Matured Traditions?

Does our great five-thousand-year-old civilisation has matured traditions? Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation or the fact of being passed on in this way.

These traditions are like fruit. Fruits must be eaten, consumed; otherwise, they will get spoiled or rotten. But we forget that to begin with some of these traditions are despicable and are not like a ripe fruit!  Like fruit, traditions become rotten if not changed with time.

I was reminded of a friend who died a few years back, all of a sudden. He was in the early 60 s, and his wife was in the late 50 s. It took its own time for things to stabilise in the family. The sudden death had changed many things in the family, but they were financially comfortable. Life for the lady changed drastically, socially. From Mrs, her title changed to the widow for the society. On one side, she was grieving, and on the social side, things became topsy turvy! In India, all through the year, there are a lot of festivals. Suddenly she realised that people stopped inviting her for celebrations because she had become a widow. The first change expected of the widow is that she should not put vermillion or कुंकू (Marathi custom of putting vermillion) on her forehead when the husband dies. It is supposed to be a privilege of married women or unmarried women. But widows are not supposed to follow that custom. By the way, the lady was running one company as a professional, so honestly, she did not care.

The custom explained above must have started ages back, and continues in most homes, irrespective of the lady’s stature in the society. When and why the tradition started is difficult to predict. But in olden days, a lady without a husband was a liability to the family, and she had no rights. Widow marriages were taboo. In fact, in certain areas in India, the wife would jump into the burning pyre of the husband’s body (many times she was pushed into the pyre). The unfortunate tradition known as Sati was prevalent until about 200 years back.

Opposition to the practice of Sati by Christian evangelists, such as Carey, and Hindu reformers such as Ram Mohan Roy, ultimately led the Governor-General of India Lord William Bentinck to enact the Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829, declaring the practice of burning or burying alive of Hindu widows to be punishable by the criminal courts. These were followed up with other legislation, countering what the British perceived to be interrelated issues involving violence against Hindu women, including Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856, Female Infanticide Prevention Act, 1870, and Age of Consent Act, 1891. Despite government laws, Sati practice was reported in certain parts of Rajasthan even in the 20th century.

The origin of patriarchal society must have begun from the days when humans started farming. The male body has always been more massive and robust than the female body. But the female body is designed for the most important and the most stringent function in our lives, the childbearing. Females have been mentally and even physically stronger than males in some respects! I am sure that most of the males won’t even think about giving birth themselves!

Males would perform functions outside the home, and the females would manage home and children. Somehow this got converted into a thought process that males are strong and vital, and females are weak and not so important in the society. But history had forgotten that human life expectancy was low in olden days when these traditions started. The real strength or weakness of a human is known past the age of 50 or now maybe 60!

Now consider my friend’s wife, overall situations have now changed. People live longer and healthier. The age of 60 is now new 50, and people keep on working, living normal lives. They drive, they go to the gyms, and they work professionally or run businesses. They travel locally and internationally. For people residing in cities whether you are strong or not hardly matters; people want to be healthy to work hard and enjoy life. In rural areas, though there is a lot of physical work still needed, things are slowly getting mechanised; so, the strength is not going to be so important over some time!

With such changes in society, why our so-called traditions should not change? When a spouse dies, it is tough and challenging for the remaining spouse to manage life. So, should our traditions try to help them back to normalcy or should we follow old methods to make their life difficult? Traditions are nothing but a way of life, but when the way of life changes, traditions also should be changed. There are no written rules in our religious scripts that after the death of the spouse, certain things should not be done. Death is life’s process, like birth or falling ill. It is like migrating to some other place in their own country or a different country. The difference is that this migration is permanent. We don’t see or meet that person again, ever!

I read one interesting story. Times of India, ex-chief editor Dileep Padgaonkar died some years back. His wife organised a party for Dileep’s friends and family a month after his death. Dileep had suggested that she should invite people and prepare food, and serve drinks that he preferred. I am sure that these people must have really liked the idea suggested by Dileep. In some parts in the UK, if a person dies past the age 80 after living a healthy life, the family throws a party called Golden death party!

