MOMMY DIARIES ~ It’s Raining!

RAIN_0

It’s raining this afternoon. As I sit writing this, my mind goes back to the times when both my children, Tanvi and Akshay, were growing up in the early 2000s. Afternoons were nicely busy ~ lunch, homework, milk-time, Small Wonder on TV before rushing down to play with friends and then coming home to dinner and bed…

Monsoon afternoons were especially beautiful. As the skies darkened and thunder rolled, as Gulmohar flowers blew past our windows and rain began to fall… we would shout out: Let’s Go!

And we would rush, through the balcony, up the spiral staircase on to the third floor terrace… And there we would be in the rain: the three of us, faces upturned, hands widespread, taking in the sight and sound and smell of rain all around! Akshay jumping up and down, Tanvi pirouetting, I singing…

Not a soul in sight, not a care in the world. The thunder, the lightning, the drenched trees, the green lawns and the road a long stretch of puddles and gulmohar petals! We would bathe in the deluge, coming in only after the last shower.

I would quickly change, put on some masala tea, and rush out for samosas from the shop at the corner… and the three of us ~ refreshed, rejuvenated & restored ~ would end our happy tryst with rain with hot samosas and chai!

It is these moments of shared joy that live with us forever, binding us even when we are far away from each other. It is such memories of love and togetherness that cocoon our children and keep them safe and secure and sure of themselves when they are out in the world at large.

And as parents, it is up to us to make warm memories with our children. The children may probably not remember what we say to them, but they definitely recall things we do together ~ the pillow fight, the Batman movie, the silly song we sang in the car, the jaunty camel ride, the mad pub-hopping spree, the tickling session in bed, the impromptu picnic in the park… When we create such moments, our children themselves experience and become capable of sharing the same with their loved ones.   

Here’s to creating happy memories with our children! 

Solitude by chance

We are surrounded by people all the time. Even when alone, rings and pings of the phone keep us bound to the world outside. Moments of quietude are rare… and longed for longingly. I found my share of true solitude in southern Italy last winter. Unexpectedly.

Atul and I had set off to explore the Amalfi coast which is a series of cliffs that plunge steeply into the turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea. We drove along the mountain edge, the narrow road curving in and out, past small towns with their pastel-colored houses and piazzas, the blue sea on our right, deep down below us.

The coastline is dotted with numerous caves partially submerged in the sea. Small openings in the walls allow light to enter through the water and flood the cave with amazing shades of blue and green. The Grotto dello Smeraldo or the Emerald Cave, our first stop, is one such cave. A hundred odd steps took us down to the jetty from where a boat would take us into the cave. Winter being off-season, the jetty was totally deserted and the ticket man went off in search of the boatman.

I wandered down the last few steps and looked out at the sea. The sun was already high in the sky, shining down on the waves as they lapped gently against the rocks. I settled down on the last step, enjoying the pleasant warmth of the winter sun.

The water stretched endlessly before me, sunshine turning the blueness of the sea into molten silver. Time seemed to stand still. I sat there lost watching the play of the sun on the waves, barely aware of the faint sounds of cars on the road above. Immersed in the moment. Unmindful of time or thought. In sync with the sea and the sky and the sun… the elements coming together with my inner self, binding us forever.

I hugged the moment of complete solitude to me, wonderfully alive, filled with unexplained joy.

***

Back home, many months later, the memory of those moments comes unbidden to me… I see again the sea stretching in front of me, the waves moving, the light dancing… and I am alone once again filled anew with remembered calm and peace. With renewed energy, I turn to engage with the world over again.

an unexpected moment of solitude

PS: Would you like to share your moment of solitude?

Love… Inside-Out

 

One evening last week, my husband Atul related something profound about Warren Buffet, a man he admires greatly for his business acumen as well as philosophy in life. The fourth wealthiest man in the world, ninety year old Mr Buffet says that the greatest measure of success at the end of our life comes down to one word: Love.

I was immediately interested. I looked up the quote. Mr Buffet, speaking to students at Georgia Tech, revealed that the ultimate test of how you have lived your life is the number of people who actually love you. Because as Mr Buffet says: You can’t just write a check for a million dollars’ worth of love. Love has to be earned. And the more you give love away, the more you get.

The thought touched a deep chord within me. I am a firm believer in the concept of love. Love for All. Not just the people who are close to us but the larger band of people we come in contact with in life.

Sounds idealistic? Not really.

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Love is a powerful emotion. The most positive. The most magical. We love our family. No one teaches us to love our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins… it comes naturally. And once we step out in to the world, we meet new people on a daily basis. It is estimated that we meet as many as 10 thousand people in our life; others project as many as 25-30 thousand!

There are the people we work with, our neighbors, teachers, classmates, business associates, friends of friends, gym buddies, shop keepers, vendors, handymen and support staff. Others we meet briefly ~ when we travel, at the theatre, playground, restaurant, even peddlers at intersections! With some of these people, we build cherished bonds that last a lifetime; with others, the interaction may be brief and not that important, but a connection is made nevertheless. A role that is fulfilled, a function that is realized.

Every connection is valuable; every interaction meaningful. Even if it as routine or as mundane as waving at the guard when you drive past the gate. Life is one big co-existence. And how we connect with others defines the way we relate to our own self and the world at large. And determines the life we build for ourselves.

