Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A House with a Courtyard

Also published on Women's Web at: A House with a Courtyard

When home is not a place but a family, house is also not just brick-and-mortar but another member of it. Where the drawing and the dining rooms are the elderlies, taking care of all the guests and comforting them with all the love and warmth, the bedroom was the love which locked plenty of secrets inside. It was like a safe in an already secured house, keeping sound a lot of things unsaid. The bedroom was the epitome of ‘haya,’ reflecting modesty and decency, while keeping the needs satiated.

The kitchen was the mother who was akin to ‘Annapurna’, fulfilling the most basic need of each member of the house – hunger. The mother knew what would suit everybody the best and, thus, served accordingly. The kitchen was surely the favorite of elders and youngers alike, for it combined nutrition and flavors to serve them with sumptuous meals and healthful snacks. This was the fuel, which kept the clan running with a purpose through the day until the night when the doors would open their arms to receive each and all back. Each room fit like a glove, as did each member of the family and life seemed to be fine, when the question arose where the grandma is.

There she is, in the courtyard! Yes, she is the courtyard. She is just not there these days; the beloved granny has gone missing from the house. This was the place for soaking up the sun, playing in the wee hours, sitting together of the clan, enjoying sunrises and sunsets, feeding the sparrows and talking to them for hours, taking in the freshness the plants gifted every morning, reading the newspaper and letting the spices out to dry. She has been replaced by a part-time nanny, the balcony. The nanny tries so hard to cover up for our beloved grandma, but no matter how much efforts she puts in, she will still be a cheap copy of her. The nanny doesn’t greet the guests the way grandma did, leading them to the entrance while giving a glimpse of the ‘muggu’ decorated at the main gate. She doesn’t even let the ladies from the neighborhood flock together while bidding adieu to their family members and, then, feeling relaxed for the rest of the day. The grandma breathed in the traditions and talked about the customs; the nanny will take a long time to learn.

While all other family members continue to run in the mad race of life, there is no courtyard now, standing still, waiting for them to stop and enjoy the sweet nothings of life. The nucleus of the house, shady, airy, close to nature, giving the peace of sleeping under a tree or taking in the sunlight during the winters and letting the fresh air inside the rooms has just been forgotten in the urban living.  Sadly, the grandma is not even missed.     

Friday, March 1, 2019

Book Review # 20: Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

My rating: ●●●●○

Sudha Murty
Three Thousand Stitches
India: Penguin, 2017
179 pp; INR 250
ISBN: 9780143440055
Summary: Well, I am back at this game and I confess I truly missed it. I have been so busy going with the flow that I have actually forgotten how much efforts it takes to travel upstream. This is my first book review in 2019 and I swear I shall continue playing till I set a record of maximum reads (and reviews) this year.

Coming back to what it should originally be about, Three Thousand Stitches is another shot of this vintage wine called Sudha Murty. There’s so much to take away from the book as long as you don’t turn the last page and happily forget. This one is another classic collection of the pearls from the author’s life, telling us about how she braved through the challenges life threw at her. Read it if you are already her fan and miss it if you have seen a lot of her interviews, as she has told us about a lot of these experiences several times anyway.   

What really clicked? I shouldn’t mention it as many times as I do; I am Sudha Murty’s fan for life.
My take: Totally per Murty’s style of writing, Three Thousand Stitches is a non-fictional collection of short stories, which tell us about the long and rich life the author has lived and how she made it worthy enough. This book has 11 stories or rather pearls of wisdom the author has shared with her readers so that they could take inspiration and gain dominion over life.

Enough has been said about her writing style, which is extremely simple and colloquial and appeals to the masses. This book not only comes very easy in reading and grasping, but also is motivating enough to give your thought process a subtle nudge.

Where the stories like Three Thousand Stitches, How to Beat the Boys, A Powerful Ambassador and Food for Thought will take you back to your roots, Three Handful of Water will make you want to emulate the most admirable life the billionaire author lives. There are spices, like the story called Cattle Class and No Place Like Home which would make you familiar with how materialistically and cruelly the world functions and there are gems, too, like A Life Unwritten, which will unfurl the story behind the naming of the brand – RH Diagnostic. A special mention here goes to Rasleela and the Swimming Pool, which will make you chuckle through a rather serious read. The story, A Day in Infosys Foundation gives the readers a sneak peek into the author’s life and all the challenges which come with the position she holds. My favorite takeaway from the book are:

  • The concept that you automatically gain class by acquiring money is an outdated thought process.
  • Adinishtura is better than nantyanishtura, which means initial disappointment is better than a disagreement at the end.
  • Confidence doesn’t mean that everything will go our way. It simply gives us the ability to accept failures that we will inevitably meet on our path and move forward with hope.
Conclusion: The books Murty writes are simply no-nonsense, have a lot to give to the readers and, in turn, take very little from them in order to connect with. This is one of those pearls you would want to keep close, for it lets you see the world from the eyes of the author. Mind you, this read can easily be consumed in one shot.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What on Earth is Facial Feedback Hypothesis?