People’s thinking is changing, albeit slowly. Our friends now openly discuss falling terminally ill or dying. What does this mean? People are trying to modify the way we live, the traditions! Some of my friends have already told their children about their sickness in old age. They have said that there should be no mechanical intervention like ventilator support!

On the similar lines why the widowed wife of my friend should not be invited for festivals, celebrations and functions? Is it a crime that her husband died? Why do we treat death with deference? Why are we afraid of death? Yes, death is the final adieu to life. Death is the last life process but should it be used to make living difficult for those living? It is a matter for those living to decide how to tackle the situation and manage things. Death should not be used to cut off the living from society! It is a personal matter for that family; tradition should be to take death in stride! I am very much aware that handling sudden demise of young people is tough!

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Journey back home!

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It is dependent on how you look at things! Death need not be taken too seriously!

I read an article about ageing and merging back with nature. The article was in Marathi, and the title was आकाश झाकोळत जाणार (Skies will darken now!) …….Humans have always been curious about, death; in fact, we are scared about dying. When we talk of death, thinking is quite negative. Death is the final goodbye; it is THE truth. It is the only event other than birth, which has no two sides. But does it mean that we should fear the event? Should we fear the journey to the final destination? Starting with the title, the tone and the thought process in the article was sad; but this article shared some interesting aspects.

With the fear in mind, we think about future life in a depressed mindset. We say that we have to accept whatever is written in our destiny. We could be lonely, and there could be none to look after us and so on. I would instead prepare myself and help others prepare differently. Some of the things I mention have already been said and discussed, but I am hoping to set the right tone; the positive tone is the way forward.

Journey back home is not a new concept; it is inevitable, but we do not need to await it. When we are young and taking education, we don’t plan for retirement. We try to visualise what shape our career will take and what could we do it to make it better. Similarly, we should try and imagine what our path should be, post-retirement. Many new things are doable. Then there is the bucket list. We should look at the concept of a bucket list with a variation. What after all is a bucket list? A bucket list is a collection number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during a lifetime. I would call it a wish list. But this should be done with happiness. Even if you do not achieve it, you should not be sad about it.

I only had one item in the bucket list. To go and see the world cup one-day final match, sitting in a stadium. I managed it in 2015 when we watched the final at MCG, Melbourne in Australia! Is bucket list about money? Yes and no. Many a time it may so happen that we may have the money but may not have time or health to do it. One need not be sad if the full bucket list is not tick-marked. It is how we plan and accept the way dice falls is more critical. In the post-retirement phase, honestly, there is nothing to achieve. At the same time, there should be no fear in our mind.

In the last 2/3 months, one of my close friends, and my rakhi sister suddenly expired. Besides these two, 3 to 4 others died; some were batch mates, and one was a neighbour. Should such events affect us? Do they affect us? Yes, they do affect us but why should we be afraid of the inevitable. For records purpose, my sister was the youngest of the lot; she was 67. At my age the deaths of contemporaries are natural, and it is not a shock.

In some cases, people are unwell for a period, and we are not aware of their condition. We do not need to be “prepared” for that. We should take it in stride! During our education, we learn that humans live up to the age of 100! This is the age up to which people may live, but this % is tiny! In India, at my age, we are in bonus period, as life expectancy for males in India is 65, currently. When you are on an extended lease what is there to be afraid?

The article also mentioned that when we are born, we always have a mother’s love! How many people my age can even hope of having a mother’s love today! Such an emotional statement brings a melancholy feeling in life. The article further said that you should be prepared to be alone because there is a chance that your spouse may go before you! Oh, come on! It is known and there no point getting emotional about possibilities.

The article also talks about our ego coming in between, and we start feeling that we are know-alls! I have discussed with doctors and psychiatrists; our fundamental nature does not change much, as we grow old. There is a possibility that you may talk a little more because you meet fewer people as you grow and many of your contemporaries are either less mobile or maybe they have passed. I know someone who is around 85 years of age. When I met him recently, he kept on talking about whatever he wanted to say! But this has been his nature all the time. I asked his daughter, who is a doctor if this is due to old age; she said, “Kaka, he has been the same all these years. Previously we used to tell to allow others to speak; now we don’t tell him.” Personally, Jaya and I meet people from different age groups quite often. We can discuss appropriate subjects with them as we have ensured that we also broaden our horizon as we grow. Broadening our horizons is another key to prepare the path to the final journey.