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When we interact with a person, we look at his expression, gestures and posture, take in his words, and listen to the tone of his voice. We take it all in and form our own assessment of the person and his perspective… Our judgment then defines our relationship with him. That is, most of us, usually, use this Outside-In approach in connecting with people.

What if we love Inside-Out?

What if we were to meet people with a heart full of love? All people. Everyone. People we live with; people we meet for the first time, second time… nth time; people we meet briefly or with whom we do not expect to form long-lasting relations…

Because when our heart is full of love, our entire being is positive. We exude a warmth, a willingness to listen. An unvoiced acceptance and appreciation for the other. Mixed with a degree of caring and compassion. This unspoken communication of unconditional love creates an inter-connectedness that sets the stage for a meaningful exchange, however brief.

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Celebrated psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in his 1946 memoir Man’s Search for Meaning reiterates, “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him.”

And it’s true. By giving our love first, we create a psychologically safe environment, an atmosphere of peace and well-being that is non-threatening and brings out the best in others, that allows a person to blossom into his own self without fear of retribution. When leaders display practical love, people love coming to work and they return the love back in full force. Mr Buffet seeks to create, and attributes the high performing success of his company, to this culture of unconditional love.

Closer home, Munnabhai, the protagonist of the 2003 hit film of the same name, taught us the power of love in another dimension. When Munnabhai walks up to the grouchy, grumbling sweeper in his college and hugs him, the old man is overcome with emotion; Munnabhai’s hug conveys kindness, compassion and gratitude all rolled into one leaving the old man (and us) tearful and smiling!

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When we give our love freely without expecting anything in return, we experience the same within ourselves. Whether it be lifting up a colleague with encouragement, helping develop an employee under our leadership care, or infusing deep meaning and purpose into someone’s work role, love comes back in full force.

The power of love is held within each of us. And we hold the key to its release. The choice is ours.

Try it. Once. Just once.

 

heartbeat

 

 

In search of Happiness…

nicole_Happiness_Workplace

Idle curiosity last summer made me post on FB: Happiness is…

Because aren’t we all looking for happiness? The reason why we get up every morning, work, love, have a family, buy stuff, socialize, study, exercise, entertain, travel, play… As the Dalai Lama puts it: The very motion of our life is towards happiness.

My friends’ insightful responses made me pause, ponder, and explore further…

Sure. Great films, amazing food, meeting friends, good books, all leave that pleasant warm glow within us we call ‘happiness.’ Which makes life worthwhile. For me, there is no greater joy than sharing golgappas with my daughter or watching an Avengers film with my son or simply sitting with a cup of tea. Yet, these moments are brief, short-lived. Isn’t happiness something greater? Something that pervades our soul on a more sustained basis through life?

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My friends definitely think so. They say happiness is a state of mind. A sense of well-being. An appreciation of life.  That it is in the mind and comes from within. And that nobody can come and give us happiness… we have to seek it… on our own. That happiness is a choice we make, a decision we take. AND. We can train our mind to learn happiness! We just need to be aware of where and how to find it.

Money did get mentioned as a prerequisite to happiness. Of course, money IS important; money buys us comfort, safety and freedom in life. However, falling into the more you have-the more you want trap can cause even more UNhappiness! So once we have enough to keep our heads above water, swimming towards happiness is entirely up to us. Otherwise, the not-so-fortunate could never be happy!

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Going over my friends’ responses, I realized that happiness means different things to different people. All agree that happy people are content, satisfied and see happiness all around them… put together, their answers paint a rather happy picture of happiness!

Happiness is… making others happy

When we help others, support them, be with them, we are happy. Happiness means loving others AND telling them so. Genuinely acknowledging the support of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, helpers, fills us with inner peace and confidence. Having people whom we can turn to for affection and understanding gives us the strength to survive health challenges better.

Happiness is… total acceptance

We Are What We Are. Happiness means being yourself. Accepting yourself as you are.

They Are As They Are. Accepting others, without trying to change them, is essential too.

It is as it is. This phrase brings out the essence of optimism perfectly.  All we can do is accept life’s quirks and carry on.

Sounds like a tall order but accepting ourselves, others and circumstances is, my friends say, the path to contentment and happiness.

Happiness is… loving ourselves

We are always busy. 24 x 7 x 365. When do we take out time for ourselves? To do what we like? Taking out time for our own self is the primal need of every human being. Being alone gives us breathing space, a chance to think quietly, to put our life in perspective, to be at peace.

Happiness is… being fit

When one of my friends commented that “happiness means being able to fit into old clothes” I am sure she was not jesting. Happiness means being fit – in the body and in the mind. And exercising does both.

Happiness is… getting the job done

Happy people do the things they like to do. AND. Enjoy things they don’t like to do too. After all, isn’t our sense of fulfilment the greatest when we accomplish something we didn’t like, didn’t want, to do?

Each of us needs to devise our own mechanism to achieve the completion of daunting tasks. For me, the thought of having a cup of tea at the end of a gruelling task is the biggest motivation for carrying on!

Happiness is… ‘Is-ness”

Is-ness: An apt term coined by a friend for living in the moment. Because the present moment is the only moment we have. The only moment we have to be happy.

Living in the present keeps us focussed, helps us concentrate better on the job at hand. This is the ‘flow experience’ described by psychologist Csikszentmihalyl ~ the experience when one is totally involved and immersed in a task to the exclusion of all thought other than the work at hand. The resulting sense of achievement, ecstasy, serenity is surely happiness?

