Coping with Death!

Birth and Death are the two absolute truths in life, there is no other side to these events. The birth in any family brings joy, and death brings sadness. In the case of birth, it is expected to be a natural progression after marriage. But for some couples giving birth to a child becomes a very complex event. But in the end, it is a joyful event.

Any death is a sad, dreadful event. Humans expect everything to happen sequentially. Humans hope that the parents will die first then the children and then grandchildren and so on. As we know, life is not so simplistic. Deaths can happen in any which way and are pre-decided by destiny. Though we know that such a catastrophe can happen, nobody is ever prepared for the break in the death sequence. In fact, we are not ready to accept death. Death is a daily occurrence in life, we directly get involved in very few of them. In India, when a death occurs, the body is generally cremated. In many communities, children and women do not go the cremation ground. We tend to shield them from death. This lack of mental preparation makes it challenging to handle death.

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This morning, I received an email from a close friend of mine, about the sudden death of his 35-year-old niece. She died in her sleep. The reason was a heart attack. The family is devastated. I immediately called him, and we talked about life. Both he and I have gone through cancer treatment. Though the onset was not significant in both our cases, it was a sudden reminder sent by destiny to both of us. It was a wakeup call saying that we are not infallible. Both of us are nearing 70 and have generally lived a happy life. But this out of turn death has really shaken me. I had met his niece a couple of times, and I remember her as a lively person. How can such things happen? How her parents, siblings, husband and other close ones must be feeling? I am not really sure that in such deaths, how even the excellent healer time will help.

Another event occurred a month and a half back, when a 42-year-old son of another close friend of mine, died of a heart attack. The son had a heart condition and was taking treatment under expert guidance. The therapy included some exercise. He was told to exercise in the hospital gym. While exercising he collapsed and died. People were around him, he was only 100 meters from the emergency room. He could not be taken there; he died before that.

It can happen that if the child were 4 or 6 years old, others might understand the grief caused by death. Some parents might feel that life is unjust to them and will think that all the sense of Godly support is over glorified; it will not be a surprise if they challenge the spiritual beliefs. When an adult dies, the person is still a child for the parent, whatever the age. Outsiders may not understand the shock of such deaths on parents. In such cases, it can so happen that the sympathy and focus may shift to the spouse or the children of the person who died. People sometimes fail to realise that the bond between the child and the parent is powerful, whatever the age. In such a case, the parent cannot be deprived of the right to grieve.

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When an adult dies, the life of his/her parents becomes more complicated as the parents are already going through a series of problems. Parents may be able to understand at some stage after the death that love is stronger than death, though it cannot stop the death from happening. One thing is sure, love ensures that attempts made by death to separate people from love do not succeed. Death cannot take away memories. Maybe life is stronger than death.

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Each religion, each philosophy has thought processes which provide solace to humans who go through extreme events like the death of an adult child. How far these are successful, I am not really sure. Such incidents have their own vagaries. It can happen that parents may not be involved in funeral arrangements for different reasons. Parents may not be in conditions to travel. Parents’ relations and interactions with the child’s spouse and the grandchildren may change, sometimes permanently. It is possible that they may be required to grieve commonly, with the spouse of the child and their other relatives. Private grief at that time may not happen. As seniors, parents may have to support younger members in the family, by keeping their own pain aside. Things can be tough.

Practical aspects will be dependent on whether the child was married or unmarried. In the case of an unmarried child, all the responsibility about banks, investments, properties, informing the employers will be with parents. The friends of the child will want to help, take it. Don’t forget that friends are also grieving and want to help. I am sure that the most challenging part will be how to handle the future. Every individual will do it differently, but a good idea will be to plan.

When I write a blog, I try to come to a conclusion at the end of the blog. But this blog is not a blog, in the real sense. I have just written down thoughts as they came to my mind. I pray to HIM to give strength to the family and friends to somehow cope with such stressful events. I also pray to the almighty, that fewer families are required to face such catastrophes!

Was it worth it?

Last week we went to Seattle to attend our grandson’s 12th grade graduation ceremony. We really enjoyed the ceremony. We were also very happy to be present for the milestone event of Suyash’s life. Now he joins the university to start computer engineering course! It was a bit hectic but enjoyable. After traveling a lot around the world, our mind gets used to long flights and handling such long journeys, in a short period of time..

