Our dream of Immortality!

There is a lovely Hindi song, “Tum Jiyo, Hazaro Saal, Saal ke Din ho Pachhas Hazar”!  The song is sung to celebrate a birthday and  means, “My dear, please live for thousand years and let each of the years have fifty thousand days.” It wishes immortality to the blessed soul. When we discuss human life, we always say that our life span is a hundred years! From where this number has come from is difficult to say. But it indicates the wish for immortality or longevity. Immortality is also discussed in mythology! Dronacharya’s son, Ashwathama, is supposedly immortal, and that is later considered as a curse or a punishment.

In our day to day life, there are many examples of mortality. Mortality is not a curse, but it is a fact of life. Dalai Lama had spoken about Shunyata in one of his discourses; it means emptiness. This emptiness means all the objects in the universe have no meaning unless we attach the meaning through our thoughts and beliefs! In the real world, the atoms and molecules exist independent of our mind. But our mind also exists independently, and we feel this when we are angry or happy! Anything that exists physically has a life span or shelf life. The span depends on many variables. But till the beginning of the 20th Century, the lifespan of humans was pretty low. Longevity was a word which came into discussion about a tiny number of people.

Still, the fascination for immortality continues. Why is it so?  We forget that everything has a specific life. With futility, we cling to that toiletry pouch long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighbourhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We want to go back to our roots. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and mandirs and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal life. In every nook and corner, nature is showing you that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our bodies, is shifting and evaporating, and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/another-view-point-the-native-place/

The above link is a blog I had written about native places. We get nostalgic about our good old native place where we spent our childhood. We remember that school where we spent an extended part of life. Some people keep on going to their native place ( गावाकडे or मुलुक ) every few years. They hope that everything has remained in the time frame when they have migrated elsewhere. But when they go there, they find most of the friends have left the place; those still left behind have changed beyond recognition. Their children don’t even know you. That old grocery shop is now converted to a modern-day cell phone shop selling Oppo and Samsung. Every visit, we see that our past memories are now becoming actual memories. Those teachers have died, the priest died 30 years back. There are more wine shops than shops selling those sweets which you enjoyed in childhood. There is a clear sign that things are changing, the old world is dying, withering, replaced by a new one. This change is happening in a short span of about 30/40 years. We don’t accept the changes, but inwardly, we know that the reasons for which we keep on going to the native place do not exist. The other day, I went on a road in Pune, where my grandfather used to live. Though I exactly knew the location where the Wada existed, I could see none of the old signs. Then suddenly I saw a flour mill or chakki from those days, that was still around! The sighting also brought a thought in my mind that in another five or ten years, the chakki will also be gone! Did I accept it? I am not sure. We humans do not accept the adage, “Time and Tide wait for none”!

Despite the preponderance of evidence against it, our culture strives for immortality and youth. We cling to a past like — photographs, memories of our children, old wallets and shoes. But it’s not only about our physical bodies that we want to be ever lasting. We struggle against every change — big and small.

We have seen these changes in real life, but we tend to ignore them until the last possible moment. Kodak and photography were considered synonyms. Till the ‘90s of the last century, other companies were called also-ran. Kodak invented digital photography but never understood its real potential. Well, Kodak does not exist any more. The change took place in front of their eyes in 20 years. Garware Nylons was a leading company, in Pune, and it prospered in front of our eyes. For various reasons, within 15 years of reaching its peak, it closed shop. There were many car manufacturing companies in the early part of the 20th century in the US. Only GM, Ford and Chrysler remained. Even GM and Chrysler were saved by the US government from Bankruptcy a decade ago.

The coast of Pacifica in California is a beautiful place to live. (The photos above)  But the sea erosion is eating away 8 inches of land every year. Those who did not understand the meaning of 8 inches per year are now suffering. In forty years, it meant almost thirty feet of erosion. People in that area have understood the real meaning of mortality!

Human life span is tiny, whereas the life span of the Universe is in terms of millions of years. Hence we hardly visualise any changes happening around us except for some happening in Pacifica. But let us not despair. In the cycle of mortality, some beautiful things and events have a life of a few hours. The night-blooming flower of Cereus or Brahmakamal blooms only once a year and has a life of a couple of hours. But during that night these flowers give us tremendous pleasure.   The other day a friend called to share the information that the plant in his home had 30 flowers in one night. He was really excited.

Why are we looking for immortality? Is it for pleasure? Is it enjoy life for an infinite period? Imagine you in the year 2219. I can not imagine what the world will be. I may be immortal, but my body cells may not be eternal, my muscles may not be immortal, nor may my brain be immortal! Will my contemporaries also be in a similar position? What will we do in those times?  Instead, it might be a good idea not to have immortality and in short span of life, be like Brahmakamal to your friends and near one; be a Brahmakamal those in your ecosystem. There are some great achievers who in the same life span cross the mountains of achievements and some reach the Mount Everest.