Happiness is… finding a meaningful purpose in life

Perhaps this is the most important aspect of happiness: recognizing the things which give meaning and purpose to our life, and then, doing them wholeheartedly.

For me, this means carrying out my role in this world to the best of my ability ~ my role as a daughter, wife, mother, sister, colleague, friend, neighbor, citizen… and above all, as a human being. And enjoying every moment of it. Without the fear of not succeeding in it.

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The most striking revelation for me was:

There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.

We all set out to achieve a happy life ~ a good job, a great relationship, a bigger house ~ firm in the belief that happiness awaits us in the future…  As a friend points out, happiness is not something in the distance, to be achieved over time; it is HERE, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. So smile, laugh and live life to its fullest… THAT is happiness.

 

PS: A message I received on Whatsapp seems apt in these unprecedented corona times: Happiness is viral. Go infect someone.

DOGGIE DIARIES ~ Musings of a Mom

No!


And no means NO.

This had always been my answer whenever the kids asked me for a pet dog. Who will look after the dog? I would ask. We will mamma, they would say. Okay then, list down all the chores for the doggie and who will do what and when. Give me a proposal and I will consider. They never made the proposal. The dog never came.

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Both children grew up… Tanvi went for her Masters to the US and settled down on the West coast. When Tanvi left, the idea of getting a dog for Akshay did occur to me. Because he would be lonely without his sis. But Akshay was in class XI juggling his time between school, tuitions, friends and sports… He never brought it up, and I (thankfully) dismissed the idea.

Soon, Akshay too left for his undergrad in the US. Four years later, he was back home settling down to life at home with family, friends and colleagues. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine him harbouring any thought of a pet. So I was completely taken aback when he said, Mom, I am thinking of keeping a dog. No, I replied.

The No was automatic, and I must admit, quite autocratic. But Akshay was no longer an eight year old. I should have realized this. Please note: he had not asked me for my permission. He was expressing his intention. I tried to reason with him. Who will look after him when you go to work? When you travel? When we go for holidays? Dogs need lots of space… how can he adjust in an apartment? How will we cope with all the chores? How will I work from my home office? And so on… But Akshay had a logical response to every concern of mine.

Unable to handle the situation, I said, OK let’s discuss it with daddy and Tanvi. And so, after dinner that day, the four of us (Tanvi on Skype) deliberated and examined the pros and cons… In face of my extreme reluctance, Akshay grudgingly agreed to hold off ~ at least for the next two months. I heaved a sigh of relief, certain that things would blow over.

*

No such luck. Akshay brought up the issue much sooner. Mom, I need a dog to come home to… I am making a new life back in India… I have my friends but still, when I come home, I need something of my own… I need a dog to welcome me when I come in, a dog to take care of… I have even thought of a name: Richard…

Oh my God, he hasn’t forgotten! He is still keen! How do I take his mind off the dog?! What should I do to divert his attention? This is becoming a nightmare… In desperation, I tried to come up with a firm refusal.

Akshay was continuing in earnest. Mom, your ‘yes’ is very important since you will be taking care of him the most…

I looked at him in fearful apprehension. He meant it. His eyes implored me beseechingly. His voice entreated pleadingly…

All objections died down my throat. At that moment, I could not bring myself to say a firm NO. How could I say no to him? How could I be authoritative and veto him down? It would be like saying I am the boss of the house and You cannot bring a dog into My home. After all, it is his home too. Every member has equal rights and each one of us can do what he or she likes – even if, at times, it inconveniences others… How, then, could I assert myself over Akshay?  That would be totally unfair…

It was time for a family discussion again.

As it turned out, Atul, my husband, too began to like the idea of including a pet in the family. Tanvi had always wanted a pet and though initially she had sided with me, she well understood Akshay’s need. The decision had been taken. Three to one.

Now only providence could come to my rescue.

 

Three to One!


Akshay was happy. The family had agreed. We were getting a dog.

I reconciled myself to the idea of having a pet. I knew my life, as I had built it, would soon be a thing of the past. I would have to adapt myself, my home, my systems, all to the dog. I suppose this is how a mother feels when her son gets married? My heart sank lower and lower…

Despairingly, I looked around and tried to imagine how things would be once Richard came…. I had given up office life 25 years ago to be home for my 4 year old daughter. Since then, I had been happily balancing work with family ~ working from home in the mornings and then being with the children once they came back from school.

When the children left for college, I was happier. I was a free bird. I could now work longer hours, travel with my husband, visit my parents more often, socialize more…  All this would now end. I was sure. My independence would be jeopardized. Once the dog came, I would have to look after his feeding, bathing, playing, training and whatnot. My routine would change. My perfectly organized home would become messy. My help, already stretched, would quit.

Why should I be subjected to all this? Just because I work from home, why should I be made to go through all this? Especially when I have done my bit over the years? Why now? For a dog?!

I groaned, I moaned, I sighed! I gave an ultimatum: if the dog comes, I will move to our other apartment! No one, not my husband, not my daughter, not my son, paid any attention. Resentment, anger, betrayal welled up within me… I would wake up at night and worry for myself…

Much as I tried, I could not ready myself for this intrusion.

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Meanwhile, Akshay had been speaking to the breeder. He had decided: we would get a golden retriever.  Mom, they are very friendly, intelligent and devoted. They are sooooo beautiful. You will love him.