Yesterday we bumped into our neighbour, who is 7 to 8 years senior to me. He asked me about the ceremony and then he said that he had a query. He asked me that if it was really worth traveling all the way to US and come back, for a four day stay? Is it not physically tiring? Does it not cause jet lag issues? Was there any necessity to do it? I told him that there was a family reason to come back in four days! Now the decision! Yes, we thought it was more than worth it to attend our grandson’s milestone event!

While planning, we never discussed if it was possible to take up this journey, it was assumed that we will be able to handle it! I am pragmatic in what I do and respect our age which is nearing 70! Fortunately, both of us are reasonably fit! But we did take precautions to make our journey less arduous! We took a flight from Pune to Delhi and slept for a few hours at the airport transit hotel. Then we took our 14-hour flight to Vancouver! Similarly, after 14-hr flight back from Toronto to Delhi, we stayed overnight at the transit hotel; we slept for straight six hours and took a flight back to Pune at 8.30 next morning!

First and foremost is that we were not trying set a record, making the short trip with longest journey! The situation at that time demanded we do it. Secondly, it was possible both physically and financially to handle this. There was no specific requirement to reach Pune by taking a late-night flight! With all conditions being suitable, we decided to go ahead with our plan.

Our lives are divided in four stages of childhood, education and entry into married life, matured life after 40’s when things are both hectic and are stabilizing. Lastly, it’s the golden period in our life when most of our responsibilities are over and financial requirements are much less for our day to day things. In first two phases we really don’t have much freedom and means to take our own decisions. In most cases decisions are taken by someone else. In last two phases, we can take our own decisions.

Question remains whether it was really worth it? This calls for understanding of what life is. Life to me is sum total of small events, in life. The events can be routine, some could be milestone events. Some are happy events, some are sad events. For happy events we come together to spread the joy; in sad events we come together to be with each other, to support each other. By sharing the joyful events we multiply the joy and by sharing the sad events, we divide the sorrow! This to me is the basic principle of life!

Life is never a big event full of joy! It is small events that make it joyful! Eating food every day in a five-star hotel is not fun. But if you go to such places once in a while it’s fun! We don’t go there only for food. It is the ambience, the atmosphere that adds to the joy. No food can beat your home food if we consider only the food aspect. But it is the planning, getting ready, getting decked up and meeting a few friends in that atmosphere, which creates joy.

But events like taking your child or grand-child to play in a garden, eating bhajias while it is drizzling in monsoon, meeting a long-lost friend suddenly after a long time are the events that add to our joys! Similarly, events like illnesses in the family, failure of someone in family/friends to achieve a goal, (there is always a second time) your favourite team losing in a sporting event are the small sad events that add up to our sorrows. It is sum total of joys and sorrows that makes our life!

With families spreading world over, due to migration, it is becoming tougher to be present in both joys and sorrows! Sometimes, it is not possible because of financial constraints, sometimes it is not possible due to health reasons, for family to be together for even larger events of both joy and sorrow! I know a family where the son could not travel back to India due to his visa issues, when his not very old father died. That of course, is another subject for discussion. Nowadays, waiting for performing final rites of dear ones, has become quite common, as the children travel back from different parts of the world. This is a practical difficulty as timing for death cannot be predicted. But when date of an event is known, e.g marriage, engagement and so on, travel can be easily planned in advance, provided you want to attend those events. Lest we forget, events don’t wait for anybody.

Jaya was present in the US during our grandson’s birth, we could attend his 12th grade graduation ceremony. But we could not be present be for any of his birthdays. In fact, after our son moved to the US we have never attended our son’s birthday too! This time we were lucky that both the events were on the same day! With these limitations, the question of whether it was worth it becomes irrelevant! If someone is not going to attend such events, when all conditions are go and age is nearing 70, then which is the correct time to attend such events? Is it a must that “after spending so much money” (my neighbour said, I did not!) should I not have stayed in Seattle for a longer duration? What is the right longer duration?

Friends, keep on playing positive sum game of life, whether you need to travel to Seattle, or to Timbaktu! Just do it!

