much, to actually follow the tenets that are so beautifully portrayed in the movie. Even I want to live the high life, but for that I have to study. If I study now, that means that I’m sacrificing my present. And time once lost, is lost forever. Plus I have the added risk that I might not make it afterall or maybe even if I do make it, I don’t sustain it for too long or worse yet, even if I make it and I am able to sustain it, my body won’t support me well at that point in time because I neglected it in the present. This is such a vicious circle and as I put in more factors, this circle will only enlarge.

So then, how do we break this deadlock? We can’t abandon education and adopt a carefree life. We can’t even let ourselves entirely into studies because then we would be back to square one. So what to do? How to tend both the things? The answer is simple. We need to make daily plans (like we all do and I even mentioned that earlier) and we also need to ensure that these plans are executed.

Just as we take out time for television and mobile phones from our “busy lives”; we must, as well, take out time for the things which truly matter to us. The things which will make us feel alive. Small and everyday things like tending to a small plant or catching up with friends- old and new alike. Things1 like playing the guitar, or staying in the shower for five extra minutes so that we can showcase our singing talents, not to the soap and the shampoo bottles, but to our own selves.

As it is we are already surrounded by walls and screens, insomnia and assignments, papers and reviews, deadlines and bosses; so I don’t think that it might really be a big deal if we were to add a few more variables into the equation. In fact, these are the variables which we are fond of, which we feel pleasure in performing. For these things, we only need to have the will to do it and Time will automatically adjust for it.

I have decided to do the things which I like doing along with the ‘oh-so-important’ things of life. Just as I have hope and faith that I’ll wake up see the sun shines tomorrow, I have the same hope and faith (let’s not get into the discussion of being in control, because that is a myth) that Time will create a leeway for the things that matter to me NOW!

And the good news, my dear friends, is that it always does.

~S.S

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Fear

This four letter word has destroyed millions and millions and hence, today, I want to talk about this very subject. For ages it has acted as a lout and a curse for most of humanity. Tyrants have risen and Societies have fallen because of this very word. Peace has been challenged and Battles have been waged because of this four letter word. Worse of all, men have killed other men just because of this four letter word and sadly, the practice still continues.

Let’s leave aside these grave societal matters.. and talk on a personal level. How it affects us- you and me! In the end that is what matters, right? The world is changed by people like us after all. I would like to begin by bringing to your notice your biggest fears. There’s no point in denying that you have one. Our fears, weaknesses and insecurities are just as much important to make us feel human as are our dreams, joys and hopes.

The worrisome trend today is not that people have a fear of some thing, but that the people don’t seem to realise until too late (or sometime never) that they do have a fear of some thing. Again, it’s not my point to wheedle you into glorifying any fears- existent or non-existent, as if it is some kind of atavistic activity. No. I just want you to realise that you’re a human too and it’s okay to be afraid.

I know- accepting the fact that you are afraid may seem odious but believe me, it’s equally freeing. It allows you to introspect. You have already understood the problems and issues and hence, you can go about finding a solution for it. It is just the same as travelling in a vehicle on the highway and the best part is that you know exactly where you have to go- Makes life so much easier, no?

Now you might argue that writing it all down is all too easy but implementation is tough. Well, yes, agreed but all I’m saying (and which has been gathered from plausible sources) is that don’t fear FEAR! Face your fear. If you badly wanted to take that trip, just take it. If you want to feel the thrill of adventure sports, just go out and experience it. Why be afraid? Tens of thousands of people have been there and done that before you.

Remember the greatest amount of fear is just moments before you actually attempt to do something about it. And once you do it, all that fear fades away like a fart in the wind. That’s when you realise how idiotic you’ve been. You later spend hours contemplating how easy it was or how unfounded your fears were.

But next time again when you are pitted against some other thing, which you are afraid of, you go back to being your original fearful self. In such moments, I want you to remember the paroxysms of joy you felt, when you completed some thing you were just as much afraid of earlier. Obviously, it won’t take away your entire fear but it will definitely help you to face the challenge at hand. This is the unbending principle of the world. This is how everything works.

Always keep in mind that fear would only hinder your chances. It will eat away your opportunities. If you control your fear now, you will see the miracles later on. What’s meant to happen, will happen anyways and your fearless participation in the events orchestrated by the cosmos will ensure that what was meant for you, will eventually reach to you. So I would like to reiterate- don’t fear FEAR, challenge your fears and witness the miracles that are in store for you!

