Meet the greatest traveller

Meet the greatest traveller of all times – travels ticketless – but never gets questioned – receives worldwide acceptance with no effort. This traveller can build or break empires, relationships, people, you name it! Even strangers embrace this great traveller with no reservations whatsoever. Old, new, male, female, young or elderly all alike – they love him! Wow!! How cool!

Would you like to be like that? Do you want to know who is it and how can someone be so popular and widely accepted without having to offer any credentials – Meet the one, the only – RUMOUR!

Rumour became powerful after the downfall of Trust. Trust failed in relationships, in people, in situations. Rumour took advantage of the failing Trust and took charge. People started believing in Rumour more than they ever believed in themselves, their loved ones, their friends or in their own faith. Trust’s loss is Rumour’s gain. Rumour first walked, then ran, then flew like a wind and engulfed like a forest fire.

What were the qualities of Rumour that created such a wide acceptance in a short span? Well, Rumour knew how to be compelling and convincing without any facts. Strange isn’t it? But true! It had that unique skill. And what’s even more strange is people who question with reason and logic too, started accepting readily when it came to Rumour! They were charmed by this new imposter who promised great stories that could save the world. They needed no reality or evidence. They were willing to sacrifice long standing relationships in return for some interesting, baseless and unfounded stories by Rumour. Rumour cashed in on these naive humans! Characters were assassinated without much ado! No one thought for a second as it felt very ordinary to assassinate a co-human morally. They did not know that it was the biggest sin in itself and would come back and bite them soon. And soon enough, it did! People were devastated. Beautiful relationships built by Trust were ruined. Great empires crumbled. All in no time! People were not willing to give the good old Trust a chance. They did not want to invest time in seeking to understand the truth. They instead found it convenient to believe in Rumour.

Trust sought help from Facts. Facts tried to intervene and help the friend in need. However, Fact was punished and painted with distorted perceptions. People only saw what they wanted to see. They put 2 and 2 together and made it 4 or 5, depending on their need to match Rumour. People questioned each other’s love and genuineness. They encouraged Rumour by listening to it, engaging with it and spending their time in helping it travel far and wide. Rumour felt most powerful. It was on a massive rampage crushing all beautiful things that came in the way. Nothing seemed to have the power to stop Rumour.

Just then, Pause came in – only for a few minutes. But it created a great impact. Everyone looked around what they were doing, realized where they were headed and shook their heads in dismay. Pause was so powerful, it helped them realize how they went out of their life and gave up beautiful people and relationships – all for the sake of this imposter called Rumour. They realized Rumour was a tyrant – Rumour had no reason or logic. Rumour lacked authenticity. All that Rumour had was an attractive outward appearance. But that too began to fade. Its ugliness was exposed. They were able to see the damage this traveller had created with all the travelling. Rumour had to be stopped from travelling any further. People realized it could be dangerous to their species. People realized that Trust was more important and helpful than Rumour ever was. They realized their mistake and apologized to Trust. Trust – being their trusted friend, readily forgave. Trust helped lock Rumour in a far-far away land. And Pause was guarding the gate so no one could accidentally unlock it.

Trust helped people realize that there’s more to a person than what meets the eye – and what we need to have is patience and willingness to understand them. Rumour had hurt so many people and relations that it was now paying for its sins. Rumour had parents but they were too timid to own it. Rumour found itself all alone and eventually died. With it, went all the negative energies and bad thoughts.

My ‘GRAND’father

A very charismatic and learned man – always dressed in impeccable white – just like his character! His aura was such that anyone who saw him stood up in respect automatically. The man I am talking about – Ramaswamy – My adorable, admirable grandfather.

I can talk about the various roles he played from society’s perspective – like he retired as a Deputy Collector and was the most learned man in his entire district, etc. However, I’d rather talk about the man that he was above and beyond all the roles he played and the unforgettable impact he had in my life.I wonder if my life would have been as rich as it is without his invaluable presence!