The joy of living life is an individual choice! Some are happy with the smallest of achievement and others are not happy even after climbing the Mount Everest! Immortality is not going to give us any special joy. But don’t forget that even the North Start (Dhruv Tara) is not immortal.  After a million years it might disintegrate into atoms and molecules. But one thing is is surely permanent and will always be available; that is God!  He will always be there as a concept and will last forever! Let us not try to imitate Him! We are humans!

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Chuck the Screen!

When I was younger, decades back, Screen is what we looked forward to eagerly. The Screen was a tabloid dedicated to Bollywood stuff. Looking at the images of stars in the paper was a treat which we awaited. Naturally, we were keener about photos of the actresses, though Devanand was also a favourite. But this paper was never bought and brought at home in those days for obvious reasons! The publication now exists as a website! 

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Following the societal and technological changes, the meaning of the word screen has also changed. When we talk of the screen today, it is most of the time about cell phone screen and sometimes laptop or TV screen. But in an office scenario, it is mostly laptop and cell phone screen. The proliferation of cell phones in India has happened in the most unexpected way and speed. Now it is almost impossible to find someone who does not use a cell phone. A friend of mine has never used one, but that is another story.  

Remaining away from screen has become a challenge in today’s society. In the office environment, laptop and for some people, cell phone usage is a must. So, in that case, the screen time needed for work cannot be changed. But for some, cell phone usage is not required during work. Once the formal requirement of screen time is fixed, it can be decided how much more time one should spend with the screen. There are many reasons to control this time. Some are obvious reasons, and others are not so obvious. Social scientists say that screen is the latest cigarette! That one should try and remain away from addictive items seems natural. The main reason for this is to retain your focus. We tend to use the cell phone like a cigarette and just pick it up to see that elusive email, or a text or WhatsApp message. We simply don’t know when we start using it, indicating addiction. We need to find out how much non-essential screen time we give to ourselves.  

When we mindlessly pick up that device, we fracture our attention; and some studies say that the time between switching from your laptop and cell phone and back can waste 20 % of your productive time. There may be a lot of dialogue about multitasking, but in real life, there is a wastage of productive time when we are so-called multitasking. In multitasking, it is assumed that we are handling two or more work activities, but when the cell phone screen is not a work activity, then we can imagine the wastage of productive time.  

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There are apps available these days, which track your screen time. Based on the data captured, you can decide how to cut down on screen time. The first and foremost is the notifications settings. Whenever we get a new cell phone, we have default apps. Based on our requirement (and sometimes because someone else said it is good), we install more apps, then more and more apps. Initially, do the audit of the apps you have if you really use them. Uninstall those which you do not need. Some apps may be like your comfort or binge food; delete these apps. As we start using the phone, we see that we start getting a lot of notifications because their default setting is always on. Personally, for me, the calls I receive are critical. Other than the missed call notification, probably my banking app notifications are essential. The important aspect is don’t receive a “ding” with each notification or flashing notification. Keep notifications silent. The correct audit will help and reset will help you in getting the least distracted!  

Track your screen time with the apps. Set yourself realistic goals to reduce usage. Keep track whether you are reducing the usage time. If not, try and analyse why it is not happening? One more thing you can try is, do not let the cell phone become your appendage. What most of us do these days is to carry our phone to bed, dinner table, to the washroom. Where ever we go, we take it as if it is an oxygen cylinder needed for us to breathe. We feel that we may choke if we do not have our cell phone near us. Keep the phone in another room; in the office keep it in your bag if you do not need the phone for work 

In the bedroom, you need to see the time when you get up to go to the washroom. Get yourself a clock and keep your phone in another room. Real phone addiction started with the Blackberry phone with Corporate email application. In those days getting email on the cell phone was a novelty. The honchos would get up at night to do their thing and then keep on going through emails and replying them. Initially, it was fancy to have a Blackberry, but once its novelty wore off, people realised the folly of checking and responding to emails at 3 am!  

To remain away from cell phones, try the detox method which you follow for any addiction. People follow different approaches. For smoking addiction, people don’t smoke at home. Since one is at home for a long time, smoking can be reduced. For the alcohol issue, some have tried a method of taking alcohol only when one travels abroad. It naturally controls alcohol drinking.  

There is one more thing one can try out. Try doing nothing. Doing nothing is not as simple as it sounds or looks. When you do nothing means you don’t do anything. Sit and look at the trees, birds or sky! Look at nature. When you attempt to do nothing, it can become tricky. We are not used to doing nothing. It is possible that we will become jittery and try to look for the cell phone to play around. (That is withdrawal symptom for you!) It is what we are trying NOT to do in the first place. Once you overcome basic inhibitions, you may need to acquire the habit of painting, which you have forgotten. You loved to listen to songs. You went for walks, or you went for a swim. Doing nothing is a starting point of reinventing yourself. Let us not forget that we used to live an active physical life. You were once a voracious reader too 

What is the cell phone for you? Is it your friend or a foe? Do you have a love/hate relationship? Is it more love or hate? What I mean by love is that at any smallest of the opportunity you grab it 

Friends, don’t waste time looking at the screen! During my younger days, looking at the screen was the need of the hour. We could barely see our favourite actress’s photos; watching movies was even rarer! But today’s screens are a sheer waste of time if we use it beyond a particular time The younger generation has more difficulty controlling the screen with hundreds of computer games available.