Every day, he would send me videos of golden retrievers and I would honestly tell him that they were very cute. But did we need one? That was the question.

*

And then one day, Akshay sent me a pic of a pup on Whatsapp. Mom, this is the pup in question. What do you think? Should we get him?

WhatsApp Image 2020-06-16 at 11.31.47 PM

I looked at the photograph of a pup held high in the breeder’s hand. He’s so small, was my first reaction. He fits into his hand easily… I looked more closely. Why is his expression so sombre, I messaged back. 

Akshay called immediately: Mom! He is a babyyyyy… he is probably feeling scared being held up like this. And Mom, he is of the champion variety… the breeder says he will train more easily! Shall I say yes to him?

My son’s enthusiasm, his eagerness, his joy, beamed over the line… At that moment, like a flash of lightning, I realized that my son really, really wanted a dog… his entire happiness seemed to depend on the pet. Then, why couldn’t I support him willingly? Surely, his sense of fulfilment would be far greater than my fear of impending doom?

At that moment, I truly reconciled to the idea of a pet in the family. At last, it was All for One.

 

All for One


It was love at first sight.

Puppy Richard came home on a very, very cold Sunday morning in December. He had been travelling the entire night from the breeding farm in Ludhiana to Delhi, reaching us at 7 am in the morning. Barely a month old, he was hardly visible as the breeder lifted him up from a small basket.

Akshay rushed to fetch his bed and the man placed him in it. Richard moved gingerly on the soft bed sinking into the space between the cushion and side of the bed, chin tucked in. The bed seemed so huge! We crowded round, each one of us trying to touch him… He looked up at us, blankly, trying to focus.

And we fell in love. With Richard. All of us.

RICHARD COMES HOME

Akshay had been preparing for Richard the entire week. He had been talking to friends with pets, reading up on the Net, and had spent an entire morning at the pet store… he came back and excitedly showed us the fares: a bed, sweaters, coat, blanket, chew toys, rope toys, cuddly toys, feeding bowls, shampoo, brush, training sheets, puppy food… He even made space in his cupboard and stored the stuff neatly. We were all set to receive our baby Richard, bed and all.

And now, Richard was home. Finally. The breeder gave a few basic instructions, handed us some puppy food, and left. I panicked. How would we look after baby Richard? He was barely a few weeks old. What did we know about taking care of such a tiny pup? Despite being a mother of two, I must admit, I felt absolutely helpless. And protective.

*

Akshay doesn’t quite remember why he chose to name our puppy Richard. He says the name just popped into his head one day, months ago, even before he had broached the subject to us, and though at first it sounded odd, the moment we saw Richard, we felt the name was just right for him!

Richard is now one and a half years old, the youngest member of our family. He spends most of his time with me ~ snoozing under my chair as I work, following me around the house like Mary’s li’l lamb, and waiting patiently by the window when I go out. I can honestly say that I have come to love him as much or as little as the others in the family.

Sir Richard has definitely become the Lord of our hearts.

family lalls2

PS: It would have been good if we didn’t have a dog in the house. It is GREAT to have Richard Lall in our home.

The Money Mantra

 

Ever realized it? We are slaves. Slaves of our needs, our wants, our desires. Slaves of money. Only death can free us from this bondage…unless we humans, blessed with the ability to recognize our predicament and the intelligence to work our way out of this trap, do something before we lose out in the race to earn money, more money and still more money.

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It all began ten thousand years ago when our ancestors stopped hunting and foraging, and began growing crops. Food became plenty, the population grew, villages came into being. The fields required long gruelling hours of back-breaking work; grain had to be protected from theft, insects and vermin; cows and goats had to be tended; household chores had to be completed… In short, life began getting more and more complicated…

…and continues to this day. Every morning, millions of us around the world wake up, get dressed and leave for work. We work 50, 60, even 70 hour long weeks; come home, eat, and go to bed, only to begin the drill once again. Most of what we earn is spent on food, housing, education, health, entertainment. The fear of not having enough  money forces us to work more and more; the desire for better things pushes us harder and longer; caught in this web of fear and desire, we have become our own slaves.

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In the modern world, money has come to control our emotions, our lives, even our souls. So unless we give up everything and leave for the mountains, we WILL have to work ceaselessly to earn money till the day we die. Right? Robert T Kiyosaki, author of the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, disagrees.

I chanced upon the book on my son Akshay’s shelf. And found it very insightful… According to Kiyosaki, Money is Power. BUT: It should not control us. Rather, it should work for us. Only then can we gain power over money. Only then can we cease to be ‘highly paid slaves’ – a term he reserves for most of us caught in the humdrum of routine life.

Young millenials who are starting out in life can truly learn from Kiyosaki’s notions on how money works, and more importantly, how money can be made to work.

Kiyosaki’s mantra-tantra for making money is simple.

The Mantra: Learn how to manage money and make it work for you. The learning can take up to an entire lifetime.

The Tantra: Build assets. Reduce liabilities. Continue building the asset base till expenses get paid by income from assets. Then quit the rat race and work for joy.

Sounds simple. But easier said than done. So I explored some more. Let’s begin at the beginning.

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Kiyosaki says: To make money, spend your life buying or building assets. AND avoid notching up liabilities. Acquiring assets has a cumulative effect. Accumulate assets as you go on in life…Asset building makes prosperity achievable, for now and for years to come.