Slow Down

How you ever been in such a great haste that you have trampled over things and jumped over people just so that you reach wherever you wanted to reach in the specified time that you intended to reach in and then realised that you were counted amongst the early birds to reach there? All that energy and pomposity for nothing! The whole air of importance down the drain. Taking sheer stress for some non-existent great cause.

Often times, we lead a life full of rush. In the moment, we do believe that we are doing some important work. But if we reflect upon it later on, we realise that we were only coming from nowhere and going to nowhere. Funny, isn’t it? A few examples may hopefully clear my viewpoint.

Being a Mumbaikar, the best example that comes to my mind is of local trains. Countless people have lost their dear lives just because they decided to travel on the dashboard to reach their office on time and incidentally fell off to their imminent death. What’s the need to hurry? The next train was anyways going to arrive in a couple odd minutes.

Another example which everyone, irrespective of where you live, can relate to is that of crossing signal, when it’s just turned red. Most of times people get lucky, but not always and an accident, which otherwise could have been averted, inadvertently takes place. If there’s some emergency, then I’m willing to agree with the cause, but not contrarily. I mean, the world isn’t ending behind you that you can’t waste time waiting at the signal, right?

Now, I believe that everyone is busy or atleast try to be busy so as to assume some importance, so as to beat the monotony of their life which is utterly colourless when they compare it with that of their peers. Let me tell you one thing, all are leading the same life, though it may manifest itself differently, but in the end everyone is unsatisfied by their own and amazed by that of others around them.

I don’t want you to live perfectly. No, that’s not what we were ever meant to do. I’m asking you to live it fully. Next time, if you have reached the parking lot and your favourite song starts playing, take some time out for yourself and enjoy the music. No one cares if you reach your desk five minutes late, but on the other hand, you will sit down at your desk with a renewed spirit, which will help you to work optimally. Even your boss will not say NO as it saves his cash, which otherwise would have gone into motivating the employees.

Again I would like to reiterate that I am not asking you to stop living life in the way you are accustomed to do, but just imploring you that for a day try slowing down your pace a bit. Feel the moments as they pass. You will end up feeling less exhausted, more ebullient and in general, a bit more zestful. And that’s the whole point of being, won’t you agree?

Two Parts Hydrogen, One Part Oxygen

Water- the quintessential liquid required for survival of anything and everything. It’s one molecule is chemically composed of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. It’s no wonder a miracle, how these basic elements, when combined, are powerful enough to start and sustain the whole chapter, which we humans call as “Life”.

In the prehistoric era, water was formed due the reaction of these two aforementioned gases, which combined when they were released from below the Earth’s crust. Can you believe it, that once approximately 250 million years ago, it started raining and it rained for not one but 2 MILLION years, shocking Right?

Earth has been very lucky to get all the correct permutation and combination. Perfect distance from parent star, presence of water, balanced atmosphere, just the required amount of rare earth and heavy earth elements, etc.. the list is long. But it has also received a bane, and sadly that bane is us- Humans.

Let’s do a reality check before we move further. Who are we? Just another species of animals with a higher level of intelligence than the rest. Who do we think we are? Yes, undisputed rulers of the entire universe (mind you, not just the Earth). It’s so funny that if you think about it without bias, you realise- how man, in his greed to acquire money, has robbed his own self of basic amenities such as clean water and basic standards of living.

In this post, I want to address the former- Water. Again, time for a reality check. What do you think is common between Sao Paulo, Beijing, Bengaluru, Cairo, Jakarta, Istanbul?

Yes smarty, you’re right. Each one of them is facing severe water shortage. The reasons are various, but they all point to the same cause and consequence, which we shall see later on.

Imagine a hot, sunny day in Karachi. People going about their business as usual. But there is something amiss. Most of them look dirty and smell as if they haven’t bathed that morning. Shockingly, they haven’t bathed the morning before or the one before too. And why so? Yes, you’re correct again. There is not enough water to drink, let alone save some for bathing. Bathing for these people has become a luxury. And Karachi isn’t alone. There are so many cities across the globe facing similar crisis.

In many countries, you can find colourful cars moving on sombre highways dotted with brown tress all along. Barren fields on either side. Everywhere you can hear locals complaining that as less as five years ago, the whole area was one with nature, greenery all around. Rains were cyclic and consistent. Not anymore. And this is worrisome.

In many South American countries, citizens wait for hours on end for fifteen minutes worth of water supply, barely enough for a couple of days. What’s more alarming is that this has been a way of life for many years now.