The most critical aspect of this phase is that we do not know the endpoint. So what is the idea of thinking about it, all the time? What is a point in thinking that we will be forced to live alone, we may be bed-ridden and so on! It is like trying to live a bad dream all the time; do you remember the story of Shaikh Mohamad? Such a thought process is living your bad dream all the time, the reverse of Shaikh Mohamad’d dream. What do we achieve by such thinking?

But we need to be pragmatic. Make sure (as far as possible) that you are financially independent. Do not expect that your children will come and do chores for you. You need to create your own ecosystem to run your home. Technology is changing fast, remain up to date as far as possible at least for basic stuff.

With age, your responses like eyesight, hearing and balance can deteriorate. Accept it and find a solution for yourself. Each person has individual needs, and there is no universal solution. Your children will be busy in their own lives (as you were when you were young) so don’t bother them.

I read the story of a Marathi film, “Bucket List”. A lady gets a new heart by a heart transplant surgery. She meets the family of the 20-year-old donor after six months, whose heart she received. The donee finds that the donor had a bucket list of things she wanted to complete by the age of 21! The donee takes efforts to achieve the list in six months. The donee is double the age of the donor, but still, she manages it. See how beautiful this thought is. The donee keeps all her priorities aside to reach the goal of the donor! Sacrifice for others; nothing can be better than this thought process.

Ye, try to look at the funny side of things. Don’t be serious all the time!

 

Create a bucket list for the long term, but you can create a wish-list daily and try to achieve it. When you do this, you have something to look forward! Your wishlist maybe, I will go alone, to the bank ATM and withdraw money! What these lists will do is to keep you with something to look forward to, take you away from negative thinking; life will look better and better as you manage to achieve this. Please remember that bucket list a good, but it is not a serious thing. Keep your humorous side alive!

Journey back home is a fact of life. Plan it, discuss it, share it by all means!  We share life details with others all the time as we did in the younger phase. But don’t be sad about the whole process. Were we sad when we discussed education plans? Did we feel uneasy when we discussed migration in younger days? I will share a secret with you. When you finally take off, you don’t even feel and know about the event! This is of course here say but ..emrgency1

Traditions Galore!

What is death? How does one handle death? Is death good or evil? What is our understanding of death? Scientific knowledge of humans is much better than what it was a couple of thousand years back. Over a period, the thought process is changing. But underlying fear about death has not changed much. It is understandable because death is an irreversible process. We are left with memories of that person. We know that we will never see the person again; we will never interact with the person ever. That creates fear in mind. It is a genuine natural feeling.

But how far this fear psychosis should be stretched? Jaya and I went to visit a family after a death in the family. After the usual detail sharing, the discussion moved to the post-death Puja and other rituals. Each family has different methods and ways of doing this. But one thing is common in most Hindu families is that on the 13th day after the death, relatives and friends are invited for lunch. A specific Kheer is prepared for lunch. Kheer is an Indian sweet. The idea, behind making the kheer is to “declare” that mourning period is over and life is supposed to come back to normal. The family and a few close friends are going to miss the person for a longer period, but then life must go back to normal.

With a lack of knowledge and understanding about death, many awkward traditions were followed, in olden days. At least I thought so! How mistaken was I? These are followed even today. This family is going to travel to a holy place, away from Pune, for the rituals! The death I was discussing was of a person from the condo where I lived for 35 years. For the ritual, some guests are expected to be in town. Their son asked me if he could use our condo to accommodate guests. Unfortunately, our condo is stripped down as the building may go into redevelopment. I said, “Since our home cannot be used, I can help you get keys for another home which is also empty!”