So build assets. From Day 1.

Most of us lead life just like everyone else. We begin work, get married, buy a house, a car, have children, travel; when earnings increase, we give in to our temptations ~ latest gadgets, bigger house, branded clothes, expensive jewelry… the spree carries on unceasingly. Our expenses take up all we earn, never allowing enough to be saved, to be invested in assets. To build wealth, one has to break off from the herd and channel a part of our income into assets.

But what is an asset? Quite simply, an asset is something that puts money in the pocket. It could be investments in financial markets, real estate (Note: the one which give returns), small businesses on the side, and anything else that produces income, or appreciates and has a ready market.

Most of us have been brought up to believe that a house (or an apartment) is the biggest asset one owns in life. We spend a large portion of our young working years saving up for that dream house, usually taking a huge loan… little do we realize that buying and maintaining a house can become a huge liability because it drains resources ~ resources which could be better and more productively deployed to generate money through investments. Kiyosaki warns against investing in liabilities which you think are assets!

This does not mean that one should not buy a bigger house. The decision needs to be deferred till one has sufficient returns from assets to pay for the house EVEN if this means waiting for a few years.

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Kiyosaki also talks about investing in assets, which to most of us, may not seem like assets. Our mind. Our single most powerful asset. When trained well, it can create enormous wealth.

Reading books and journals, joining training programs, attending workshops are all investments in developing our mind. Building our knowledge and skill set definitely helps to get a better job, invest better, and retain wealth better.

Inculcating self-discipline is equally important. Breaking off from the herd and foregoing material temptations requires immense self-control. Overcoming laziness, ousting arrogance… are essential too for our endeavors to succeed.

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Relationships are also assets. They may not directly put money in our pocket but can be a crucial link. Investing in relationships requires time, energy and money… so surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you and experts in their fields so that you can access their knowledge and advice when required.

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Prioritize wants.

Nowadays, everything can be bought on credit ~ mobiles, laptops, equipment, bags, clothes! Anything can be ordered at a click of the mouse ~ even cars! After taxes and loan premiums, the month’s salary vanishes in paying for expenses, both essential AND nonessential. At times, one may actually need to take additional loan to get through the month. The question then is: how does one build assets when income barely covers expenses?

A common hindrance is the preconceived notion that buying assets requires a lot of money… but as the saying goes, little drops make the mighty ocean…

With limited income sources, building assets will need you to cut down on expenses. For the time being. So that money, little by little, becomes available for buying small assets. And then some more.

Don’t give in to desires! Finding strength of mind to forego things is key especially when others around you are ‘enjoying’ life. This should not be interpreted to mean postponing happiness for later… but redefining and realigning our priorities. As Kiyosaki says, the rich buy luxury last; the poor and middle class buy luxuries first. The rich build their asset base first and from the income generated from the assets, buy luxuries.

Once the assets start giving results, reward yourself with a luxury, but only then!

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Continue building the asset base.

Continue maximizing assets, minimizing liabilities. Continue investing income from initial assets to buy new ones. Continue keeping expenses less than income and sooner than we think, we are on our way to becoming rich.

By now, you will have the courage and self-confidence to look at more speculative investments and take calculated risks. This gives asset building and income generation a quantum boost. And remember, winners are not afraid of losing. Mistakes are actually good things if we find the lesson. People who avoid failure also avoid success.

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Work to learn.

Soon income coming in from the assets will begin to pay for expenses. According to Kiyosaki, prudently bought assets can take one to a stage when the income from assets pays for expenses entirely! AND also contribute to further building the assets! This, he says, is the point where money is working for you effectively!

The best thing about money is that it works 24 hours a day and can work for generations.

Now is the time to review and reassess your work situation. Tweak it so that it becomes even more commensurate with your purpose in life. More essentially, Kiyosaki recommends working to learn. Not working for money. He recommends young people to seek work for what they will learn, more then what they will earn.

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Be a generous giver.

Kiyosaki reserves this profound advice for the end.

Because giving brings joy, long lasting inner joy. It could be money, advice, or support in any form, or just about anything that can make us useful to others.

Giving gives us the opportunity to look beyond our own world, a perspective that can become one of our best investments. As the Chinese proverb goes: If you always give, you will always have.

Try it! It works!

MOMMY DIARIES ~ Jab I Left

It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the United Airlines flight in fall 2012. I was returning home from the US, alone, leaving Tanvi, my daughter, to begin school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The last two weeks had been hectic: settling down in the apartment, completing formalities at the University, browsing stores in neighboring Walnut Street, exploring the city with its quaint bridges over the rivers… The day I left, we had a typical American lunch at our favorite diner ~ burgers and fries with Coke. For a mother-daughter pair who chat all the time, both of us were unusually quiet… Soon I was boarding the blue Shuttle for the airport and Tanvi was waving me goodbye. As I turned my head to look back at her, a blinding thought flashed through my mind: Today. Today, I am cutting the umbilical cord. She is on her own now.

I cannot say I was sad. There was no reason to be sad; rather, all the more to be happy. Our daughter was moving on to a new phase in life, an important milestone for the family. Yet, I sat at the shuttle window, silently. I could hear others chatting around me but felt no inclination to join them… At the airport, I sat, reading, waiting for my flight to be announced.

The flight was quite empty. There was only one person at the window seat. I settled down comfortably for the short flight to New York from where I would take an Air India flight to New Delhi.