He used to come visit us 5 times a year for sure (if not more) – those were my sister’s birthday, mother’s birthday, father’s birthday, my birthday and my parents’ wedding anniversary. He never missed coming. And every time he came, he’d give these crisp currency notes as a gift – we’d look forward to that – not because it is money but more because we never get to see such new notes without a single fold. I used to save my money inside a book and keep it away for a rainy day (something that I don’t do very well now 🙂 ). Even after he retired, he continued giving us money – I never found any difference in him post retirement – he still used to shave, dress up in those freshly pressed, crisp white clothes, hair neatly combed, the same zest for life, the same schedule, the same helping nature, moderate on food – nothing changed. I never knew retirement meant something because he made it feel like a man is just as useful and wonderful and fantastic regardless of whether he is in service or retires – it depends on how he continues to lead his life – with dignity and respect. He continued to be the head of the family – guiding people on important decisions like marriage, kids, education and work life.

I, for one, was the luckiest of them all – every time he came home, his evenings were exclusively meant for great conversations with me as a 7 year old. I used to ask him for stories from his younger days – pre-independence era – how was life back then – and boy o boy! What great stories I heard. I grew up listening to his stories – and I was so inspired that I told him I’d write his autobiography! My grandfather laughed and corrected me explaining – it would be a biography since I’d be writing it. It would be an autobiography only if the person himself/herself wrote it 🙂 . He was brilliant in English Literature too. Shakespeare and Milton used to come alive – I learnt Shakespearean lines much before kids of my age could. He quoted verbatim from Macbeth, Hamlet, Paradise Lost etc. He helped my mother with studies when she was preparing for her Masters in English Literature with 2 little brats in the house.

Though I was quite an introvert as a kid – there were 2 people, who I recall having great conversations with – one was my mother’s father who I have just described, and the other was my father!

A lot of values, respect for language, respect for people, helping people in need are things that I have learnt watching my grandfather.

Wait! Before I end – I just have to talk about a recent fantastic interaction with another elderly gentleman Mr. Chidambaram who came for my training program with his grandson. He came to me and said, “My grandson, who is in 10th grade wanted to attend this training and we stay very far – so I came along with him.” I thought, how sweet of him to take all the trouble, start early in the morning, change two city buses and reach the venue even before I did! What a commitment! What amazed me even more was – although he came to accompany his grandson, he participated in the training program with the same amount of curiosity and enthusiasm as a child would – like a clean slate. It was a humbling experience for me to say the least, to watch him learn and contribute in such brilliant ways. I salute the spirit! It’s inspiring to see such models of excellence. Following their footsteps, I am looking forward to growing up graciously and aging wisely. What else could I have, but respect for yester year’s youngsters and today’s shining stars!

We are who we are because of the inspiring generations before us, who live for us. It is now our turn to take care of them just as much as they take care of us with their unconditional and undying love.

Humbly apologise and divinely forgive

Alexander Pope, the 18th century poet rightly said, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Mistakes are a part of our living. Every time we make a mistake, we learn and grow. If we have not made any mistakes, we are most likely to have not learnt much. While making mistakes is human and natural, to be able to forgive is divine and special.

Seek forgiveness. As you know, not all mistakes are readily forgiven. We are forgiven only if the other knows that their forgiveness means something to us. Once they know that we are genuinely sorry, they find it worth to forgive. So, when we are at fault, feeling guilty is not sufficient. Asking for an apology makes the difference. A sincere apology is almost always accepted – even if it may take time! And doing so heals the seeker as well as the giver.

Don’t disappear with guilt. Sometimes, we may feel guilty about a mistake to the extent that we don’t want to face the person. We’d rather disappear with guilt than appear with an apology. In doing so, we are allowing a person to remain mistaken about our mistake. The lack of regret or apology makes it feel like the guilty doesn’t care enough – and hence, hurts even more. It almost feels like a betrayal because they never get to know that we were actually feeling sorry about what happened.

Apology preferred over an excuse. There are other times, when we may show up, not with an apology, but an excuse. For example: “Yeah! Heard you were in a crisis but see – because I stayed away, you were able to learn for yourself. And that’s exactly why I stayed away!” This might appear as being insensitive to what they have gone through while justifying our failure to be there. Stating an excuse is like not wanting to own up to our behaviour. After all, no excuse can be as good as a genuine apology. It might not be the easiest thing to face someone we have wronged and ask for an apology – but, if that person matters, then it may be the best thing to do. It strengthens the relationship further. Even if they react, we are in a better place to understand because we really care. On the contrary, if we carry our ego everywhere, all we get is a big bubble to live in – that may burst anytime. If people are important, we let go of self. If only self is important, we may be letting go of people. Nothing right or wrong, but depends on what’s important to us in that context.