Women Power!

Important news being discussed today is that Jacinda Arden, New Zealand Prime Minister, gave birth to a child, while in office. She is the second prime minister of a nation to give birth to a child, while in office. First was Benazir Bhutto! Women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to drive cars now, is another news which is trending today. What is the big deal, skeptics will say? Hundreds of ladies give birth to a child, millions of lady’s drive cars, world over! But these news items are very significant looking at the history of suppression of women.  

All species world over, have males and females for continuity of their progeny! World history is always divided as before and after of some events. Classic definition is BC (before Christ) & AD (anno Domini). There can be another definition like before Wheel and after Wheel. To me this means that human life became much easier after the invention of Wheel!  

Another definition which is essential is Pre-Ownership and Post-Ownership. This to me is the most important landmark in human history. Let me explain. When humans learnt the farming, they started to live at preferred locations. As the humans were nomads before, they would move from place to place looking for food and shelter. Farming created a somewhat less nomadic, more organized stable society. The major social change that came about, was  people started to cultivate and produce things which were in surplus of what they needed; this was stored for the next season. With this change, the concept of ownership took birth. Ownership included farm, the land, females and everything within that ecosystem! This started a concept of same pair of male and female partners living at one location, for longer period. Before that, humans also moved around like other species. There were groups of humans, who would move from place to place. Weather, hunger, safety and sex were the main things that were required to be handled. With the nomadic behavior and no ownership, there was no concept of constant family. In due course of time women would procreate, I do not think that every time they knew the real father of the child.  

Because of their pregnancy and allied difficulties women would look after children and men folk would go out for collecting food. Monthly menstruation, even in those days added to general difficulties of women and their movement. I could not find how the society helped them during this tricky phase every month. In my grandfather’s time, I remember that women had to face humiliating stigma during this time, every month. I am really not sure how this was handled before agriculture. I am assuming that they were better off in those days as it was treated as a normal human body function. The organized society brought some etiquette’s about modesty, nudity and others. This may have brought more difficulties post agriculture. Though 21st century is more supporting, still in smaller cities and villages not much has changed.  

The concept of male being bread winner has continued right to the current times. Some major changes have taken place in recent 30 to 50 years, where women are taking important part in family income and financial well-being. They are taking up important positions in many places including industries and government. The important positions need them to be busy and travel all over. But society has slowly started accepting this need and accepting the biological difference that exist! To me it is alright if the Prime Minister takes six to eight weeks of leave after child bearing! On top of that New Zealand Prime minister is not married to her partner! This is also setting a trend. Live-in, anyone? I feel that live-in concept did exist before farming phase as there were no marriages, anyway!  Even today, pregnancies do come in the way of women’s careers. Latest example is of Serena Williams, the super athlete! When she decided to take part in French Open tennis tournament, several hundred points were deducted from her career points, while considering her ranking, as she was joining post pregnancy!

World over, voting rights for women was anathema! Women in Switzerland gained the right to vote in federal elections after a referendum in February 1971. In 1991 following a decision by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last Swiss canton to grant women the vote on local issues. Modern and developed country? So-called patriarchal society has been suppressing the rights of women. This has kept 50% population of the world in the form of women away from many things. There are some professions which are performed better by females yet  these were performed by men! 

Women are trying to change this, but bra burning is not the solution. What will be the advantages of bringing more and more women in main stream? One thing is sure that the working atmosphere will become softer. I am sure a woman boss will never say, “I don’t care” or Go to hell” or some such statements. One more thing men can learn from women is multi-tasking. They are masters of multi-taking managing kids, kitchen and jobs. On top of that managing family and relatives; it’s not an easy thing but women do it. They not only do it but they are masters of multi-tasking.  

Humans under the garb of patriarchy, are losing the benefits of this talent. They don’t want to do it because they will lose control of the situation. Society has taken advantage of traditions of thousands of years, to keep females away from mainstream. Jacinda Arden, Serena Williams, Kalpana Chawala are great role models for humans in general and females specifically! In my family this change has happened big way! Let us all support our wives, sisters, daughter in laws as much as possible to take up the career they like! Don’t forget that we have children, nephews and grandchildren because of these women! This is one area where males can never compete with females! So don’t forget that to reproduce, a complex system in female body is needed, we just need to support that!