Lest you have forgotten, trees are still green, birds tweet even today! (The word tweeter has come from this tweet). The sky is still blue, and rain and rainbows are still around. Go ahead and chuck your screen time and have fun! You always did this only 15/20 years backs. I am not the anti screen person. These are technological marvels. But we don’t use them well. We have a WhatsApp group of college mates where we don’t allow forwards. We have so much fun discussing current topics (all non-controversial, of course), e.g. politics/religion and so on are banned. Last several weeks there has been a great discussion going on discussing the World Cup Cricket matches. We got the feel as if we are back to our hostels! There were opinions, suggestions and fights! It was our Adda!

Have fun! Use the technology correctly and enjoy! Don’t become its slave!

 

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Old age? What is that?

I have shared a poem below that I read on WhatsApp. The poet talks of when one should accept that a person has reached old age. The poem has many lines giving hints to know when one has become old. My counter lines against each line are written in Red.

*केंव्हा समजाव …..?*

*कि, आपल वय झालय*

 का समजावं की वय झालयं! 

 ★ सकाळी गजर होण्याआधी जाग आली की समजाव ….

 झोप झाली आहे 

★ सांगीतलेल्या गोष्टींचा काही तासात विसर पडला की. समजाव…

 त्या महत्वाच्या नव्हत्या 

★ आवाज, गोंगाट याचा त्रास व्हायला लागला की समजाव ……

 ऐकण्याचा आजार नाही 

★ घरातील व्यक्ती वेळेवर न आल्यावर तगमग झाली की समजाव …..

  त्या व्यक्तीचा फोन खराब आहे 

★ रस्त्यावरील वाहनांच्या horn चा त्रास व्हायला लागला की समजाव …..

लोक सुधारणार नाहीत

★ शेजारुन वाहन जोरात गेल्यावर त्याचा वेग आणि आवाज यामुळे भितीने कंपने निर्माण झाली की समजाव …..

 की आपण मधुन चालत आहोत. 

★ एकच गोष्ट परत परत सांगायला लागलो की समजाव …..

 समोरचा लक्श देत नाही 

★ दुपारी डोळा लागल्यावरही मी जागाच होतो असे वाटले की समजाव …..

 की अजुन झोपायला हरकत नाही 

★ रस्ता ओलांडताना पाय थोडे थबकायला लागले की समजाव …..

ट्राफ़िक जास्त आहे  

★ ओळखीच्या चेहऱ्याचे नांव पटकन आठवले नाही की समजाव …..

 ती व्यक्ती बर्याच दिवसात भेटली नाही 

★ बाहेरच्या जेवणापेक्षा घरची पोळी भाजी आवडु लागली की समजाव …..

घरचं जेवण बाहेरच्या जेवणा इतकं चांगल असतं.  

★ ऊठतांना,बसतांना हात गुडघ्यावर आणि तोंडात देवाचे नांव आले की समजाव …..

 दारू जास्त झाली आहे 

     सगळ्यात महत्त्वाचे-

★ जेव्हा मुल म्हणतात बाबा तुम्ही थांबा,जरा शांत व्हा मी बघतो की समजावे …..

 अखेर मुलगा कामाला लागला 

★ बँकेत गेल्यावर कोणीतरी हळूच “काका जरा पेन देता का?” असे म्हणाले की समजाव की आपल वय झालय …..

🙏🙏🙏

मागे वळून म्हणा काही म्हणालात? 

Since the poem is in Marathi, I have tried to explain my thinking in English, about some of those lines.

Above lines are from a poem being shared on various WhatsApp groups where I am a member. The group members are typically educated, and their age group is around 70! The gist of the poem is how one understands that one has become old. One is born,  growing up, getting old, retiring and passing are the phases of one’s life. One needs to celebrate all the aspects or stages through which we pass. Happy and sad are events and not phases.  But this poem talks about when someone can know that the person has become old, sadly.

It appears that generations before our generation lived a life which was quite different than today’s life. Most of the changes that have taken place have happened in the last ten to fifteen years. Our generation calls this golden period. Depending on finances available and the health condition, people do many things which they could not do during their working days. Along with this, technology has brought many old and long lost friends back to our fold. Those who embrace the new technology and newer way of life are happy during the golden phase of life.

When you have a happy phase in your life, should you be embracing the thought process of getting old by saying, “Oh, I am getting old”! Yes, biologically nothing has changed; people become old, at some stage, they fall sick, and in the end, they merge with the nature. As I have already said, the phase is never sad or unhappy, but the events can be sad or happy. I will share my thoughts on some of the lines of the poet. I have written my say on each of the point raised by the poet, in Marathi above.