Relationship over self. An apology is never known to have hurt anyone greater than an excuse. And an excuse is never known to have had a greater acceptance than an apology. If we are focused only on making ourselves feel better, we will look to justify ourselves. But if we truly care for the other as much as we care for ourselves, we’ll own up and apologize since we value the relationship.

Say it like you mean it. When we say sorry like we mean it, we should also ensure we don’t repeat it. New mistakes are more easily forgiven. But repeating the same mistakes are hard to get over. It may feel like we have made sorry-telling a habit. The more we repeat a sorry with same person over similar instances, the lesser becomes our credibility. It’s unlike other things, where the more we repeat the more perfect we get.

Rules change. While all of this holds true when we make a mistake, it may not be helpful to have the same yardstick when we have been wronged. When others make a mistake, and don’t ask for forgiveness, let’s forgive them anyway. May not be because they deserve it, but because we deserve mental peace. You may wonder why the rules of the game are different for others and different for self. Well, that’s because, the only person we can change is ourselves. If we expect others to be in a certain way, it may happen or it may not happen. However, when it comes to self, we can completely be the way we want to be – and thereby, be a powerful example for those around us. Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. When we forgive, we are stronger. The mistakes appear small and unimportant and we are able to let go of it. It’s not the mistakes that are important. It is the learning that they each had to offer. If we are humble, we seek forgiveness. If we are divine, we forgive. And we can always choose to be humbly divine.

 

Even God can’t what you ‘won’t’ for yourself!

What is prayer? Prayer is a positive affirmation – seeking positive energies from the universe around us. Sometimes, when we pray we ask for things, wishes to be fulfilled. What we may not realize, is most of the things that we pray for, are very much within our reach to make it happen. Every time we pray, do we ask ourselves, what can I do to make it happen?

For example: We can pray to God for good health. However, God can’t help us any more than we can help ourselves by staying physically active. If we neglect our health while it is good and pray to God to keep us healthy, it won’t work. We have to do our bit of eating healthy, sleeping healthy and thinking healthy in order to stay healthy. We sometimes wish for miracles to happen, without doing our bit.

There was a man who prayed everyday religiously, “God please grant me a hundred thousand rupees in a lottery ticket”. The god was so touched by his devotion. He said, “Your wish is granted”. The next day, the man was waiting for the good news. But nothing happened. Slightly disappointed, the man again asked God for the hundred thousand rupees. God assured him. Days passed. In spite of his prayers and God’s assurances, he did not get the money. He was so annoyed that he started quarrelling with God. God smiled and said, “For me to grant the wish, you have to buy the lottery ticket first’.

Likewise,

God can’t give you the job you haven’t applied for
God can’t bless you with the talent that you haven’t tried for
God can’t fulfil your dream that you haven’t worked for
God can’t give you a cure or an answer that you aren’t ready for
God can’t create a good-will for you that you haven’t earned
God can’t heal a relation that you don’t respect
God can’t make you happy unless you are grateful for all that you have already

You can visit all the holy places in the world and yet not find what you hoped for. Because what you have been looking for is right within you. Do all that you are ‘supposed to do’, and all that you ‘can do’ for yourself and those around you. And then turn to God. You’ll find God wherever you turn.

If we can’t be kind to a person in need, we are wasting an opportunity that He has given. If we can’t talk good about the people we meet, we are wasting time reciting His prayers. If we can’t see the goodness around us and appreciate it, we are wasting time decorating His idol that we created while not appreciating His creation.

It is incongruent to pray every day on one hand and talk bad and do bad on the other hand. Anything that we say or do is accounted for and prayer cannot take away the bad that we accumulate by thinking bad, talking bad or doing bad. The only hope of prayer is that it may motivate us to lead better lives at least moving forward. It may help divert some time and energy from gossip which creates negative energy to something more positive. It may help divert our mind from some unproductive thoughts, to something more soothing.

We don’t need to pray to God for something that is in our hands. Let’s do our bit and then pray. For all we know, our life itself may become a beautiful, inspiring prayer.

Choice!

Choices – Don’t we love them? Choice of phones to suit our requirements, choice of data plan to suit our needs, choice of clothes to suit the situation, choice of food to suit the mood and the list goes on. While too many choices might be overwhelming at times, a life without choices is unthinkable.