Johannesburg, the famous South African city, is having almost no access to fresh potable water or ground water. As per reports, the water quantity in their main reservoirs have dropped below 4% which in itself is a big reason to worry, considering that it’s population is almost 4.4 million.

This makes me wonder what is the reason of all this. On a planet which comprises of 75% water, how is it even possible that this otherwise abundant resource is so scarce. The main reason is unequal distribution. But ofcourse, that has been the case since time immemorial. So what happened now?

The simple answer is climate change. Everyone knows the causes, namely pollution, industrialisation and the ilk. Everyone also knows the solutions, I.e reuse, reduce, refuse, etc .

But what I want to ask is that how many of us truly adhere to those norms and solutions. Honestly, till recently, I didn’t. I always felt that how could one person’s contribution matter in this huge, vast world. And yet, when I saw first hand how different classes of people in the same city having same issues tackle it, it would be an absolute understatement to say that I was shocked, appalled rather.

On one side of the city, the poorest of the poor scavenge for water as the taps run dry and the hoi polloi wait for days to fill their drums and cans. But on the other side, the pools of the rich are overflowing but the house is devoid of its populace, run only by servants.

They say true face of human cruelty is visible at times of war, but I’m certain that even that must be better than these scenes.

Again, I’m sure that in this hoo-ha of water not being enough for citizens, we all must have definitely forgotten the animals. They have the same right over the endowments of nature as we do. Yet, somehow we don’t care a dime about those right. Some days I wonder that the dream of a just and equal land, is just that..a dream, a utopia which exists only in theory.

Today, I won’t urge you all to save water. No. That has been done before so many times, by so many people and the results are out for everyone to see. Today, I want you to just imagine that there are people somewhere on this planet who are facing severe ill effects of actions done by us- me as well as you. Today, I want you to visualize that mother, who is dying of thirst because the last cup of water was gulped by her children. Imagine that farmer, who is contemplating suicide because rains have failed yet again.

At this point, I don’t know about you, I can’t even imagine anything more. The despair and hopelessness on the faces of so many people, while those who can actually matter- sit in their comfortable houses and relax. It is too disheartening to imagine.

Every year, more and more fresh water is getting destroyed as glaciers melt and the sea levels keep on rising. I reckon it’s high time that we wake up collectively, if our leaders can’t and take some firm steps in the right direction before it’s too late to turn the tide in our favour again. I’m sure that if the correct steps are taken now, we can surely save our future generations from an otherwise imminent extinction.

The Knowledge

There have been quite a lot of things going on in my mind lately. But today, I am determined to take some time out and write about the little changes happening in and around me, just to acknowledge, at the very least- how these changes are setting me free and how these changes have let me to hope, a thing that I had scarcely allowed myself to do in the past.

Anyone who has ever talked to me for a proper ten minutes, shall agree that I am naive at heart. I may be street smart because my parents, particularly my mom, paid great attention to it. But when it comes to introspection, well, I suck. I mean, who needs introspection when a caring elder brother is always present with his bag full of experiences and solutions. Yet, I knew that at some point in life, I had to learn the ways of life myself, because my brother won’t necessarily be there for me forever and to be honest, it would be very unfair to ask him to actually be.

Luckily, for me, the time to learn worldly wisdom came recently. Better late than never, right?! It came in the form of articles, books, movies, songs even WhatsApp conversations, and what not. But, the greatest teacher among them all was Life, the daily experiences, the random flow of events. Yes, a talk or two in the train with a friend. An incident on the way to work. A news of current happenings. It’s as if each and every thing happening to me or around me has had some deep knowledge rooted in it and my task was pretty simple- to identify and comprehend this knowledge.

As I was assimilating all this knowledge that was coming my way, I couldn’t help but wonder, as to the purpose it served. Initially, I believed that this knowledge would provide some future assistance but very soon I realised that this knowledge was not for some obscure event of the future. Rather, it was for empowering my current lifestyle. It was to make me realise how foolishly I had been doing things which had no meaning and were outright noxious. It was indeed to change my perspective on a wide variety of subjects.

Insecurities, Fear

I perfectly remember that ever since my early schooling days, I was very insecure and afraid. Insecure about my standing in the class and fearful about almost everything else. Infact, I had hit such a low once, that I outright rejected the proposal of teaching a topic to a dearly loved friend, due to the fear that she might score better than me in that subject.