The first line says, “When should I recognise I have become old”? My say is “why should we bother about what age we are?” That is precisely my point. How does it matter what age we have reached? Things change biologically, but there need not be changes in our rational thinking. Our mood changes with events in life but it happens in every phase of life! Mood changes should not be correlated with old age.

Another line says, if you forget things which you were told in a few hours, then you should recognise that you have become old. If it is humour, then my sense of humour is different. From my younger days, I tend not to remember things if they are not necessary! It is a practical way of ignoring unimportant things. Connecting the ignoring of small stuff to age is not correct.

A family member has not reached home on time, one’s anxiety indictaes old age. Well, I don’t agree here too! In today’s traffic, it can happen, the cell phone may be discharged. If someone’s nature is anxious, then that person would be worried at any age, young or old!

The poet says, “When one starts repeating things again and again! Consider that you have become old.” I know two people very close to me, who  have been repeatings things again and again since their 30’s.

Most of the lines written by the poet are in a similar vein. If this happens, if that happens, consider you are old! This thought process has been the result of history when old age was a tough period of life. It was a period in olden times when there was not much to do! Sometimes when older people were seen enjoying life, others were surprised, they were alarmed. In today’s times, people make new friends, new friends of different sex too. Being friends of different sexes, even today is looked at as a surprise. But people at old age have realised that they need friends even at an older age. And why not? The old couples stay “alone” as families have become nuclear and are spread all over the world.

We see some couples getting married at “old age” when their respective spouses have passed. Is this taboo? At one stage widow marriage or marriages by divorcees was also not acceptable in the society. I think that was wrong. What is wrong in hoping to have companionship? Life’s basic needs of having friendship, fellowship do not change as one’s age increases. Is it something wrong if an “old man” loves to watch Tom & Jerry cartoons? Is it wrong if an “old lady” goes out with friends for ice cream?

Friends, I urge of all you to accept that biological age increases. But to hyphenate or connect old age with some minor changes in one’s faculties is wrong! You cannot call someone old because you see white hair; you may see someone with hearing slightly impaired. They are not old.  Someone may call you “Kaka or Uncle” does not mean that you are old. It is the Indian way of respecting the people older than you. In India, a thirty year old or  a twenty year will not call me Pramod. I will be called Pramod uncle. That has nothing to do with old age, it has to do with our culture!

Those who have flair for writing, should try and write about positive things in life! I have read comments from people on the poem above. Most liked the thought process and contents of the poem. My question to all is why not come out of the old ways of “enjoying” the sadness. Post independence there was  a thought process in India. Rich were supposedly weak and poor were strong as they could withstand tough life. This was glorifying the poverty. Simliarly, I feel that such poems suggest to us to accept that things are going to become tough and sad as we grow old! Biologically becoming old should be accepted as a fact of life. But start touting the golden period of life, enjoy, have fun and never say, “Oh! I have become old”! Changes in body faculties be damned!

Alameda-Karve Nagar!

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I urge you, folks, to “see” this blog on a Laptop or a computer. There are photos and videos which will look better on a larger screen.

Alameda is a public promenade bordered with trees. The word has come from Spanish “álamo poplar”! Poplar is a tall fast-growing tree found on the northern part of the hemisphere, away from the equator. When we travel to foreign countries, we see many promenades with a lot of trees. Such trees are possible mainly in the areas where we have perennial rains. Discipline and culture are other sides that come into the picture.

My friend Vijay shared the word Alameda with me as he came across it for the first time. The word made me think of such areas in Pune. I live in Pune in an area called Karve Nagar. Pune does not have perennial rain, but it rains only during three or four months in monsoons. Still, we have many such roads with green trees bordering the streets. These are seen prominently in Karve Nagar, Pashan, Koregaon Park, Prabhat Road, Model Colony and camp areas of Pune, besides some other places.

How is this possible? I am sure that our ancestors and the current citizens do have the love for trees, though many trees have been taken down during the development of housing colonies. The riverfront demarcates Karve Nagar area on one side. In all other areas, there were vast guava orchards. Youngsters may not believe it, but this area was very green even in early ’70 s of the last century. Even today, though a lot of bungalows and buildings have been built, greenery is maintained, and it’s enjoyable to walk in this area.

 

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I am trying to share a few videos and photos of the Karve Nagar area with you. When I go for my walks, I get a feeling as if I know these guys, the trees. They sway with the breeze and are sometimes very still when there is no wind. Trees also love the first rains, like me. The way they shade their leaves every year and adorn the new ones is a treat to our eyes. They have something to offer all the times, provided we have time for them.

The colours, the smells, the rustle of leaves, swinging like crazy when it is windy!  Trees have many things to offer. Some provide shade; all provide oxygen. The fragrance from the flowers and fruits they offer is nature’s gift to us. Trees are the best silent and not so silent friends we can have. They keep creating music provided we have an ear to listen. It is scientifically proven that the growth of plants is helped by music!