The family said that the suggested house could not be used as there was a death in that family about three weeks back! I said, “That family has done the Puja for the 13th day; on top of that they have performed another Puja called Udak Shant! (Udak Shant is a Puja performed to drive away the evil of death which had visited that home)”. All Pujas were done for that home, “Evil Counter” was reset to zero but to our friends, the evil effect was still there! I could not understand the logic behind this thinking because this family wanted to use the facility for the people who were going to take part in rituals, post-death! Death in our home is holier than that in your home?

By way of explanation the son also told us that he does not visit any homes where the death has taken place. He said, “I am advised that if I visit any home where death has occurred then something bad will happen to me.” Let me share the background of this family. The father was a banker and was posted in the US for a few years, more than 20 years back. With this opportunity, all the children moved and stayed back in the US. This prodigal son, who is cursed by the evil spirits for a lifetime, has come back to India! Maybe nearer to our Gods! An educated family but their beliefs and thought processes are as ancient as Indian civilisation.

In the last thirty years,  a practical issue has started coming up. When a death occurs in a family, close relatives like children, brothers or sisters are staying in different places and can take between six to 24 hours to arrive. With this requirement, it has become essential to keep the body in a mortuary. Mortuary capacities are now falling short. The close ones want to see the body before the cremation takes place. Keeping the body in the morgue is a functional requirement and must be fulfilled.

Hindu death ceremony is the Teravih. It is a period of mourning observed by Indian people, starting from the day of the death of a person, whether male, female or children, to the 13th day after his /her funeral. During teravih death ritual, there are many rules that the family members of the deceased must observe. For instance, they are not supposed to attend religious functions, eat certain foods like sweets, wear new clothes or participate in any cultural activity or festivity.

The basic idea behind the Indians’ following all these funeral traditions is to show reverence to the deceased person. Normally during this time, all the family members share each other’s sorrows and pray, so that the soul of the deceased person rests peacefully. Though it’s basically during the first 13 days that the death rites are strictly observed, but traditionally, the death rites in Hindu religion extended up to a year.

But do we show reverence to a deceased person? I have seen some incidents where very close people show flamboyance. When I attended a cremation, there was another body ahead of us. One person who appeared to be a close family member was busy talking on his cell phone all the time. Next day when went to collect ashes, this gentleman was again talking on a cell phone. If the person is so busy with work and cannot show respect to the departed soul, he need not be present. Such crass behaviour disturbs others and creates restlessness among those present.

Changes in the traditions with times are practical. Sticking to age-old traditions which were meaningful in old times, sometimes appear irrelevant. There is one tradition of offering cooked rice to crows after the 10th day Puja on river banks. With a large population number of people dying is also significant. It is thought that if the crow eats rice, it is considered that the departed soul, had all his wishes fulfilled on the earth! People wait till the crows touch the rice!

There is a tradition of immersing the ash and some bones the next day at the river confluence is something that needs to change — immersing leads to more pollution in already heavily polluted Indian rivers. Why can’t we bury these in the ground? The quantity is tiny. There is already a tradition of dumping the dead bodies in the Ganges which is extremely unhealthy. I understand that it is slowly changing.

The so-called educated, foreign-trained people follow bizarre traditions and follow the advice given by equally strange gurus based on age-old methods and traditions. How do you expect the ordinary people who have not seen the changing world to change their ways? The significant improvement in knowledge and scientific thought rarely reaches ordinary people. There needs to be a drive to change these things. Let the practical people meet and come together, even if the black cat has crossed your path on the way to the meeting.

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!

Surprise Tool! Daily Routines & Rituals!

People take education; they train themselves in specialised areas. But few things impact your daily productivity, career path, and overall well-being as much as your routines. What daily routines are we talking about in this discussion? Each has his routines. I will explain what I mean.  

I write a little more than what I used to do in the olden days. I consider myself a bit of writer these days. In the year 2018, I have written 212,000 words as per WordPress site! In a day on an average, it is approximately 580 words or 1 ½ page. I published 180 blogs in 2018. As a writer, I have my routines set up. The routines are not right or wrong but these are my routines, and I follow them.  