And as time passed, these insecurities and fears manifested themselves to higher levels and began including Luck and Chance with them. Infact, the severity of this problem can be gauged by the fact that I wore my “lucky” watch for all the papers of my Inter CA examinations except Audit and guess what, yes, I ended up failing only in Auditing.

But, these insecurities and fears were not all that bad. They helped me stay away from “Relationships”. Let me tell you, though I have been away from Relationships, the people closest to me have not- They have all been struck by Cupid periodically. That, in a way, gave me a perfect opportunity to study how Love actually sublimates over time and transforms into deep rooted insecurity and fear, if not properly dealt with. Well, that’s for another day. For now, it should suffice you to know that I am victoriously fighting my war against fears.

Humility, Courage

I know a lot of people consider me to be full of ego and stuff (even my mom complains about it sometimes) but I never had the slightest traces of it, at best I can be called finicky. Instead, I had cupboards and cupboards full of shyness and introversion. And even though knowledge helped me empty most of them, a few vestiges still remain. I still won’t be the first person to initiate the conversation but surely I’ll listen till the last second. Talking is not my forte, listening is. And that is what I realised when I bathed in that knowledge pool.

Speaking of courage, every human being who ever lived and who will ever live shall be termed as courageous. Seldom comes a life, which has no challenges, no hurdles, no obstacles. Everyday, each one of us strives to make the most out of our present situations. You might not acknowledge it, but what you are essentially doing, when facing those challenges, is being courageous. Courage is not limited to Don Quixote (yes, he was a fool but he was a courageous fool) and it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with fighting ghosts and demons.

Loneliness, Solitude

To the unaware, both might seem the same. Yet there is a subtle difference. To be honest, I knew the difference even before the knowledge dawned upon me. But, knowledge surely helped me to understand it more deeply and profoundly. While loneliness is more about being alone and grimacing about that fact, solitude is about being alone and enjoying your own company.

Loneliness is more of a vice and solitude is a virtue. I am lucky enough to be embraced by solitude because loneliness is hazardous, even life taking. I can’t even comprehend how a person might feel when s/he realises that there is no one to be by her/his side in this world, which is awfully full of people. Surely, thinking about it alone gives me jitters. I am fortunate enough to enjoy my company with nature and the cosmos. I am fortunate enough to not get affected by loneliness and I am fortunate enough to help people struggling with loneliness, you all only expanded my knowledge.

Pain, Forgiveness

Whenever humans and human emotions are involved, pain is definitely involved. Infact, it wouldn’t be wrong to call emotions as precursors of pain. The flow is simple- Emotions make us obsequious and being obsequious, being servile is the easiest passageway to pain. Though it may sound crude, I’ll try my best, to get the point across.

Almost everyone can universally connect to the emotion called Love and so, I will take the same and attempt to make my point clear. What is love? Poets across millennia have described it in the most animated words. Love can be the affection and attraction for many things- other people, nature, a doll, a car and what not. But as Kabir put it- “The lane of love is narrow, it has place only for one.” And though we may root for the accepted myth that Love is selfless, it is not and that pains. And if it is indeed selfless, it causes all the more pain- because with selfless love comes an even greater burden of expectations. You are only fooling yourself, if you believe that expectations don’t form a part of selfless love.

But, mysterious are the ways of the world- as pain and suffering are so omnipresent, we also have the options of acceptance and forgiveness. In fact, Forgiveness is akin to Godliness. This is where the knowledge comes into play. Suffering is difficult and forgiving is even more difficult. But knowledge helps us in accepting the situation as is and letting it go. Once we taste liberation by letting go the pain, by forgiving- we actually begin to live a more meaningful and purposeful life and that is the true purpose of living, right?!

Conclusion

Frankly speaking, there are so many things that I have learnt. So many things about which I can write volumes on. But in these busy times, I am lost for the want of time. Also, my writing skills won’t do justice to those forby subjects- atleast not right now. And I am guessing that the handful of you, who reached this far, must surely be waiting for it to end too. Thus, I would take one final moment to let you know that I am grateful to you for taking your time out and reading patiently.

P.s. Gratitude is a virtue too. The latest one that I learned.

Until later.

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Niceness and its Truth

We humans are depressed. We are worried. We are continuously anxious. We think too much but feel too little. But do you know what connects us all? Yes, it is kindness, it is niceness, the love for mankind. Most of us can’t rejoice in another person’s sorrow. We weren’t meant to be like that.