 

  

 

Marriages are made in heaven!

I have been hoping to write about this for some time but during my morning walk today, I saw some couples. I felt that I must take photos of two of them. Of course, I took the photos discretely. When we look at couples, when we meet couples, we hardly know anything about the details about relationships between the couples. Their secrets, good or bad, their likes and dislikes, their compatibility is only known to them. My judgement is that if a couple is really close to you and your spouse, you may not know more than 30% about them, about their thoughts, their demons, their love. Everyone else is hidden far, far away from others, like the closeness or lack of it between them. What we see are shallow things about them. In some cases, everything looks hunky dory but in reality? Honestly, I don’t know. 

Now about the two couples I saw today. They had come out of their homes for their morning walk or outing! In one case, I saw that husband was walking in front of his wife. I thought this was because there was some water and muck due to overnight rain. I was far behind them, initially. Later on, too, they continued to walk in the same fashion. Another couple was sitting on a bench, husband was talking on the cell phone and the wife was sitting there nonchalantly observing life passing by. I waited, at a distance, to see the spectacle but there was no change. What must have been the relationships between these pairs? What must have been their relationships when they were young? While going for morning walk why would husband walk a couple of meters ahead of wife? Why would a husband be talking away on phone in such a beautiful weather? Only they would know. 

Years back, Jaya used to go to office, in their office bus. A couple, who were her colleagues, would also join her at the same bus stop. They would walk from their home every day. Husband in front, wife in tow about ten feet behind. Wife would carry his office bag and food container along with her own things. Jaya was curious. Once she asked her colleague why did they not walk together? Why did they not carry their own stuff? The colleague said, ” I will let you know later.” Later during the day, the colleague came and met Jaya. Jaya asked her why they did not walk together and why was her husband not carrying his own things? The colleague said, ” How can male carry these things? It is to give him respect that I walk behind him.” Jaya could feel that it’s a veiled statement!  Both husband and wife had same technical qualifications and were holding the same post. Later, only the lady got promoted but the charade at the bus stop continued!  

Recently, I heard a story of doctor couple. They would invite outside expert surgeons  for performing surgeries. One consultant faced an embarrassing problem. He treated the husband’s patient but during surgery he used a new equipment at the clinic. Since the patient “belonged” to the husband, the bill was raised by the husband. The wife called this consultant and asked him why the bill was raised by the husband? She said that the investment for new costly equipment was done by her so the bill should have been raised in her name! Now, now! This was an internal issue of husband and wife, but the issue was raised with the consultant. This indicated the relationship between the couple!  

What is marriage? Marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is increasingly cut short by divorce. Over the course of a relationship that can last as many as six or seven decades, a lot happens. Personalities change, bodies age, and romantic love waxes and wanes. And no marriage is free of conflict. What enables a couple to endure is how they handle that conflict. So how do you manage the problems that inevitably arise? And how can you keep the spark alive? 

In patriarchal society in which we live, narcissism is prevalent big time. Since time immemorial, male species has been given a lot of undue importance. They have been encouraged to behave the way they want and the way they could. The obvious “drawback” in the mind of female species has been of getting pregnant, only female kids were always trained to behave in a docile way, always listening to male species and agreeing to their opinions, allowing them to behave any which way they wanted.    

Though in last 50 years things are changing a bit and getting improved in treatment meted out to female species, some things may take a real long time to change. Walking behind one’s husband is part of that docile behavior. Allowing husbands to do what they want continues. There are noted changes especially in western world and major cities in India, giving more freedom to females, giving respect to women as humans, considering them as equals professionally. Even with these changes, a lady professional still is required to work hard, maybe 10 times more than men, to achieve the same professional success.  

Marriages are now, at least in many cases that I know of, are showing improvement in male female interaction. Both partners, now share big dreams and work hard to achieve the same. They work hard to achieve it, they sacrifice for each other, even career wise, which in olden times was unheard of. In, many marriages I have seen the marriage as coming together of two families and not marrying a girl only for dowry and procreation! Women power is really seen in many areas and in a good sense. Of course, there are a few ladies who go to the other extreme! But over a period ladies have learnt that they are made different physically, bra burning becomes only symbolic! It is matter of wearing a convenient inner ware to suit the shape of their body. That women have menstrual cycle is an accepted fact and they are supported by colleagues, male and female when required, silently. People accept that it’s no big deal and take it in stride. Their pregnancies are respected and supported in professional life.  

