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To special people who make us feel special

2012 – I went home for my birthday. Daddy was very excited. He always was about any of our birthdays – be it my mother’s, sister’s or mine. It meant a lot to him. He’d do anything and everything to ensure we had a great birthday. I remember when I was a kid I used to invite friends for my birthday almost a year in advance, dream of what kind of cake would I get, how many chocolates to buy etc. Clothes were the best part – Daddy used to get me the most exquisite dresses from the best of places. I remember one of my birthdays he got me a beautiful golden brown frock that I absolutely cherished for years. Every time I wore it, even strangers would stop to compliment me. I had my first Puma shoes when I was 3 years old. I had matching pink shoes for a pink frock. The best part was I never had to ask at all. Daddy used to get us the best of stuff during all his travels. I used to be so excited when I knew Daddy was coming home and used to literally wait for him at the doorstep so I could tell all my stories and also excited about what would come out of his suitcase. He always had something for us. Something awesome!

Anyways, back to my birthdays. It used to be like the most special festival for him. I had a guitar cake, Mickey Mouse cake, turtle cake, house cake and what not. So when I grew up, and started studying and working, being away from home, I used to always head home for my birthday. Because I love to see the delight in Daddy’s eyes trying to do everything to make me feel super special. I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. My Mom would make specials, he’d go shopping and get my favorite food, invite people over or take me out somewhere, buy me the best of clothes – ah! What a special time! Why would I ever miss that? So, until 2012, I was with Dad and Mom for all my birthdays. 2013, I couldn’t go home because I had to go for a training. 2014, I decided to not make a big deal of my birthday so I had a very lonely and quiet birthday in Bangalore. And then life struck a different chord. Suddenly Daddy fell ill and by end of 2014, he moved on. 2015, on my birthday, I felt bad – I was looking at the old pictures of my last birthday with him in 2012. If only I knew that I wouldn’t have any more such chances to see the delight in my Dad’s eyes, I would have perhaps rushed home for my birthday on 2014 too and spent it with the person I love the most and the person who loves me the most.

Likewise, his birthdays were the biggest festival for me too. No matter where I was and what was happening, I always went home for Daddy’s birthday. Nothing in the world was more important. I’d wait for this festival all year round – planning and dreaming of how to make it special. I remember I stayed up all night blowing 50 balloons for his 50th birthday. On another one, I gave him a surprise by coming home from Mumbai, early in the morning, even before he woke up. When I wished him, he thought it was my sister and turned around. Imagine his surprise when he saw me standing there. He jumped out of his bed and was super thrilled. The entire day, whoever called to wish him, he kept telling them, “Narmada came all the way from Mumbai to give me a surprise at 5.30am.” And each time he said that, I loved the delight in his voice. There was only one birthday that I missed of his in my life and I sent him a very special something that day. As soon as he received it, he sent me a message saying, “You are mad, in a sweet way :).” I had a big smile on my face when I read that. I saved the message.

Today I know Daddy is around me somewhere. While the body is gone, the soul lives on forever. But I miss seeing the twinkle in Daddy’s eyes when he wished me. I miss his charming voice – and the wonderful, elaborate, heartfelt words he used to say to wish me the best of everything in life on that day and always. I miss the excitement he used to generate to do so many things on my birthday. I miss his excellent choice in selecting the best of dresses for me (he never bought me 1; he always bought me multiple dresses for any occasion). I miss the warmth and positivity that he exuded. I miss the way he made me feel like I am his little princess – not just on my birthdays but every day! He always used to say festival is anytime when we are together. And he ensured we stayed together amidst all the transfers. It was only at a much later stage in life when I had to go elsewhere to study and to work. But I used to go home every other weekend. We couldn’t stay without seeing each other for too long. When I went back to my place of stay and called Dad to say I reached, the first thing he used to ask was, “Nana when are you coming again?” And we both would start planning my next trip. 🙂 He believed that people may forget what we say, but they never forget how we made them feel. He always made me feel loved with his kind and gentle presence. Never a foul word or a bad temper. Pleasantness personified. I was always fascinated by him and I wish to be like him.