We have been programmed to think. Being humans, this is something which comes naturally to us. What comes rather unnaturally is the habit of over-thinking. While we keep chewing the cud at times, we begin to live in a virtual world, full of hypothetical circumstances and non-existent situations. What could have been a really simple situation is often made complicated by the thoughts infected with ‘could and would.' Duh! 

So, some time back, I came across a phrase – Facial Feedback Hypothesis – and I couldn’t hold myself from trying if it works. Boy! It did and I am glad I now know how to tame any bad situation without having to store some useless data in my brain to regurgitate it later.

It’s simple. You trick your brain into believing that since you are smiling, things ought to be normal. Despite the screw-ups, we smile because then the repercussions wouldn’t be as dire as they would have been had we thought through them tad too much. The next time when you come across a cranky child sitting next to you in a long flight or a stubborn client, who is nothing short of horrible, you take a deep breath and smile. You know why, because anyway your running a motion picture of possibilities in your mind wouldn’t help mend the situation. Instead, it would make real you catching some diseases as a result of staying in the pseudo-world for too long.

Alternatively, smile through the tough times, as you anyway would face the next minute, the next hour, the next day and what not as an extension of this moment. Battle it out once and for all when it happens in real instead of boiling your blood over if’s and when’s. Our facial expressions do affect our emotions and, believe me, it irks the bad (be it the person, situation or memory) even more. Force your 26 facial muscles to smile, instead of 62 to frown, through the bad days and you can always come back to thank me here later.

Here’s what I got from Wikipedia to support what I said. Now, would you smile a little broader and wider, please?

"If no bodily changes are felt, there is only an intellectual thought, devoid of emotional warmth. In The Principles of Psychology, William James wrote: Refuse to express a passion, and it dies."

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye, 2018!

I see myself as an imperfect human being, who is trying too hard to make things better for herself, for her family and for the world she lives in. As I report to work on the last working day of 2018, I get myself prepared to strike off some of the resolutions made sitting on this desk last year and carrying over a few.

Just a quick look at this chapter of my life story and I feel glad to know that this year has, indeed, made me emerge stronger and way better a human. I thought I had a connection with this number, 18, until God made sure I no longer believe in numerology. Well, this, surely, has been a hell of a year! 

The wheels in my feet were greased for short trips to Vizag (our yearly pilgrimage to the hometown), Vrindavan, Tijara (Alwar) and Chandigarh/Morni Hills. Considering the places that they are, I am glad I made the right choices in choosing the destinations.

The work life sailed smooth, with occasional hiccups of being unable to organize priorities. However, the workplace itself experienced drastic changes in terms of losing business and high attrition. Nevertheless, my work experience has grown if I look back to where I stand today. It’s always wise to not travel downstream and halt to know where we belong. I still need to think if this is it.

Physically, this was clearly not my year. If I do not look at the viral fever which loved me a little more to let go, the gym life was a constant on-off. Honestly, due to the decision of deliberately keeping off from heavy exercises, all I did was no exercise at all and this should be completely unacceptable considering my expectations from my body. Eating habits, too, were haywire and, most of the times, I was hogging like a pig on the food, which I could easily have said no to. Nevertheless, I leave the bad memories here.

Spiritually, I can say my relation with God has become a little stronger. I feel Him everywhere, silently listening to whatever I say, reading my mind and bending the ways exactly how I want them to be. The bad times never stayed and the good times left sweet flavors in my mouth, almost palpable all the time.

The big and the most beautiful segments of my life, which stayed there and grew strong, are now being carried over to the next year. My family! I cannot ever thank God enough for this. They have been there with me through all shades of grey – my husband, my brother, my parents – they are big gems, which add value to my life. Their roles in 2018 have been especially worth mentioning. The rock that my brother is, the strong values my mother and father add to my life and, of course, the way my husband mends me into a better person – they all are an integral part of my presence. I can say I am a sum total of them all.

I say this every year whenever I am changing the calendar, but I am ready to work on myself, more seriously and more relentlessly, this time. I am optimistic that things will fall in place, prayers will be answered and good times will prevail. I wish the same to all my readers, too. 
Cheena's new year's prayer:
O, Dear Lord! Bless me, so I seek you, see you and feel you everywhere. Watch over my loved ones day and night and keep them in the pink of their health. Help me be kind, generous and optimistic at all times and see through the hard times to learn from them. Help me take one day at a time and make the most of it. Hold my hand while I strive to make my dreams come true and add value to my endeavors towards shaping my future right. May I always thrive in your love, indulge in your blessings and grow under your guidance. May my love for you always grow and my belief in you become stronger than ever. I thank you for the year gone by and I look forward to receiving your love in the coming year. Amen!      