 

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Trees teach us to be patient and keep on surging ahead in adversities. They are firmly grounded, literally! So they cannot walk away from what is hurting them, and cannot run away from problems. They keep on growing towards the Sunlight and keep on digging their roots into the earth looking for water.

Trees seem to be able to accomplish anything, such as being able to grow on the sides of cliffs with just a little bit of soil and a lot of determination. Best friends are determined to succeed themselves, but also demand more of you; they are just happy seeing you succeed as well.

Trees provide fresh air, and food humans need to survive. Best friends help us survive as well — they give us the love and support we need to keep going in the hard times (after a breakup).

Childhood isn’t complete without climbing trees, picking mangoes, and pretending to be monkeys swinging on low hanging branches. Like trees, no matter how old we get, we need the playmate that can help us forget about everything and live in the moment.

Trees are essential for our happiness and health, so we should give back what the trees need to thrive. Best friends need us just like we need them.

Trees provide shelter and protect us from the environment. Whether its providing shade from the sun or shelter from the rain, they will always be there. Best friends will fight to keep you safe even if it means clashing with you!

A good friend is someone that you can tell anything to and trust with your biggest secrets.

We know that trees won’t always be here if we don’t give back what we take away. Best friends don’t ask for much, but we care for them, so we give anyway.

A little bit of fertiliser and a whole lot of love goes a long way. Someone has come up with a beautiful idea. When we go out for a walk, we can take a bottle full of water to give water to a tree on the road. Government and other agencies can’t water all the trees.

Trees, just like people grow, change, and develop scars over time. Each tree is unique and requires a different environment to meet their full potential. Each tree is like a friend! My closest friend is Jaya! Plus I have Vijay, Sonya, Suya, Sharya, Nayan, Pradeep, Shashi, Ramya and many many more friends. We have Gul Mohar, Banyan, Laburnam, Mogra, Parijatak. As friends, the varieties of the trees, their way of loving humans are different! But the common thing between the trees and friends is that they are always there.

In our busy lives, we sometimes forget them both. We lived in Model Colony for 30 plus years. We had some coconut trees and a Gulmohar tree, along with many Ashoka trees in our condo. During that phase, I could not catch up with both friends and trees due to the so-called busy lives! But Lo! They both are still around looking wiser, mature and some older. When I went down the memory lane and became misty-eyed when I remembered that one of the coconut trees had to be chopped down; I lost my dear friend Dileep during this period! But that is life!

I am a bit of show off today! After my chat with Vijay, I took some videos and photos of Alameda in Karve Nagar. I hope you enjoy them. Please pardon me that I could not avoid the vehicle passage in the videos! And some people too are seen!

The first one is the beginning of a beautiful street.

https://youtu.be/xQw5hVmaXXc

The second one is taken in the middle of the same road.

https://youtu.be/itDHZAbN7pA

The last one is at the end of the same route. Look at the number of trees and the greenery in general. Let me tell you that there are business centres and apartment complexes in this area.

https://youtu.be/HAQ7hpgzceU

The videos below are of another road.

https://youtu.be/h54TClNWTf4

Here I have tried to show that even the lanes joining the main roads are full of trees! In fact all the bylanes in this area also full of our green friends!

https://youtu.be/yHW0C3Lpkko

I have already written a couple of blogs about trees. Here is the link for these,  if you want to read them.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/flora-and-humans-in-karve-nagar/

One below was written in May 2014!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/

Who said all is not well with this world?

Time simply flies!

All of us are blessed with twenty-four hours a day. Some of us use the time efficiently, and others don’t, but some people say that time flies in their life and for some time just does not pass by. Why does it happen this way? I will share an example with you. The other day we went to a lunch party about twenty km from our home. We had never been to that hotel before, and maybe we took about thirty-five minutes to reach the place. While coming back, it took us thirty minutes. It was hardly five minutes less. But we felt as if we came back pretty quickly. It was because while going there we were looking for landmarks and junctions. We put on the GPS at the last moment when the crunch point came up for taking the final turn. We felt as if we needed much longer to reach the same distance. We were absorbing things; we were looking at new surroundings.

Our life is very similar. When we start feeling that there is nothing new in our lives, there is nothing to be absorbed; the time appears to fly. The phenomenon occurs to people when they get old and have nothing to look forward. Old age is one angle, but even when one is young, we look at life differently. I have always said in my different blogs that we should absorb what we are doing. We go for a walk in the morning and have earbuds with music flowing into our ears. Are you listening to music or are you enjoying the beauty of the early morning atmosphere? Today I went for a walk, and the weather was typical Pune summer beauty. Cool breeze, the fragrance of flowers and chirping of birds. I love music, but I give the music its own slot. I saw many Gulmohars and Bahawas in full bloom. In between, I thought of talking to Nikhil, my son in law who lives in Montreal. But the atmosphere sucked me in, and I forgot to talk to him. I spoke with him after reaching home.