For some strange reason, last year November 16th, I began drawing a Disney princess and wanted to write on it, ‘Daddy’s little princess’. I just started coloring it, when I got a call from Mom that he had a fall and was badly injured. I was in tears and rushed to the airport and reached the hospital. The wind-down started and in 45 days, he left his body. Life is full of strange signs and signals. I thought I’ll write about how I miss my Dad on my next birthday in 2016. But then I thought what about others who may be having their birthdays between now and my next birthday? What if my message goes out a tad too late for someone else? What if you have someone very special in your life and you have a special day coming up, and you are wondering what to do? What if this story could play a role in influencing that decision? Because we always choose to learn from each other’s experiences, we can make better decisions before life calls ‘the end’ on either.

Below is a picture of those brightly lit up eyes and that million dollar smile of my handsome Dad on my birthday. Priceless isn’t it?!!

Dad n Me

Complimenting is an art!

We have all received compliments at some point of time or the other. Some we remember, some we don’t. And then there are those few that we cherish – the ones that bring a smile on our face anytime we think of them. It could’ve been years back, but every time we think of them, the same feeling of happiness comes by again. What is it that makes a compliment tick and stick for so long? Here are a few things that made the difference:

1) How they feel depends on how you say – Firstly, like everything else, complimenting too is an art. And art means expression. Consider half the job done, when you say it with expressions and communicate your energy and enthusiasm behind the compliment. It is such that it lifts the emotional state of the receiver in an instant. Passionately communicate rather than merely stating. Compliment is an expression of praise or admiration not a generic talk.

2) Make it an identity – Anything positive can be made to an identity level statement. For example, you are a terrific orator (instead of, ‘you speak well’); you are a great singer (instead of, ‘you sing well’). This will help them get associated with a positive word for themselves and repeat their excellence in other contexts too.

3) Remember & recall – It is important that you are explicitly quoting what you liked the most. That way, you are giving evidence that you were fully there and focused; and by stating specifics, you are also helping the person understand what the best part about what they did was and help the other person bring their unconscious excellence to their consciousness. Hence repeating this behaviour will be easy for them in the future.

4) Don’t stop just yet – Stating one sentence is easy. But, if you really liked something and truly want to appreciate, be generous with words. If their actions blew you away, the least we can do is sweeping them off their feet with our words, isn’t it? This is one place where we wouldn’t leave a person wanting for more. Let’s just give it to them since they deserve it.

5) ‘Buts’ can be parked – Following up a compliment with a ‘but’ is as good as negating. It is said that whatever precedes ‘but’ is bullshit. Think about it – “I like you…but…” And you don’t even want to hear the rest of it because you know the first part is not absolute. A compliment is strong enough to stand alone. It doesn’t need the support of advises or suggestions. Let’s park them for a later date if required.

6) Stick to the present rather than the past– Sometimes, when we like something about a person in the present, we tend to compare it with the behaviour of theirs from the past which we didn’t appreciate as much. This can backfire at times. Also, rather than spending more time talking about a past that wasn’t appreciated, we might as well focus on the present that we appreciate. The golden rule is ‘stay put with the desired behaviour’.

7)  You could be better, but that is for later – It isn’t about you, so fully focus on the other. Even if you have done something similar, or if you were the one who is responsible for their excellence right now, that is not most important right now. Be magnanimous and selfless in appreciation of the other. A simple sentence like, “See, I told you” or “I did something very similar” can reduce the effect of a compliment. You can’t appreciate and advice someone at the same time!

8) Compliments don’t need cousins for comparison – Rather than telling someone that they were better than another, appreciate them for who they truly are. That way we are truly celebrating excellence without putting down another. When we compare we may forget to see their uniqueness.

9) Don’t miss the moment – As much as the compliment, the timing is also important. Say it as soon as you experience their excellence. Say someone won an award and if you wish them after 3 months, even when you had the chance to wish them the same day …!!!

10) And then stop – Anything in excess loses its credibility. Saying the same thing in different variations isn’t effective. In fact, it makes people think that there’s no depth or content in the compliment. So, it’s good to know when to stop just as well.

As much as it is a joy to receive a compliment, there is just as much in giving a compliment and lighting up someone’s day too. Intent is always right behind a compliment. Getting it right hence, becomes easy. There could be more things to make a good compliment a cherished experience. Feel free to share. And, have a wonderful day ahead!

A bug called ‘Comparison’!