Choices determine our life. By choosing our actions, we determine the results. By choosing our thoughts, we determine our emotions. By choosing whom or what we pay attention to, we determine the quality of our lives. By giving choices to others, we determine the quality of our relationships.

Choice means freedom. While one might know the importance of one’s own freedom, are we aware of how we are giving others the freedom to make their choices too? Are we aware of the choices in our language and thoughts while interacting with others?

Choice and advice don’t go together. Without being solicited for advice, do we do things like the following?
Tell someone what they should eat, when they should sleep, what they should wear, how they should be, what they should say, who should they talk to or what should they do?

Advice is usually well received when it is given respectfully and more so, only when the other person needs it. But if we are telling others all the time, and want them to learn through our experience, we may limit their ability to choose and determine their experiences. We may limit their freedom. We may limit their ability to learn from their mistakes and experience. Nothing can substitute experience.

Can we give choices in our language? Can we seek to understand or find out their point of view before we state our opinion?

Imagine asking a child – “would you want to study now or after an hour?” or “What would you like to do now?”
Imagine asking your spouse – “what would you like to do over the weekend?”
Imagine asking your team mate – “how would you like to go about this?”

Choices can be win-win. We were sent on this earth to make our choices in order to learn and grow. We can aid the process but not take the process on behalf of others. We can help others understand that choices have consequences and help them understand what could be the possible consequences of some choices that they make. Choices don’t mean just giving two options that we think are best for them. Choice is only when we make it a win-win. Can we think win-win? Win for the other and win for self too?

For example:
“Do you want to study Physics now or Chemistry” – may not be a win-win.

“Do you want to study now and play later or play now and study later” – here’s where we are truly thinking win-win.

Choices are empowering. Giving someone a choice also makes them feel responsible and accountable for their decisions. Choices are compelling. People can’t resist choices. They resist rules or authority. And sometimes, giving someone what they want is more helpful than giving someone what we think is right.

Giving choices is a choice – nothing is mandatory always. But giving them often helps strengthen the person and the relation too. Have a flexible day ahead!

Your Space – My Space – Our Space

Is the space around you all about yourself or does it have space for others to co-exist too? Or is it all about others and not about you?

There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the other, so long as there’s space for you. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about oneself, so long as there’s place for others too. For mutual coexistence, it is important that we are aware of each other’s space. It is even more important that we respect the spaces. As we are aware, our freedom ends where the other person’s nose begins. But sometimes we think that we can twist and turn the other person’s nose if it doesn’t match our requirements. That is not only possible but also disrespectful and harmful for a relationship.

Think about all the environments where we exist. At work, because we manage people as leaders, do we in the name of feedback and career growth expect people to change their very nature to suit our space?

What about at home, would it be upsetting if someone doesn’t eat the way we want or talk according to our criteria? What do we do then? Do we want to change them?

People may or may not be mindful of your space, but you can be. And if you are, you can ensure that your space is your space. No one needs to give you your space so long as you know to graciously occupy your space. For that, the first thing is to accept, recognise and respect yourself as an individual and that your space is just as significant as anyone else is in this world. If we keep letting others take our space, they will always continue. If you want it to stop, it is vital to communicate that you would appreciate some space. No one takes offence to that. People don’t feel hurt if you tell them you respect your space. They may feel hurt if we tell them we want their space or that we disrespect their space. People may not magically realise that they have been encroaching your space. But you can make that magic happen. A gentle, yet firm communication on what’s important about it will go a long way in establishing a respectful space. Where there’s space, there’s growth, freedom and respect.

You can be gracious of other people’s spaces too. If you are having conversations, is it all about you or what you want to talk about? Or are you mindful of different people and their interests too? There was a man who once said, “I am sorry, I have been talking about myself for a long time. Now let me pause and you can talk about me”. 🙂

Are your jokes WITH people or AT people? When we joke with people, we aren’t making fun of them or their identity. When we have fun at other’s expense, we may cross the lines of respectful boundaries and attack a person’s core self or identity. That no longer remains our space.

Don’t you like to be around people who respect you and give you your space to exist freely? Whatever you want others to be, you can be an example and lead the way. No one likes to be around a person who is always about themselves and wants others to dance to their tunes. They may find temporary acquaintances or fair-weathered friends but not the ones who stand by through all weathers. Sooner or later, life catches up. If you are all about yourself, you will have no one but yourself to care for you. And I m sure none of us want to be in that state.