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Book Review # 19: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

My rating: ●●●●
Robin Sharma 

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari 

India: Jaico; 1999

208 pp; INR 199

ISBN: 9780062515674

Summary: If self-help is your favourite genre, then this book would be an additional dish of ‘paneer’ for you with almost the same taste as that of all its comrades. However, if this is your first tryst with it, then I must applaud you for your selection. There are a lot of takeaways from the book, especially steps, rituals and strategies, which you could possibly write down, set in a frame and put up on your study wall, or bedroom’s. Robin Sharma has been extremely straightforward in motivating his readers to enhance the overall quality of their lives and he has, undoubtedly, done a great job. The only thing I was miffed at was how the dose of information gets too much for you to bite and chew. A must read, if this is where you start.  

What really clicked? I was rather intrigued by the title, which initially turned me off as I thought I should taste the “Ferrari-like” success first and then read this book in order to relate better. As a matter of fact, this book will inspire you to give up the thought of owning one in the first place.

My take: Though all self-help books start with the same motive – to disseminate good thoughts and ways – only a few are able to make it all sink in smoothly, not making it sound like preaching. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari does this job pretty well. Divided into thirteen chapters, this book breaks a story the protagonist bases this book on down to pieces, further discussing the significance and the message contained in each element of the story.

The book talks about the life experience of Julian, an established lawyer, who is the protagonist, and is narrated by the author, who was once his assistant. Julian seems to have achieved it all when he collapses in the middle of an ongoing session in a crowded courtroom. This blow to his physical health also affects him mentally and he, in search of the larger meaning of life, comes to India and learns about the Sages of Sivana.

The rest of the book covers Julian’s journey in India and how he learns the secrets to radiant and enlightened living. These secrets are really no big secrets and merely reiterate the lessons we have been learning since childhood. However, books like these make sure that while we continue participating in the mad rat race, we also take out time to stop and look around, calm ourselves down and appreciate small things. 

The author’s attempt to reach out to his readers, helping them lead a better life, is indeed laudable. In this conversation between two people (Julian and Robin), it is the reader who benefits the most. There are pearls of wisdom spread all over the chapters and are worth holding close all life. These snippets of knowledge not only reinstate your faith in your abilities, but also help you in building a strong character. Apart from sharing the ways in which how an ideal life should be led, the author has also shared the techniques which make practicing them easier. For instance, ‘the magic rule of 21’is a technique which could help a person in adopting a habit, provided he repeats doing the same thing for 21 days straight.

This book helps in ironing out a crumpled up life and also paves a way for an enhanced living. A must read for a fresh air of positivity and inspiration.

Final Word: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari shall bring in a whole lot of positive inspiration into your life. This self-help book not just adopts an indirect method of preaching, but also makes it simpler for the readers to practice in real life. Go for the read, as I am sure you wouldn't return empty-handed. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

To Hell and Back!

Ah! Last three weeks and my birthday; I am ever going to remember this time and the lessons I have learned thus far. Ironically, life gifted me a hospital stay on my birthday and I braved not just the agony that came along, but also the misery of not being able to be happy and accept the blessings and good wishes that came from all over.

So, it is of paramount importance for me to share with you all my takeaways from this episode. First thing first, I would suggest you to rather stay away from allopathic treatments and the concerned doctors, for they are in the ‘market’ to squeeze every penny out of your insurance cover and thereon your pocket. I am not even talking about any massive disease for you to possess to experience this pain; like me, you could just have a viral fever and lo! all that they would see in you would be a potential business client.

Their ‘symptomatic’ treatment would not just suck a lot of blood out of you in the name of the necessary tests that they would have to do, but also give you plenty of strong medicines which would surely make you weaker than your original ‘sick self’. Honestly, I have no more faith left in doctors working with private firms, for I see cretins in them, who are there to do everything but drag you out of the situation. Their treatments and the after-effects would make you sigh with several new problems which weren’t even there when you approached them for help.

When you are sick, you turn the lives of everyone around you upside down. The trauma of your physical condition affects them mentally and they become sad, too. That’s really a sorry thing, for you don’t want to see the people who love you the most as miserable. The ugly part is that you would seldom be able to do a thing except for getting alright faster and staying cheerful mentally. I have seen that the physical pain quivers at the thought of mental happiness. Just try to think about everything that makes you happy and don’t let the pain come to your face. This way, everyone around you would also exude positivity for they would see you improving.  

I seriously urge you all to be healthy and forever thankful for not having to visit a hospital. Trust me, it would always cost you lesser to take care of your health than to pay hospital bills. The pain that comes as a bonus in the latter case would make you want to become a fitness freak. Three things – mind, body and soul – God has never really complicated things for us; it is us who have devised tons of new languages to make business while eluding our own brethren.       

There would always be situations like what happened to me, even when I was regular at gym, calculative about my diet and cautious of my lifestyle and for all these times, just be ready with a reliable health insurance policy. That’s all there’s to say.

I sincerely wish that good times always prevail and bad times never show their ugly face. This birthday, I have pledged to lead an even healthier life and I wish for a hospital-free life for all of you, too.

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