What I love the most about India?

Like a true patriot, I would say everything. But here I want to talk about the things I am most appreciative about in the Indian culture. Disparity is ubiquitous, may it be developed world or developing. Your approach towards life in general, is guided by culture, geography, relationships etc. Born and brought up in India, followed by living in extremely diverse places, economically and socially, highlighted great things in the Indian culture for me while appreciating the great things in other cultures.

They say, the real mettle of a person is tested when he is in true despair. Here is where, I have seen most fascinating examples in India. No offense to anyone else in the world, there are fighters everywhere. Here, the sense of calm though, even when they are trying to make ends meet day in and day out, is what has fascinated me over and over again. Poverty here doesn’t necessarily equate to sad faces, unbathed and disheveled people, people on drugs, or people with rage issues. More often than not, they have everything going against them and buckling under pressure would be an obvious option, but you don’t see many people doing that. A major part of this is probably having a big support system, never financial, but always human. Your neighbors, your family, your much bigger extended family, and just humanity that touches you at every level. There is rarely a second thought about taking care of neighbors children or family members, no appointments taken to see people you love. Somehow there is a natural authority of people around you on you. It harbors a safe feeling even in the biggest chaos going around. Few years back, Mumbai streets were flooded with incessant rains and people had to leave their vehicles and walk in stomach deep waters. The scene on the street, though not fun with all the dirty and potentially disease causing stuff flowing around, was of some unique opportunity. People who were lucky to be home, cooked meals, hot tea, and gave snacks to complete strangers passing by. For me, this is just a glimpse of what true Mumbai spirit is and with an extension Indian spirit.

One more thing that fascinates me about India is the spirit to do well in life. People falling prey to depression can take a leaf from the spirit of life of these people. You might be at the very very bottom of the ‘food chain’, but you don’t have a defeated demeanor. It goes to show a million success stories that you get to hear in India daily. If not me, then my children, is the natural thought process. And people strive for that. I remember, I was 21 and after a lot of convincing, I had finally got my own PC. Our maid, who is not classically educated (though I think of her as one of the wisest people I have ever met) came to me and asked me all about how it might be useful for her kids. They were probably 10-12 then and she did not have the resources to get them a PC. But she was planning ahead. And jotting down in her memory, how it might be of use. They grew up to be smart kids going to great colleges and every time I see her, she has the glowing pride on her face that she did well for her kids. Only yesterday, I was talking to her and she was feeling so relieved of her responsibilities, she offered to come to the US to take care of me and my future family. An amazing influence like hers, is something I would love to have around my family.

Another thing I am truly appreciative about is this part of the Indian culture where you respect the elders endlessly. Not everyone would agree with this notion, but for me the best lessons I have learnt are from not just listening to but almost feeling like a devotee in front of my parents, grandparents, teachers, and tons of learned people I have had the pleasure of sitting and listening to and discussing things with them. I am not talking about celebrities. Just people with a lot of clarity about life, because of their vast experiences. You don’t have to experience everything yourself, and these people surely have saved me a lot of time. Probably, stemming from the Gurukul system that existed centuries back, where the students would stay with the teacher for years and he would be everything for the student, he taught them life. Now it’s probably reversed in the way that everyone around is a teacher and thankfully there are many of them. One of the reasons, I don’t hate India’s huge population..

Another thing I absolutely love about India is the color. And I am not just talking about the clothes. I remember the scorching 48 degree celsius day when my maternal uncle who owns a little book store in a village was confronted with a boy unwarily asking him for ghee (butter) for 50 paisa (~0.001 dollar). The boy was obviously unaware (and probably sunstroked) asking for butter in a book store for a price that was not even enough to get small candy. My uncle smiled, did not get angry and took some ghee on his finger from the little temple diya (lamp) he had in his store and put it on his cheeks. We all vacationing cousins and the boy, had a big laugh and later we treated him with a glass of sherbat. It’s just these little instances, the ability to get joy from whatever is at hand is what I would call spunk. That twinkle in the eye on seeing something you like, however, small it is, the ability to be able to enjoy the day, with what it brings, and adding your own flavor to it, is a beautiful way to lead life.

For this sense of calmness despite despair, ambition besides lack of resources, undying respect for people around, and to make it perfect, a sprinkle of spunk and quirkiness, is what makes me feel blessed about my home country.

Advertisements

Crying and self pity!

I have called my blog ‘expression’. Human beings are strange. They have some very unique ways of expression. ‘Crying’ is one form of expression which I would like to believe everyone has experienced multiple number of times besides the time of birth. Laughing and crying though superficially connected to happiness and sorrow, when you laugh or cry from the bottom of your heart you divulge much more and express complex emotions. I am intrigued by ‘crying’ in a very subjective way.