When we correct, suggest, advice, get angry or irritated at people – it is good to be aware if that is because they are not matching our criteria or if there’s genuinely something wrong with what they are doing or saying. If we can’t respect kids and give them their space to make their choices, their mistakes and have their learning, how would they learn to respect us and our space in our old age? If we can’t respect our elders and their space and their limitations, how could we expect others to be mindful when we age? Can we give people the liberty to exist freely?  Just because someone is my spouse, friend, child, parent, colleague or subordinate, they don’t have to be someone they don’t wish to be. And just because we are one of the above, we don’t have to cease to exist what we truly wish to be or have the potential to be.

Let’s speak to the extent that we remember to listen
Let’s listen to the extent that we remember to speak
Let’s live in a way that we can co-exist
Let’s co-exist in a way that we can love!

Communicating Displeasure – when is it worth it

A cactus does not become a lily because I felt bad that it pricked me. A cactus is in this world for a purpose and it shall live its purpose. Likewise, a lily. It is for me to know the difference between the two and what to expect and how to use them accordingly. It doesn’t matter if it is a young one or an old one. Each has its nature and it will stay true to its nature regardless of how I feel about it.

Likewise, if someone hurts us, we might feel like reacting to them and communicating our displeasure. But, before we do so, it is good to think through – if we really want to.

Firstly, what is the purpose – is it for our satisfaction? Just to get it off our chest? If that is the case, then it may be better to talk to ourselves about it OR we could imagine that we have already communicated it to the other and stop at that. We don’t actually need to bother telling anyone in reality as this is a purpose only for the self.

 If not, is it because we share a great relationship and this was a one off case where we want to clarify? If yes, then we may go ahead – but sticking to the observed behaviours only without attaching any labels or interpretations is important. Keeping in mind that it is our perception helps us in giving them the benefit of doubt.

 In certain scenarios, we need not have to address the issue with the person at all if we can make a change in the environment. And that would create the desired difference. It is smart and easy to work on the environment wherever we can. For example, instead of telling children not to drink ice cold water, we can stop filling the water bottles in the fridge. If we know our kid spills food, before we advice him, it is good to check if we need to change the plate or if we should make a change in the immediate environment. As someone rightly said “Don’t fix people, fix the process”.

Then, think of the other person – have you had situations where you found them very reasonable and you think they might understand what you are saying? Or have you always experienced only the side of them which you did not like as much or felt they never understood you? If that is the case, then communicating displeasure will only make matters further worse than improve in any way. If they were mature enough, they might not have said or done half the things they did. If they have demonstrated this unhealthy pattern for a long time, we telling them might not really make much of a difference apart from giving them another opportunity to talk things that might hurt us further.

Consider if the person is really important. Do you really love them? And do you want them playing an active role in your life? If not, let go. The problem sometimes is we spend 80% of our time and energy trying to fix the 20% of the problem people in our lives. They don’t change and we don’t stop trying. This only leads to a lot more of friction, a lot less productivity and unnecessary frustration.

In such cases nothing better than ignoring. The more we pay attention to them, the more we are giving them the control to our life and happiness. The minute we put them on ignore mode, the quality of our life instantly improves, as if by magic! That’s the power of ignoring the unwanted rubbish in life.

 Sometimes, we may hear something unhealthy from people whom we love a lot too. In those times, it is not the person, but the words we can choose to ignore for that moment and move on. If you always let others tell you who you are, you might land up losing your sense of self as soon as they have a bad day. We may not be able to control what someone else does or says. But we certainly have the power to choose what we pay attention to and what we don’t.

Lastly and most importantly, check if this is a battle worth fighting currently. It is important to pick our battles wisely. Is this most important right now and are we in a state to handle whatever happens as a result? Sometimes, we can be cognizant of our life situation and be kind to our own selves and drop the battle right there even if someone else hasn’t been as thoughtful. For example, someone has been very unkind and harsh in a remark although they know that you have recently experienced a huge personal loss. In this case, reacting to their comment will only make us feel more agitated than peaceful. They have not been kind to us doesn’t mean we increase our troubles by focusing on them. Best if ignored again.

As the serenity prayer goes – Grant me the power to change things that I can, accept things that I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.

If we were to modify it – Grant me the power to forgive people who matter, ignore people who don’t and the maturity to know the difference & be accordingly.