Has utopia arrived in this bad, bad world? No, not all but proverbial silver lining is seen on the dark clouds. In fact, sometimes we see Silver Clouds instead of dark clouds. Will there be no dark clouds in the year 2118? No way, there will be dark clouds but they will be much less; in many families I see male and female births are received with equal joy. I know you must have smiled about Pramod, the optimist! But I have seen this happening in many families and Yes, this trend will hopefully continue! Now when a husband says today, ” Let me ask my wife, before I confirm to you”, people ever so pragmatic don’t laugh but accept it as a practical requirement. While writing this piece, I had taken Jaya’s permission to do so! But I am not called Hen Pecked! Do I dream that one day, a husband will walk behind the wife, carrying her office bag and tiffin? No, never! I want them to proudly and lovingly walk together! After all both are humans only made physically different by Him! Without this difference how could human race have continued to multiply? Only a male child born cannot be Lighthouse showing light beacon to families, you need females in equal numbers, is it not? 

 

  

The Modern Final Journey!

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I was required to go to Vaikunth, a crematorium in Pune, for the final rites of a family member. He was 91 years old but was always positive and smiling. All were in somber mood for obvious reasons but also had a comfortable feeling that he had led a reasonably satisfactory life and had seen all good things that can happen in our lives. We were waiting for our turn to start the process, we were third in the queue! Then I saw the board displayed above.

The board indicated how the final rites of your loved and dear ones can be seen by live streaming where ever you are in the world. Wow! Hinduism is modernizing or is India modernizing? Want to see a movie, go to Netflix, want to order pizza go to a site, order it! Want to see the final rites, get them by live streaming. What is happening? Is this good for the human race? You are too busy to travel for last rites? Or you want to brag, “I have seen so and so persons last rites on live streaming”. Emotions? Heard this word before but I am not sure what it means. When a person dies, two things are important, how close you are to that person or how you are related to that person. If you are out of these circles, on both the counts, then your presence during final rites does not become important.

What is the purpose of the seeing the last rites on live streaming? What do we achieve by doing this? The hospitals now provide facility for keeping the dead body in mortuary. This allows dear ones to travel from around the world for the final rites, within reasonable time. What is so important in one’s life more than attending the final rites of your near and dear one? After this you never see the body again; but if you are comfortable with that then probably next best thing is live streaming. Or is it? Maybe you will say, “Hey bro or sis! Could you adjust angle slightly? I can’t see the face! Ya, that’s better, now!”

In Hindu culture and for that matter in most cultures, taking photos or videos of the departed ones is not the norm! This generally happens only in case of very well-known public figures. Their lives as well as deaths are public! What could be the reason for this? First and foremost is that in olden days there were not many cameras; it is a tradition that is continued, though now cameras are everywhere. Personally, I prefer this tradition of not photo graphing the dead person. I remember at a funeral, years back. In the funeral place, somebody was taking photographs. Those were for that person’s son in law (grandson of the lady who died) and his family who could not travel, taking an eight-hour flight! I stopped him from taking the photos as others in the group did not want confrontation!

Though I am not an atheist, I have reservations about chanting of mantras, following of rituals at funerals. The more I see them, the more I am convinced about the futility of these things. These rituals are supposed to be saviors in the life after death. Is there life after death? My understanding is that when the human race did not know anything about nature and science, the knowledgeable people of those times, came out with rituals by creating fear in the minds of the people. This turned out to be a good business and it made sense to continue with the same. I keep on talking to various experts about this, but nobody has been able to convince me the utility of the rituals and mantras, except probably mental peace. Do I follow what I think (preach will not be the right word)? Yes, when my mother died, we went to the crematorium and without any ritual we took her to the furnace! I have attended many funerals, body is pushed inside, door shut and the furnace blower starts. That sound of the furnace blower motor, makes my heart heavy and moistens my eyes. To me the real final journey just starts, to merge the body with the nature. I have always thought, that when we are born, there is no chanting of mantras, there are no rituals. Then why should we have them at death? Birth and death are only two absolute truths in the world. Someone is either born or has died, there are no two thoughts about it. All other issues have more than one side to them. We should accept the death as we accept birth; of course, our emotions are bound to be different when someone dies.