When we were kids, probably we remember long summer holidays, when we would play different games. We had our trips by buses and trains to visit uncles and aunts. We felt in those days as if the time had stopped. Children’s world is so small that everything they see on the way to a new place, the journey itself, the place where you stay, is new. They take time to absorb all the things which they have never seen before.

The same thing happens to us. In the early eighties of the last century, I had travelled to Germany for the first time. It was winter and cold. I took a train at three pm from Frankfurt and fell asleep right away as I was tired after my international flight. I woke up suddenly and looked outside the window. All I could see was pure white ground. Though I knew that Germany has snowfall in winter, I had never seen one. I was fascinated by it and just kept on watching and watching. I felt as if I had spent a few hours watching the snow. Then I came back to reality. I was supposed to get down at a station at 6 pm. But all announcements were made in German which I did not know. Luckily there was a British army officer in the train who guided me to get down. But I had lost the sense of timing. Time moves at a slow pace when the surroundings keep us interested.

The same thing happens to us when we eat or drink something which we have never done before. If we gulp it, then we will never enjoy the different taste the stuff may have. Nursing a drink is the word which accurately explains the way we should be taking a drink. If you gulp a glass or two of wine, you will never enjoy it. If you are with your friends for a couple of hours nursing the food and drink, those two hours may seem to you like four hours.

There are so many examples in real life where we miss the point. When we take a shower why not enjoy the feel of the water falling on your body? Depending on what we like, biting cold shower will give a push to our mind and body to wake up. Steaming hot shower could release the stress, and the tiredness one may have. But most of the time, we go under the shower thinking about what want to do in that important meeting with customer or presentation you must give to your boss. You neither give justice to your thought process nor do you enjoy the physical pleasure of taking a bath.

Our sense of timing drastically changes, when we are under a traumatic situation or a psychedelic drug. The athletes use a term called going into the zone. When some athletes are performing at their peak, they operate as if they are in a different zone. Our time appears to slow down in these circumstances.

The same thing can happen when you attend a short course or a seminar on a new subject. The subject is new; the place is unique; the speaker and participants are all unknown to you. You are trying to understand the topic; you are getting to know the people; you have never visited that city before and are looking forward to it. Time moves very slowly in such circumstances.

As usual, I also want to see how this theory is applied to oldies like me and our ilk. When you are near seventy years of age, you are at a stage where the term “been there and done that” fits appropriately. Whatever we do, we get the feeling that we have done it before. Time passes fast because nothing new is happening. In comparison with the total time we have spent on the earth, any event takes only a small time. How to slow it down? You can never slow the time, but you can make us feel as if it has slowed down. Try to learn something new. Try and meet people you have not met. Attend your alumni meetings. Last Sunday, eighteen of us met for breakfast and spent an hour and a half together. All of us felt as if we had spent a few hours together. The whole gang went on a nostalgic trip. Friends were sharing stories and remembering the old anecdotes.

How was this achieved? It was done by living through our senses and our experience rather than through our minds. It’s a different approach to avoiding familiarity—and happens not by seeking new experiences, but by changing our attitude to our experiences. In our mind, we would say, “what is the big deal in meeting old friends?” But it is not the meeting but the atmosphere of camaraderie that is created that slows down the time.

Our journey by train or by bus is the same as our life. You ignore the things that you see through the window, the rivers, the mountains, the fields and the villages at your own peril. If you ignore these things, then there is nothing to see, nothing to look forward. The same thing happens in our life’s journey, and you may find it boring.

Here is a quick example of lengthening your time. On our balcony Mogra, 36 flowers bloomed today. In ten seconds, I could have seen the bloom and would have been done with it. But I took a photograph, I took a small video of the bush and the flowers swaying in the breeze. Jaya and I discussed the beauty and the fragrance of the flowers. We discussed whom should the flower Mala be given to! I counted the numbers, plucked the delicate flowers. Jaya created the Mala and wore it herself. I shared the photos and videos with a few and had a discussion on the subject. Ten seconds were lengthened to more than half an hour as we delved into the beauty provided by nature.

Start enjoying chores like keeping your garden clean and neat. And you’ll also discover that this open and alert attitude to your experiences has a time-expanding effect since mindfulness increases the amount of information we process. It spreads the same one hour into a more extended period. We should not treat time as an enemy in old age. Look at it as a gift which you never had before. Go into your zone like athletes and enjoy it. It is very easy to gulp your tea like you did in your younger age when you were short of time. Extend that time the way you want it and enjoy.

Mahabaleshwar Jaunt!

This week, we had a quick family jaunt to Mahabaleshwar. We are in mid-April, and we were there on weekdays. The “season” apparently had not started. We had all the Mahabaleshwar to ourselves. There was no rush, no crowd, the atmosphere was peaceful, everywhere. I went to Mahabaleshwar after about three years. One thing I noticed was cleanliness. Where ever I went, to main market road, the “points” there was hardly any sign of Kachara. The hotels and restaurants where I went also were spick and span in this respect. I hope that this is a sign of things to come in future.