A lot of times, there’s nothing wrong with our present. Everything is fine, until… we get bitten by that bug called comparison. Read on…

Situation Comparison Effect
On a holiday. Checked in to a hotel – Neat, clean, spacious room. Pretty good. On a previous holiday, the hotel had more cool features and a bigger bed Happiness goes down a notch. Can’t appreciate the hotel for what it has. Immersed in thoughts of what else could’ve been better.
Birthday party. Lots of people wishing & celebrating. Cut a cake. Last year I cut 3 cakes and had a surprise party. The joy of this year’s celebration goes down a notch
Posted a picture on Facebook. A lot of people ‘like’ it. A friend’s picture has more likes. Unhappy that the popularity is not as great as the friend’s.
Good review rating and great increment for the good work done in office. Very happy. A colleague gets promoted Engulfed by sadness as to “Why not me”?
Bought a new house. Really put in lots of efforts & money to buy it. It was a dream come true. See pictures of a friend’s house, much more lavish and beautiful. Start feeling burdened by how much more hard work is required to get there. Completely miss out on the goodness of the present house.
Food cooked by spouse is really great. Enjoy the luxury of home-cooked healthy and tasty meals Not as good as Grandma’s food. Fail to appreciate spouse for the good food every day.
A child does a really cool piece of art work. Impressive. Just saw another kid who had done something more creative. Don’t feel as excited in appreciating the child’s work anymore.
A healthy body. Indeed something to be grateful for. Not as pretty/handsome as the person next door. Totally miss out on experiencing the joy of having a healthy body.
Getting into a meeting feeling very confident. Suddenly you see someone you think as very smart and impressive and a senior leader in the organization. Starting to feel more nervous and less confident.
Delighted to be enrolled in classes to learn a new skill. Speed of learning is not as good as someone else. Completely miss out on the joy of learning. Instead, land up feeling pressurized.

Quite often, we aren’t happy not because what we have isn’t good; but because we compared it to something that was apparently ‘better’ in our opinion. If the bug called comparison is a recipe for your success and drives you to do more, go for it. But if isn’t, drop it. Imagine this – you put in a lot of effort to do something but someone doesn’t appreciate you because they compare you to another. It doesn’t feel right, does it? It is only fair that people appreciate you for what you have to offer rather than compare you to others and miss out on your excellence.

Sometimes comparison may be a strategy to regret. A mechanism to feel bad and tell yourself you are not as good as someone. And this someone will always be there. But should that prevent you from being happy with yourself and what you have?

Note: Being happy with yourself does not equal to being complacent. One can be happy and strive for greater things in life. The pursuit of excellence comes from a place of knowing your own potential than anything else. And a happy person is more likely to get what he wants. Just remember to enjoy the ride while aspiring to reach your destination.

Speak your Actions; Behave your Words!

Actions speak louder than words – which means what you do is more significant than what you say. However, what if what you say is not consistent with what you do? What if what you are saying is the exact opposite of what you do? You could be doing all the right things, but how often have you seen that your words have gotten you into trouble although you had extremely well-meaning actions/intentions?

In line with this is the other saying – Pen is mightier than the sword – One of the interpretations of this is that words can hurt more than stabbing with a sword. Let’s explore how.

Apparently, there’s a certain tribe in Solomon Islands, where if they want to kill a tree all they do is curse it for 30 days and the tree somehow dies on its own with all the negative energy. On the other hand, there is a beautiful practice in an African tribe where if someone does something harmful, they take the person to the center of the village and tell him all the good things he has done in the past. This helps the person remember the truth of his inner goodness which he had been temporarily disconnected. Click here to read more.

It has been found that even water responds to words. Imagine if 70-80% of our body is comprised of water and if we are using a lot of negative words and anger, that much part of our body gets affected by it.

Why waste all the vocabulary we know in communicating things that don’t add any value and also negate the value of our actions? The only control for a verbal diarrhea is within self – Being aware – Pausing for a split second before speaking. Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and thinking how we would feel if they were to use the kind of words we are planning to use. If we say something inappropriate, let’s be quick to apologize and learn. If we repeat the same mistakes, we may not expect to be forgiven always.

If you can align your actions to your intent, why not go one step further and align your words too. Actions anyways take more effort than words. Then why not put in a little more to watch the words and align them accordingly? It will surely go a long way in enhancing the quality of your relationship too. Rather than saying and expecting forgiveness, if we don’t mean something, then let’s not say it.  Why hurt a person with words while trying to save them through our actions? We all use our five senses – so telling someone, “Don’t hear what I am saying, but only see what I am doing”, may be irrational. On the other hand, it’s just so wonderful when caring actions are followed by respectful words.