When we change so much in modern times, why do we not change in our way of thinking about death? Another thing is that the modern world has created physical distances, though you may be close electronically. Or it creates mental distance too? It has also created a busy culture, fast paced life. But is it really so busy that we cannot attend funerals of near and dear ones? I will share a story with you. Someone had an accident, died after about ten days of treatment. So, it was not a sudden death in that sense! His both children were in the US. His daughter flew out.  But the son had some issue regarding Visa status. End result, the son did not come home for the final rites, in fact he never came at all during that year ! Of course, Visa status is more important! Friends, to me this is just not on! Modern life? Do you need a tradition to attend your father’s funeral? Is this a conflict of modernity and tradition? No way. But why such decisions are taken only that family can tell. I am sure that the son will keep on having nightmares till end of his life for this decision!

Am I modern? No, I am contemporary, but would I keep the same thoughts in death too? Yes, direct to the furnace, no mantras and rituals! That’s my take! A Living Will?

Home Alone !

The other day while chatting with some friends, a friend used a term Home Alone or something similar! The reference was about someone, whose all three children live in US, Germany and Australia. He used a phrase that was contradictory. “You two must be alone here as all your children live in foreign countries”! How can two people be alone is the question that came to mind. A person is called alone when he has no one! But can any person be without anyone? 

The fact that a person was born means at least two people were involved in the process. My theory is that no one is alone. Alone, loneliness is a state of mind and not physical. When the friend made the statement mentioned above, it was contradictory. When husband and wife are together they cannot be alone! They are a couple who have spent their life together. As against this, a person lives with spouse, children, their family and relatives but still can be alone. But this may be better described by word lonely! When we are born, we come in this world alone and when we pass, we go alone! These are probably only events when one is alone.  

At birth, every child is alone in this world as the child does not know anything, understands nothing. This happens in all the species. Some nurture their babies, bring them to a stage where they are slowly able to manage and handle  the world. Time required to achieve this independence varies from species to species. Only in human race, because the child has to pick up a lot of skills, we look after our progeny almost for first 19/20 years of life. During this period, we learn a lot of social skills, we develop a lot of friends and acquaintances. This obviously gets developed into every person’s ecosystem. Of course, there is a possibility that the ecosystem may shrink over a period if one lives way beyond normal life expectancy and this can happen in late phase of golden age.  

Some are born extroverts and some are born introverts. Those who are introverts can have lesser company of people over their life-time. I am confident that they are definitely not lonely, it is the way they are made. Introverts may be happy to have less people around whereas extroverts will be happier with more people around. The so called lonely exist because of certain health issues like depression or major illness. These issues need medical treatment. Another reason the loneliness can arise is because of certain different traits in one’s nature. Some are very uncomfortable meeting new people whereas some are looking forward to meeting new people; it is their elixir! Some have inferiority complex because of the way they look, the family where they are born and so on. But generally people look for good traits in an individual rather than their physical side. Those with such trait can become lonely.

Loneliness is a state of mind created due to some event or an illness. This state of mind creates a poison within you! It is like bile generated within you. You feel better only when the bile is vomited out. Similarly, we must make an attempt to throw the poison of loneliness out of the system.  Most of the time, the state of mind is created due to misunderstanding; this can also happen due to not understanding or knowing the right circumstances.  

I found a beautiful poem, about loneliness,  on the net. 

If tonight you feel alone wondering 

If anywhere anyone 

Could possibly be missing you 

Just know that if they do not miss you 

It is because they do not know you 

And have not seen the incredible beauty in you 

This poem correctly depicts the situation which arises by not knowing the facts! 

Friends, I veered from a casual remark made by someone, “You two will be alone, is it not?” The technology which is available now is the greatest boon to mankind. How it has brought people closer and together? How family living in different parts of the world can be close to each other due to technology? Alumni Associations, different WhatsApp groups, Facebook have done miracles in the lives of people! But will all this really help if your mind is not open? This technology has created some funny situations of loneliness where someone with 1000 FB friends does not know his neighbours.  