*

I noticed her when the air hostess came with the drinks. The girl at the window seat, a young American about my daughter’s age. She had been sleeping fitfully since take off… now, she looked at the drinks trolley and refused. Something in her expression made me ask, “Would you like a drink?”

“Do I have to pay?” Obviously it was her first flight abroad. As we got talking, I learned that she was going to France for a two year course in the Arts. The first time away from family. The first time in a new country.

Instinctively, I warmed to her. The uncertainty I had sensed in her came to the fore as we chatted. New school with unknown people… how much time would it take for her to settle? She wondered. I realized the extent of her insecurity when she showed me the address she would be staying at, uncertain how she would reach it… I was glad I could guide her. We chatted all the way to New York becoming more and more animated as we talked about our families and our countries, her education, her Arts course in France, her career prospects…

I could see her tension ebbing as we spoke; for my part, I was surprised how easily I had come out of my melancholia, how soon my dejection had disappeared. Helping her, a girl embarking on a journey abroad just like my daughter, even in a small way, had been oddly comforting.

*

At JFK, I caught sight of her as she walked towards her gate, quite confidently I thought. Turning, I moved towards mine, a warm glow around my heart, happy and secure in the feeling that my daughter would be just fine.

 

 

 

I still can see your smile…

Remember the movie Kal Ho Na Ho? And Shah Rukh Khan trying to teach the ever-uptight Naina to smile? We know why Naina is always distraught, but WHY does SRK want her to smile?

Because he knows that smiling will bring her hope and good cheer. Sounds difficult to believe but true. Happiness gets us smiling, sure. The other way round works too. Smiling does feed into optimism; it elevates the mood and helps us see the lighter side of things.  When we smile, we feel positive, happier, in control.

So what is it about a smile?

A smile is magical…

Every time we smile, happy hormones rush through our blood and we relax, our mood lightens and our face brightens instantly… The impact on others is equally indelible.

Everyone likes being smiled at. A smile conveys warmth, openness, friendliness… and we feel rewarded. This is why we are naturally drawn to people who smile. And the reason why Madhuri Dixit, Julia Roberts and Jackie Chan are so popular. One glimpse of their wide, carefree smiles enslaves us immediately!

A smile is infectious…

A smile says: I like you. When the other person smiles, we smile. Unconsciously. Automatically.

It is human nature to want to return a smile. Indeed, it is difficult not to react positively to a smile. Smiling helps us make friends. And diffuses unpleasant situations. Remember the time you went to “have it out” with the neighbor? The neighbor opened the door and smiled… and you forgot all your harsh words! Research shows natural smilers are more likely to be promoted; they appear more confident and successful.

Try smiling at strangers as you walk down the road. I have often tried it, and it works: after the initial hesitation, almost all return the smile. When I smile, the world smiles back.

A smile spreads happiness…

We are all born with the ability to smile; even blind kids who have never seen a smile can smile.  Babies smile in the womb; after they are born, they continue to smile, especially in their sleep. Yet, somehow, as we make the transition from childhood to adulthood, we forget to smile as much as we used to. When you try to remember how many times you smiled today, you will be surprised how little you did! Was this because there was not a single moment of happiness or amusement during the entire day? If joy could not be the source of your smile, then, as Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, let your smile be the source of joy!

Smile and laugh more often. If you’re feeling down or notice that you’ve not smiled in a while, fake one. The brain does not know a fake smile from a real one; it still signals the stress to go away immediately. And the more often you fake a smile, the more likely it is that a smile will begin to come naturally.

A smile is forever…

We definitely need to smile more… It makes us realize that things are not all that bad. Everyone likes being smiled at. And the best part is, it never ever hurts to smile. My everlasting memory of my mom-in-law will be the welcoming smile she greets me with when I return from work.

Popular Cuban-American singer Gloria Estafan delightfully expresses it thus:

‘Cause when I close my eyes
I still can see your smile

It’s bright enough to light my life
Out of my darkest hour…

PS: A smile in corona times…

In corona times, when social distancing is the norm, can we really afford not to smile at the few people we do happen to meet? For instance, wouldn’t smiling help the sour-faced scowling couple I see in the park every morning? Wouldn’t it bring more joy into their life if they smiled? Should I, like Shah Rukh Khan, tell them to stand in front of the mirror and go eeeeeeeeeee…? Or should I simply smile at them every time I pass them? After all, a smile CAN be more contagious than coronavirus!

Just… Imagine!

 

“Papa, then what happened? What did the fairies say to Rajkumar? How did he swim in the river of pearls?” and my dad would add yet another twist to his enchanting tale of Rajkumar and the Wishing Ring until I fell asleep! Years later, my children would listen mesmerized as I spun yarns of Milaa, a boy-orphan from the past ages, and his accomplice, Milee the squirrel.

Why do we tell stories?

Tales of rags to riches, victory of good over evil, romance, adventure, comedy, tragedy and rebirth fascinate us as children and stay with us well beyond childhood. And they continue to captivate us as adults even when we know that they are unreal and unrealistic. How else can one explain the abject despair all over the world when the avenger heroes die in the movie Infinity War? And the impatient anticipation for the sequel?

Undoubtedly, no other species on earth can spin stories or tell them or understand them or learn from them like us! And why not? We have been doing so for a hundred thousand years!