Winning without Arguing!

What do you do when you are faced with an idea that is opposing to yours? You want to do something while the person wants you to do something else. What happens next? The battle begins. An argument starts.

What we may lose sight while arguing is the actual issue at hand. Our focus moves from the issue to the person with whom we are arguing. We try to win over the person rather than talk about the situation.

Source:Commons.wikimedia.org

Let’s say – I want to go for a party and my father doesn’t agree. What happens next is the drama triangle: I play the role of a victim and say, “You never let me do what I want. You are always telling me what I should do.”

Now this is a tempting invitation for my father to get into the role of a persecutor. “You never listen to me. You are always arguing. You don’t know what is good. Is that party more important than me?”

If you see now, the issue is out of proportions. It looks like someone is deliberately trying to restrict me or that I am intentionally being rude. That is far from reality.

Instead, imagine this – when we had a difference of opinion – if I stick to the issue at hand and address only that – “Dad, I really want to go for the party. I know you are concerned about my safety, and here’s what I am doing to ensure that I am safe. Let me know what else I can do to make you feel comfortable. I understand that this may not be very important but I have really been looking forward to it and it would mean the world if you agreed.” Asking the right questions and addressing the point of disconnect is what is usually most beneficial.

This kind of discussion keeps the drama out and steers us away from an argument. Eventually, whether the person agrees or not is a different thing. At least you are approaching it from a clean space. The likelihood of someone agreeing to you is greater when you explain yourself in rapport than when you go down to a personal battle of words. It also usually invites the other person to explain their rationale just as neutrally. Then it isn’t about winning or losing, it’s just about whether or not to go about something in a certain way – while acknowledging the other’s opinion. It isn’t necessary for someone to lose for us to win. It’s just wonderful to win and have others along with us in it.

Give Graciously, Live Joyfully!

We all give. We are constantly in a state of giving love, care, money, time, efforts, dreams and so much more. Giving goes hand in hand with living no matter who we are or what capacity we are living in. And there’s a joy in it. But if everyone is giving, how is it that some of our giving is celebrated while the others aren’t? How is it that some of our giving is joyful while the others aren’t?

Going deeper, while ‘giving’ is a part of our DNA, ‘joyful giving’ may not be as much a part of us sometimes. And that is something that really makes a difference. When I say giving, I am also referring to ‘giving in’. You must be quite familiar with this.

For example: You really want to do something but a significant other in your life is opposed to your idea. If you give-in here, ‘how you give-in’ makes a huge difference. Do you give-in with joy, that what you did makes someone you love happy? Or would you go around with a pumpkin face?

On the other hand, if it is really important for you, are you willing to pay the price? If you are, then take the efforts to explain what’s important about it and go ahead. If it is important enough, fight for it. Else, let it go freely. Holding on to something with half a heart and willing to let it go with another half only adds to the list of ‘un-accomplishments’ or complications.

Choosing to be unhappy because you gave up your dream (OR) choosing to be unhappy because you went ahead with your dream, but someone else is not so happy – is a lose-lose situation. You are then, essentially making a choice to be unhappy either ways. Can you instead, choose to be happy? If you choose to be happy – you can do either and still be happy.

Whatever you do, do it fully and freely. This will enable you to experience the joy of giving or receiving. Halfhearted giving or halfhearted receiving isn’t going to keep you happy or do much good anyway.

You always know why you are doing what you are doing. If you don’t, then stop and ask yourself that question. In that answer rests the key to many other choices and decisions that you may have to make.

If you are letting go of something you wanted, you must be letting it go for a reason. Are you consciously aware of that? Could be because someone’s feelings are more important to you than what you want; could be that you are not ready to do what it takes to get what you want; could be that the price you have to pay is not worth what you wanted or it could be anything else. When you lose sight of the reason, resentment may set in. And that can make a joyful feeling resentful or sad.

If you have decided to donate money for a noble cause, you might as well give it happily. If that’s difficult, don’t bother giving at all. What’s the point of giving and feeling miserable about it or making others feel bad about the fact that you gave? End of the day, people can only influence you. YOU can decide what to do and choose whether to be influenced or not. So holding others accountable for our actions is a strategy to feel unhappy. To experience the true joy of giving, give joyfully and respectfully.