We visited the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar where there is a Mandir. The place is the source of five rivers Krishna/Koyana and others. Let me say this in advance that I am a little away from Mandir circuit and I may or may not enter all the Mandirs where I go. I do not want to say something to disturb anyone’s feelings, but I write about my observations. Outside this Mandir, on the left side, there is dry gutter with a sloping wall of a house. Every time we go to Kshetra Mahabaleshwar, I rest there while others visit the Mandir. It is an enjoyable place, and it has almost become a tradition for me to lie down while others go to the Mandir. This time I treated myself to a selfie!

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It was quite warm yet peaceful because there was no crowd. Though I was pleased personally, it must have been tough for shopkeepers, restaurants and business people in general. The place is generally choc a block with people. While I was lying down, I saw someone coming with two plastic bags full of small plastic empty bottles used for serving water. (especially on flights) These were delivered to a shop. Priya gave me an update that these are used by shopkeepers to sell “holy water” from the source of the river! I smiled. Priya did not buy.

I had “my time” for two consecutive days for slightly more than an hour. I left the hotel room at around six am. I had my cell phone with me on both occasions but only as a habit. On the first day, I walked to Kate’s point. The path was covered with tree arches with my friends chirping away to glory. On the second day, it was a lawn in the hotel, with a prominent raised platform where I could sit; no one else had woken up at that time when I sat in that place for an hour, I could distinguish at least 15 different bird species chirping. There may have been more, but my hearing capacity may not have been adequate to distinguish. There were trees around with a lot of flower plants. I went and checked each flower for details. Was I meditating? No, I had my eyes and ears open, and all I could hear was nature. The rustling of tree leaves, faint scents of flowers, beautiful mix in colour Kaleidoscope created by nature showing a vast range of colours. But HIS capability of producing so many shades of green was what impressed me the most. While taking my walk on the first day, the different varieties of trees with unique shapes, some had a lot of leaves and others were bare. Some trees had thick branches which had become horizontal due to nature’s forces. I wished at that time that I was at least ten years younger biologically. I would have surely climbed up to take a nap on them with a cool morning breeze around. Surprisingly, even our ancestors, the monkeys, were also sleeping.  One more selfie!

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We decided to visit the Pratapgad area, without the climb as we had Rhea with us and the temperature was against us. It was noon. We were in for a pleasant surprise. A village depicting times of Shivaji Maharaj was created. They charged a fee which was peanuts compared to what we saw. It was neat, the show was impressive. It seems that they have a small theatre where they show some films about Shivaji’s times. The statues they had created and the atmosphere were very impressive. The guide they had provided was enthusiastic, but she could have been trained better. The washrooms needed improvement according to Rhea’s report. I will suggest all my friends to visit this place. I have seen such a show for the first time in India; we have a lot of cultures and should create similar ways of letting others know about our history.

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On the spur of the moment, we decided to drive down to Kolhapur to go and take darshan of Devi Ambabai, before coming back to Pune. Our driver suggested that being a Friday, there could be a bit of rush, but it was manageable. I went to pay obeisance to Ambabai after a few years. Apparently, with the security situation prevailing, there are some changes made. Why all the visitors were told to remove footwear outside the premises, was not understood by me. It was around 3 pm; there was a scorching sun. There were some mats thrown in to walk on, but they were not adequate. Walking with no footwear appeared to be compulsory penance. What about very old and young? Even I had difficulty walking, but nobody seemed to mind. It is a practice to sit inside Mandir premises for 5 to 10 minutes. I feel that it is the correct practice. When you come to any Mandir, you should keep some time for HIM! It is not like you go to a restaurant, take a quick bite and go away. Unfortunately, there was no place to sit. Some people were sitting on the bare floor, luckily covered with a Shamiana to shield people from the Sun.

I always feel a bit out of place in any Mandir. I bow to God, I do Namaskar to God; people follow many different rituals. Whether they do it knowingly or unknowingly, I am not sure. While I was sitting in the Mandir, there was some chanting going on in another part of the Mandir. I asked a few people around to understand what was going on, but nobody seemed to know. Then I asked a lady running a shop about the chanting. She said that on every Friday, a Pujari chants one thousand names of goddess Ambabai. At least two hundred ladies were attending the chanting. They had a plate in front of them. I was told that they have a Yantra, a holy replica of Chakra in the dish. With each chant, the ladies were applying a small portion of Kumkum or Vermillion to the Yantra. I asked the lady what, what is the purpose of doing it, she smiled.

In India, we have a fascinating combination of modern way of life and traditions. I feel that whatever one’s belief’s, one must visit different parts of India to understand and see this great spectacle. Yes, in Ambabai Mandir too cleanliness was excellent but for a few pieces of plastic bags etc. I will share with you my experience of a visit to the Golden Temple many years back. Outside the Mandir, there is a vast empty area which was very clean. While we were waiting for our car to arrive, I saw someone drop some paper on the ground. Nobody said anything to that person. The moment that person was away, a volunteer came and picked up the trash. They did not argue with the person nor did they humiliate him. They call it “Kar Seva”! In Hindu temples also we should start the culture of Kar Seva. Let us spread the culture. For those who do not know about Kar Seva, the volunteer services are offered by poor people as well as wealthy people on their own. God brings everyone to an equal level!