When our hunter-gatherer forefathers first began linking sounds into sentences, the stability within the tribe increased dramatically. They could now talk to one other and share information and experiences; they could discuss dangers and threats and ward them off successfully; they could work in groups and cooperate effectively… Amazingly, they could now talk about things they had never seen, touched or smelled, and also people who did not exist at all!

They would let loose their imagination around fires in the evenings and create fabulous tales of winged horses, man-eating birds, many-headed serpents, forest sprites, belligerent giants, ferocious demons, weapons of thunder and lightning and all things conceivable! And this is how stories, legends and myths were created…

As humans spread over mountains, deserts and seas, they carried these stories with them; events were added, new characters introduced, and adventures invented as stories were told and retold down generations making them an integral part of every culture in the world.

So what is it about stories, anyway? Why are we so hooked to them?

Storytelling is what makes us human. Stories invoke imagery and engage our curiosity; they move our hearts and minds and allow our imagination to run wild with them.

For the young child, fairy tales simplify the world around him; they mould his values, beliefs and ethics early on in life and teach him how to relate with people, animals and things in the environment. And surprisingly, adults too use stories to make sense of their world… a world where billions of people pursue life within the limits of widely accepted norms. These stories guide us to live together, work together, and cooperate with each other…

Indeed, our unique ability to spin stories has made humans the most dominant, most powerful race on earth. Come to think of it, what are human rights? Religion? Money? Trade? Laws? Justice? Social norms? The Constitution? The company you work for? The United Nations? Capitalism? Democracy? Legends. These are all legends invented by us. They exist only in our imagination. And yet, because all of us believe in and accept them, we have been able to build cohesive and cooperative communities all across the globe.

Without these ‘stories,’ societies would quickly descend into chaos. No other species or for that matter, no other human species before Homo sapiens, has been able to achieve this ever!

We imagine, re-imagine, and then, re-re-imagine!

Our genius also allows us to re-imagine our own stories. And we can, and have, altered them from time to time… Faced with challenges – social, economic, political or environmental – mankind has collectively modified the narrative from time to time to create alternative imagined orders. Survival of the human race is undoubtedly attributed to the genius of our imagination and re-imagination!

In present times, in corona times, we humans are on the verge of changing the story yet again. The contagious epidemic spreading unabated and uncontrolled across the globe has altered our lives in the moment; uncertainty regarding its future course is likely to change, once again, our life forever…

And we, the indefatigable humans, are ready to meet the challenge head-on. No matter what comes our way in this incredible journey called Life, we will rewrite our story, we will refashion the future.

We have to: Just… IMAGINE!

 

A small beginning to change

Perhaps my biggest achievement during corona times has been developing the habit of walking regularly, something which I have always tried, with marginal success, to make a part of my life. And I must say, I enjoy it immensely. It has become a part of my daily routine and I hope to keep it this way… forever.

It all started as a chore, a chore born out of necessity: that of taking our golden retriever Richard for his morning walk. In a lockdown-no staff scenario, this chore landed on my list! And so, one early morning, Richard and I set off for the mandatory walk. To avoid stray dogs, we chose the tiny park about a 100 yards from our house. A park which no one visits, a park with the smallest track imaginable ~ 215 steps cover it in precisely 2 minutes! 10 rounds in 20 minutes – perfect! Quick and easy too! Both Richard and I would be back home soon!

Richard had different ideas though. Every pigeon, every squirrel, every butterfly he saw had him straining at the leash… finally, spying a cat in the distance, he took off across the grass… and since the park was empty, I let him be. While I walked, Richard amused himself exploring around, and at times, running at breakneck speed on the track.  The sight of him running towards me with unbridled joy, ears flying, tail swinging, hair glinting golden, filled me with deep joy… perhaps, these moments of gay abandon for Richard brought me back to the park the next day, and the next, and the next. And the 10 rounds became 15, then 20, and now, 50 days later, 25!

How many times in the past had I had to force myself to go for a walk?! I remember I would rationalize to myself: so what if I don’t go for a walk today? I will still be out of shape tomorrow… another time, I would begin on a burst of motivation, it would become a hassle soon and I would slide back into my on-off routine. Today, what began as a compulsion is a delightful, meaningful feature in my lockdown routine!

The joy of watching Richard enjoying himself, the spring in my step, the flush of achievement… these small satisfactions motivate me to rouse myself at 5:30 am and walk in the park for a straight 50 minutes, every day.

And this is how it is with habits. Small wins, most of the times unnoticed, multiply as we repeat them and accumulate into something much more over time… I realize that my earlier approach had been wrong: my entire focus had been on becoming leaner and fitter. The immediate small gains – energy boost, mood uplift – were ignored and the fact that even a 1 per cent gain is a gain in the right direction, unrecognized. I was in for the big win only!

And this is why I failed. I was focussed only on the result, forgetting the various processes, the various small steps, the various small improvements, that would lead to the result. Since the outside world only sees the powerful outcome, I had lost sight of the many actions that were required to precede the larger change. I forgot that it is the work done over a long period of time that becomes evident later, much later. All these years, I had been trying to change the wrong thing!

Today, I am a walker. Walking is an integral part of me, a part of my identity. It has become a habit for a lifetime (fingers crossed.)

Becoming a walker has renewed my belief in myself. Life is, after all, a series of commitments and accomplishments. I am now ready for the next habit: Making healthy food choices!