Crying can be a reaction to instances as simple as falling down and hurting yourself, to a very inscrutable situation where you just break into crying, due to extreme happiness or sorrow. I wanted to comment on the topic to make sure I don’t border into self pity while crying because of sorrow. Things go wrong and sometimes they really do. We have moments of ‘why me?’. Life seems too unfair to fathom. A lot of times this can lead to self pity. I don’t bother about some moments of self pity. It will only take a rock for that to not happen. But extended periods seem dangerous. While crying is a primal instinct on experiencing something bad, reliving it for an extremely long period of time can lead to self pity. That cumulative effect of combining everything that is wrong and reliving the whole thing is a sure key to self pity and probably further to depression.

Well, the best way and in my opinion the only way to deal with a hopeless situation, is to know that there are people in worse situations than yours. Its probably difficult to be thankful for what you have at that time but at least it can be the first step to balance yourself in the tough circumstance.

Though crying is very good for your health as it takes away all the bottled emotions, it can be detrimental if it borders on self pity. So laugh off your cry!

Judgemental!!

My most treasured possession from my ‘lessons from the outside world’, is ‘not being judgmental’. No community has been spared from this virus, but I believe, the more open-minded you are the less judgmental you are too.

Recently, I have seen more and more people concluding things about others way too fast. Small actions are tagged and put in some weird mind equations to come up with someone elses’ whole personality description. It’s so unfair to the individual. I wonder why this happens. Everyone goes through their share of tough situations and knows very well that apparent behavior and action can have such deep-rooted meaning. In spite of that, instead of being compassionate, people prefer to throw judgment on their face and walk away. So are we becoming more and more judgmental and less compassionate? I would fear such a world. A world where people are superficially judging your actions and labeling you for that. Especially, if they are people who matter to you, your friends who have refused to open themselves up and explore and evolve, and blame you for being non-conformist or different. Even worse, how can we live in the world where we judge people instantly on the basis of the their looks, colour, their origin. Knowing the history of different parts of the world, understanding the huge disparities in people in any community, and the existence of the ready information on media like internet,  there is no excuse to judge individuals on fixed ideologies. Hope the media revolution liberates our minds to listen, experience and then rationally judge, instead of making snap judgements.

Så Som I Himmelen

Ohhh what a movie! The simplicity of the movie is what makes it amazingly uplifting..A story of a small village in Sweden, their choir made of disparate personalities and how they all find their voice, literally and metaphorically. The instrument for this is a world famous conductor who comes back to this village where he spent his childhood. This experience does different things for different people. For Tore, its just purely uplifting, for Gabrielle, it gives her strength to come out strong and tall and shun the bad, for Inger, it shows off the hypocrisy around her, while for Lene, she gets validation and above all love! The songs bring the biggest smile on the face with a tear in the eye…Så Som I Himmelen gives us the glimpse of heaven!

Romance personified…Porto!!

The cobblestone streets..alleyways studded with peculiar shops…the ancient buildings which still sing the song of the past glory….romantic walks along the beautiful beach….the chuckles with friends shared over hundreds of dinners…those are my amazing memories of Porto. It was a short 6 month haul in the country but those were undoubtedly the most unblemished, fantastic, pure fun days I have ever experienced. I am not sure what impressed me the most, the vivaciuos people, the amazing nature or the romantic architecture.

It’s obvious that the community is influenced by the weather of that region. And Porto surely exhibits as many hues of people as there are in the most stunning sunsets it witnesses every day.

Taking a walk along Ribeira, views of Porto from Cais de Gaia, local wine and cheese tasting at Palacio de Cristal, the most stunning biking experiences to Miramar along the coast on foggy mornings, the numerous fun painting strokes with artist Teresa, few but fun piano duets with Susana, the amazing conversations with clearly a group of geeks (I exclude myself from that category) from black holes to ‘farturas’ and the inspiring time I spend, absorbing the culture and rich history of Portugal and eventually the rest of breathtaking Europe all made it a stay to remember.

Heaven and hell story from my childhood

I think I was 4-5 years old. Yes, I still remember this silent skit, I saw. No dialogues, no fancy clothes, no huge backdrops, neither fancy setups. But it stuck to my mind..

This skit was about heaven and hell. As opposed to the words we so frivolously use now, the performers had put up just a one minute representation on the two entities we term ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’. I haven’t come across a better definition of it ever since.

Well, do heaven and hell really exist, that is not the point here. The point is, if they do, how would they be.

The setup goes like this.

There are 10 people and a bench to seat them 5 on each side, both in heaven and hell. There is a plate of food, good food, both in heaven and hell. Here is the catch…each of their hands are tied with wooden logs that prevent them to bend it. So where is the difference. There is none. If God does exist, its non-intuitive that he will differentiate between his creations. The difference lies in the approach of these two sets of people. The people in hell, try to eat from the plate in front of them and feel hopeless not being able to do so. On the other hand, the people in heaven, feed the person in front of them and get fed by him.

This is the situation in today’s life as well. If we start seeing these extreme expressions of good and bad, we will realize that bad exists only till we find a way to make it good. The day, people in hell realize that they need to share, care and learn, it will convert it into heaven. I am sure thousands of hells have been converted into heavens like this, both among the living and the dead, again if they exist!