Yet, to come into this world and to try to become a nicer person sounds like a totally vague, deeply colourless and dispiriting goal. Yes, theoretically, we love niceness of course. Yet, in practice, there seems to be something embarrassingly anodyne and timid about the concept. A nice person definitely sounds like something- we would love to be, but only when every other strenous and more rewarding alternative has failed.

Though we may internally feel that being nice is important and fundamental to a happy living, but our society has been witness to a few ground breaking truths, which has led it to preach all its new offspring the exact antithesis of what we actually feel about niceness.

1. The Legacy of Romanticism: Nice but Boring…

For most parts of the last millennium, our thoughts have been systematically influenced by a cultural movement known as Romanticism. The followers of this movement are called Romantics and for them, the truly esteemed person is one who is energetic and creative as well as intense. Lively yet at the same time volatile, assertive and quick- someone who might choose the road less travelled and is daring to the point of being unreasonable and forceful, even rude, in the name of following the call of one’s own hearts.

The exact opposite image of this God-like figure was, for the Romantics, someone mild and respectable, regimented and monotonous, defensive and conservative, reserved and quiet, in other words- the boring person. Here, there has seemed a radical choice to be made: either fiery, unpredictable and brilliant, or meek, conventional and always in bed by nine.

2. The Legacy of Capitalism: Nice but Bankrupt…

Amongst the accusations against niceness, Capitalism added another variable into the already fragile equation- by giving a new perspective to the already botched up interpretation of the world. It presents the world as a deeply adversarial and competitive arena in which everyone was committed to wage a continuous battle in an atmosphere marked by ruthlessness, determination and impatience- to get a slice of the ever so coveted Market Share. And it is a universal truth that those who succeeded knew how to destroy the competition at hand and handle the workforce without a trace of emotion. A nice person, unwilling to squeeze wages or outwit an opponent, would end up either bankrupt or in the mailroom.

3. The Legacy of Faith: Nice but Weak…

Since time immemorial, Religion has been the single most powerful force shaping our intellectual as well as moral horizons. Take up any religion and you will see that it has peace and kindness as it’s basic tenets. Each and every religion has been profoundly committed to promoting niceness to the world. With the finest aesthetic and in the most animated ways, it has compelled us to sing praises of forgiveness, charity, tenderness and empathy.

But – unfortunately for niceness – take any major religion of the world. Hinduism, Christianity, Islam- all of these great religions have seen their fair share of bloodshed in the name of God. These three names are mentioned by the virtue of their success in the battles, which were fought under their banner. Successful people in these battles, or so the believers were told, on the whole, were very nice people – and the real nice people- those who were defeated due to their non violent stand- were not, on the whole, very successful . It seemed- applicants to the Kingdom of Heaven had a choice to make: niceness or success.

Despite all this, the naked truth is that we all like niceness very much and depend upon it even more. Infact, the more a person stays away from it, the more is its requirement for him. It is just that his true memories of niceness have been suppressed by a culture that unfairly makes him feel weak and shy for lending niceness his approval. All of the qualities we have been taught to think of as opposed to niceness are in fact highly compatible with, and at points, highly dependent upon it:

– However much we are committed to success, for long portions of our lives, we are intensely vulnerable creatures wholly at the mercy of the gentleness of others. We’re only ever able to be successful because other people, usually our parents, have given up a good share of their lives to being nice to us.

So much of what we value is, in fact, preserved by niceness and is compatible with it. We can be nice and successful, nice and exciting, and nice and wealthy. Niceness is a virtue awaiting our rediscovery and our renewed, un-conflicted appreciation.

Bow Before Thee

This tale is of a time long gone by
That will leave something in you awry.

When civilisation was at its prime
And ancient church bells used to chime.

When High King ruled the land
And structures were erected, grand.

This Gabriel was summoned by his Lord
And asked if everything was in accord.

Thus spoke I with an ache
“O My Good Lord, forgive me a mistake

I haven’t been entirely true
For the world is not how you wanted it to brew.”

And thus concerned and wanting to see
My Lord came down for the holy inquiry.

My Lord adorned a tramp’s guise
Very subtle and surely wise.

First we arrived at the King’ s castle
From whence we were drew away without a hassle.

Then we reached the Noble’s gates
Where we were dispensed empty plates.

Further we waited at the Merchant’s door
The only sound we heard- was of his snore.

Finally we tumbled by a pauper’s abode
And saw first-hand how munificence flowed.

For the first time I saw My Lord smile
Content that not everyone in his World was hostile.

And then what I heard astonished me
My Lord told the mendicant, “No one else, but I bow before thee!”

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