Wanderer’s surprises!

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I have been writing about early morning walks in the green areas, listening to the bird’s chirping and the exercise of walking. I missed mentioning one more significant benefit that we get by the wandering. You get to see the world. One can walk with friends; others walk with spouses, but I prefer walking alone. Each way has its benefit but has its downside too! With friends, you may end up having Chai after your walk, and with the spouse, your walking speeds may not match. You have a significant benefit of chatting in both these cases, but you may miss out observing certain things. Walking alone gives you the flexibility of changing routes, walking at your speed, walking as you feel like it.

Today I walked for one and a half times of my average time. I did the longer walk after a big gap and felt a little tired. But since I had changed my route I enjoyed it. Today’s most exciting aspect was that I saw a small procession. I was turning around a corner, and I could hear some hymns being sung. There were 10 to 15 people in a group which was followed by a minibus. The daylight was enough to observe details. At the center of the group was a man, their Guru, walking with them. Nothing special but yes, there was something special. The Guru was fully nude, including frontal nudity. He was about 45 years old. I was surprised and started thinking. What sect allows Guru to be fully nude, walking on a public road? Who were these people? Among these people, there were some ladies too. Rights, freedom of speech all are fine, but what about the rights of others? Can somebody sane and not a homeless person go around naked? Should’t he be arrested? Next question would be why not a nude Sadhvi’s on the road? People will then talk of woman’s modesty!

I am sharing another incident from today’s walk. I was passing by a Ganapati Mandir, of course illegal! Religious structures may be called illegal by authorities, but in the minds of people, all Mandir’s are legal. A newspaper vendor had kept his bike parked outside the Mandir. Since there was only one person inside the Mandir, I assumed that he was the vendor. I waited on the side to see what he was doing. I thought that the person must be very religious as he started his newspaper route after paying obeisance to Him. After he went away, I checked the inside of the empty Mandir. Our man was using the space to store his balance newspapers for the next round. The Mandir was his temporary storage!  Ganapati kept watch on the papers.

On the way, I saw a pharmacist’s shop which also was a general store. I saw a guy doing some work inside. I remembered that I had to buy Band-aids for home stocking. His sliding shutter was closed. I waited for him to open the shutter. When I attempted to open the shutter, he said, “Don’t open the shutter.” I said, “ok, I want to buy some band-aids.” He said that I could come inside. Till that time he had probably decided that I was a robber masquerading as an oldie with my morning walk gear! I was thrilled that finally, somebody was afraid of me! He did not have the stuff I wanted. While walking out, I offered to slide the shutter back in closed position; he said I need not bother!

Next one is a popular event. Various houses in our area have trees and bushes. Currently, these are in bloom, especially those with white flowers. People while taking a walk, stop at places where it is effortless to pluck flowers. The flowers are plucked for use while performing puja at home. This thought is very noble, but there is one small hitch. These flowers are not from your garden. So technically you are stealing them. Years back I had checked with someone who used to pluck flowers from our garden. He said, “ I am not taking these flowers for me; they are to be used while performing puja at home.” I said, “Puja will be performed in your home using your idols. It means that you are stealing the flowers.” He got annoyed and said, “How is it that you don’t understand such a simple thing? Flowers are for God!” I changed the expressions on my face and showed that finally, it dawned on me that the flowers are not for his personal use! In my mind, I apologised to his God!

On the route that I had taken, there were good footpaths some of them are quite recently made. Since decent foot paths are a new thing in Pune, people continue to walk on roads. Maybe people will start using pathways once they are used to seeing them free of vendors!

Another interesting aspect one can see are the walking gear that people wear. These are quite fancy and must be expensive. The fashion of carrying a walking stick is prevalent in our area. I asked a person using it; the person said that it is carried to prevent dog attacks. My observation is that dogs are busy in their activities. I have never seen any such attack.

Friends walk at different times to suit their routines. Working people take their walks early for obvious reasons but so do the retirees (they wake up early). But a friend has been walking after 9/9.30. I have suggested to the friend that it is not right to walk so late as heat could cause trouble.

At different corners, vendors sell fresh carrot or gourd juice. It appears to be the fashion these days. I remember one incident in which one 40-year-old lady drank similar juice after her walk, and within an hour she died. The juice was prepared at home.

Friends use your walks for exercise, to be near green trees. Use these occasions to look at the world. If you walk alone, you can really enjoy the human activities without any pressure of time. It’s fun, and of course in Pune, it’s the cool breeze and the birds chirping!

Other than points mentioned above morning walks

  1. Take you away from Diabetes
  2. With fresh mind you get better ideas
  3. With fresh mind you review your previous day and ask Him to forgive your errors

Happy wandering!

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