For me, from now on, it will always be: Lage Raho Munnabhai!

The Mirror on the Wall

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

When the wicked queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs asks this question of her mirror, who exactly is she addressing it to? Is the mirror a magical one? Is there a genie in the mirror? Or is she looking for answers within herself?

When I look into the mirror, I see myself. I see my face, my features, my figure… and then I look into my eyes, and I see… Myself. My true Self. The mirror reaches into the innermost recesses of my heart and tells me all that I really think and feel which, at times, may not bear a resemblance to the things I actually say and do in life.

Admittedly, the mirror is the most worthy object created by us humans. Perhaps this is why the Japanese regard it as the greatest symbol of power. Indeed, the mirror – signifying self-awareness and wisdom – along with the sword (symbolizing the power of weapons and valor) and the jewel (representing the power of money and benevolence) have traditionally formed the imperial regalia of Japan and are presented to the Emperor when he ascends the throne.

My mirror is my most faithful ally.

When I look in the mirror, a stillness begets me… time stops and I am face-to-face with myself… I peep into my sub-conscious and look deep into myself. The mirror unveils me completely… the positives I see empower me, give me courage, stabilize me; the shortcomings I see spur me on the path of correction.

Many a times, when I am tempted to fall in with others instead of trusting my inner voice, the mirror allows me to pause, reflect, and ask myself, “Does this make sense?” It becomes my conscience and allows me to introspect and examine my actions.

And when I am too harsh on myself, it consoles me, soothes me, and boosts my self-esteem. At times, it makes me feel so good, so special, that I, like Geet in Jab We Met, burst out happily with “Main apni favorite hoon!”

The mirror has seen it all. The happy me, the sad me. The strong me, the weakened me. The confident me, the uncertain me. The dutiful me, the rebellious me. And yet, it does not judge. Someone has beautifully remarked that the mirror is the ‘One who sees the dark within, yet judges not my ugly sin.’

To me, the mirror never lies. It is my passage in discovering the ultimate truth of “Who am I?”

Life in corona times

I don’t think I will ever forget these times ~ these corona times.

Forty days of lockdown. The hustle-bustle of past routine is long gone and life is lived in an all-family-at-home-no-help scenario. Each one of us has found his/her work corner in the house; chores get done at their own pace and convenience. Lunch has become an important meal of the day; a coffee break brings us briefly together; a sudden thunder shower sends us rushing to the windows; and… the doorbell ring startles us all! A new normal is definitely emerging…

Family dynamics are changing. Minding your own and respecting the others’ space has become key to maintain a congenial milieu at home.  Flare-ups are common, yet easily contained with mutual respect. In the evenings, one looks forward to Zoom meetings with parents, siblings, friends, co-workers over coffee and drinks! Virtual Ludo, chess and tambola with friends and friends of friends have made the nights livelier. A new regime of social interactions is verily happening…

The small talk AND big talk I have made with my immediate neighbours is more than our conversations over the last ten years! Now, we exchange corona news, recipes, exercise routines, gardening tips and whatnot across the boundary wall, even complaints about how much or how little family members are helping with the chores! I have made friends with people I meet on my short walk to the park ~ all from the distance of 5 feet! A new camaraderie is surely springing…

Everyone – just about everyone – is thinking, talking, cooking food. A blitzkrieg of recipes has appeared everywhere; professional and amateur chefs are helping us decide what to cook, how to cook. Family members have finally found their way to the kitchen to satisfy their yearnings and have discovered that cooking is actually fun and something to look forward to! A radical equation with food is decidedly forming…

Being up-to-date with latest technology has become the mantra of life… the way we eat, study, work, play, shop, care for our health, exercise, laugh, enjoy, use money, entertain ourselves, interact with others and connect with the outside world is all tech-driven! Older family members have taken on the challenge of using Whatsapp and FB! The fact that being tech savvy is key to survival is certainly dawning…

Craving for information from the outside world is intense. The newspaper is read from end-to-end; news updates are painstakingly followed; latest developments are eagerly reviewed; one has even returned to watching news on TV faithfully every evening… this connect with the world outside is the only reminder that life IS moving on even as we remain suspended in time. A greater dependence on information is pronouncedly developing…

Every morning, the streets are eerily empty as I walk to the park… I can see the lone guard at the far end, standing by the gate which is now kept shut at all times. The park is absolutely empty; the walking track hedged with hibiscus bushes on both sides stretches out in front of me… it feels surreal. I become intensely aware of nature around me… the earthy smell from last night’s rain; the lone butterfly flitting alongside me; the koel calling out incessantly from a treetop; tiny sunbirds with their beaks buried deep into the hibiscus blooms, a flock of parrots flying overhead; a kite swooping down on the grass… I am with myself, and myself alone. I am at peace. The realization that it takes very little to be happy and content is slowly dawning…

MY new normal is unquestionably evolving.

Hi.

hi. i am meeta.

i am always talking to myself… do you too?

i love writing… writing frees me totally. it helps me explore my inner thoughts and express them in black and white… it simplifies life and its myriad aspects for me. it shows me the way ahead… it also liberates me in the truest sense… it is therapeutic… it gives me the a great sense of achievement… the ultimate happiness… writing is my ikigai. my reason for living. and I want to keep writing till the day I die.

i have created this blog to share my thoughts, my notions, my musings with you all… strangers out there in the vast wide space of the world wide web… perhaps i will make a few friends…