So, keep yourself and your mind open; even after trying this if you still feel lonely go and see a doctor and get yourself treated! After all one can take horse to the water, he will remain thirsty if he does not drink it. You can still be lonely in Sea of People!

 

 

 

 

Pet the Whale!

When I heard Joel Sartore say, “Pet the Whale”, while giving a lecture on whales photography, I honestly did not understand the meaning of the line. Meaning of Pet is “stroke or pat (an animal) affectionately”. But when he explained it, I understood the real meaning of the same. In fact I understood the meaning of life in that one sentence. He is an expert photographer with many contributions in magazines like National Geographic! His job and profession is to take photographs. He was explaining about an expedition where other people were also there. These people were on the expedition to see the whales from close quarters! Sartore continued with his job of taking photographs. Others also started taking videos, photos of the whales. When they came back to the shore, our friend asked the whale watchers, “Did you pet the whale?” All said,” No, we were busy taking photos and videos!” This is where they lost the plot. They had gone to watch whales from close quarters, and even to touch the whales if they came close enough. Whales did come near the boat where people could have patted or touched the whales. That was once in a lifetime opportunity. Our friends kept themselves busy taking photos and videos, and lost a great opportunity!

Many times we take such approach to life. Instead of absorbing the particular moment of enjoyment or glory, we tend to do things which could have been done later or need not have been done. Whale watching group had a golden opportunity to see the whales from close quarters and maybe even pet the whale, touch the whale. But they lost such a great opportunity in view of the posterity, to have photos and videos! We sometimes miss out in judging what is more valuable.

In another incident  Sartore and his wife had decided that they will share the experience of their first child’s birth. He was in the labour room for the event but photographer in him took precedence. Instead of sharing the experience, with doctor’s permission he started clicking away. At the end of the event he rethought the whole thing. The great joy of sharing the experience of the birth of the child was lost! For their second child he took only one photo of the new child!

Our engineering college had a boat club. One of our friends was so competitive that his thoughts were always about racing and beating everyone, whichever boat he used. Competitive spirit is good but there are other joys of boating, singing, doing picnics or taking girls for moonlight boating! The atmosphere at the boat club was fantastic but our friend could never enjoy and soak himself in the atmosphere! 

With advent of technology we have formed groups of friends from alumni, office, colony and others on WhatsApp. The idea of these groups is to share with each other some interesting things and exchange views and ideas. But this never happens and most cases the plot is lost to  forwards that are sent. These forwards are on all the subjects in the world from magical remedies to cure cancer, how our ancestors had more knowledge than google and recipes for saving India from bad old enemies. The basic idea is that from our houses, where ever they are, we should be able to chat instead of face to face discussion. But where have we reached? If used well this tool could be really fun but… 

With the advent of camera in cell phones in last 10 years, people have lost the urge of enjoying life in the conventional sense! When young or old people go for holidays, for parties, for picnics, main thing they want to do is take photos or selfies instead of soaking themselves in whatever they are doing! Selfie shooting has turned into a dangerous game because people get so much involved, that some have fallen to death in the sea or from the mountains. Why has this happened? What is the big deal in selfies? The idea of soaking into atmosphere is becoming foreign to people. Their need to share on WhatsApp and Facebook whatever they are doing, is much stronger than the real enjoyment! 

What is the solution? When we go out for food, enjoy the food and ambience and people. When lovers meet don’t look into own cell phone screens! Life is beautiful  if you look into each other’s eyes. When you go for a walk, listen to chirping of birds and watch Sun rising from behind the hills. The headphones in your ears block this chirping! While talking on phone during morning walk, you will miss out on Sunrise! Last two years, I have been lucky. First heavy showers of the monsoon came during my morning walk. I literally soaked in the rain, no pun intended! I saw a few young people trying to stand in the shade or using an umbrella! They missed out on life’s small but important pleasures. Folks, do the things  like enjoying the picnic, dancing in the disco, meeting old friends! For such joys of the life the whole path you travel is important not something that you catch up in the camera!