Here is what I do. I do my fine-tuning, publishing and other entries related to publishing after I wake up early morning. Essential work takes about 45 minutes. When I wake up, I take my medicine, wake my laptop, heat water for drinking. I drink hot water with turmeric as per terrific suggestion by friend Jayprakash. It helps my throat. I  read what I wrote on the previous day; reading again aids in fine-tuning and getting into the groove. One of my rituals is to publish my blog at 5 am. Why five am? No reason, it is my routine. When I follow my routine, my published matter is generally free of errors, as my mind is fresh and helps me correct my mistakes. Will I make any mistakes if I don’t follow the routines? Will I be comfortable? I do not know. But If I am comfortable doing my work with a specific routine, I may not want to experiment.  

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You may write down your own routines/rituals as displayed above!

In the office scenario we check our documents, our emails, we have one on one meetings. We have group meetings. We meet with outsiders. We have telephonic conversations. We are not robots. We take some time to switch from one task to another. Just imagine that you have come from a heated interdepartmental meeting. Next on the agenda is a one on one meeting with a talented colleague. She may be thinking regarding resigning due to some complex issue. A good idea will be to take a five-minute break. It could be tea break, washroom break (maybe to wash your face). This break will bring some normalcy in your mind, and you will be able to handle the one on one meeting better. 

You may have observed routines followed by batsmen during cricket matches. Some twirl their bat, some walk five steps away from stumps and come back. All such routines help them to keep their concentration. But there are some smart bowlers like Ravindra Jadeja. They bowl their balls one after another in quick succession if a run is not scored. The hastening up helps the bowler to break the concentration of batsmen as they are not able to twirl their bat or remove the hand gloves.  

Our persona or personality is made up of what we repeatedly do. If you are a voracious reader, then people may call you as a well-read man; because during the chats, you can give quotes or examples from what you read.  

The rituals aid the routines that we follow! Publishing my blog at 5 am is a ritual too! When we follow some rituals, it sends signals to our mind that we are planning to start some new activity. After using Laptop for emails, before one on one meeting, we can put the laptop in sleep mode by closing it down. After coming back from group meeting before looking into your computer, you may have a cup of tea to indicate the switch over. I had said above that we are not robots and this is what it means. Our attention doesn’t immediately follow the new task. Some thinking and part of our attention remain stuck in the original work. 

Such rituals are not connected directly to any task. These are parallel to some of the religious rituals we follow in our life. On a specific day after a death in the family, we invite people for lunch, as a ritual indicating that the mourning is over.  

When we perform two different tasks, our thinking can be entirely different. For example, you were creating a document, and then you are switching to a one on one meeting with a colleague. These two tasks require vastly different thinking. Writing will need referencing of old documents, talking to a colleague, looking for old emails. The one on one meeting will require you to switch to the understanding of the specific issues being discussed, and you may need to check something with your HR department. Mental changeover, information collection and preparation in general for every event is different. We have to find our ritual that makes the transition smooth. 

Each of us has a way of doing things. Our body cycles are different. Some of us are morning people, and some are night owls. There is no point trying to wake up at four in the morning because the CEO of a successful company in the line of your business does so. “Early to bed and early to rise” is the right thing to say. But your work requires that you take calls thrice a week that ends at midnight! You may not be able to follow this idiom.  

So how do routines and rituals fit into the modern workday? And how can we develop ones that maximise our ability to do meaningful work? One might ask do we need these routines and rituals to pass the day? We have to understand that in the modern world days can be long, tedious. Sometimes these can be boring too! Routines and rituals can introduce some break in the tedious nature of jobs.  

I will share with you some different routines/rituals that people follow. 

  • I have seen many roadside kiosk owners, after preparing their first cup of tea to dump it on the ground. On checking, I was told that it brings them good luck. 
  • Churchill used to take a nap at 5 p.m. This was his siesta, a habit gained in Cuba, allowed him to work 1 1/2 days in every 24 hours. At 6:30 p.m. he awoke, bathed again, and dressed for dinner at 8 p.m. 
  • Some athletes, don’t change their socks throughout a small tournament.  
  • Some cricketers always wear their gear in a specific sequence.  

You are what your routines are, and these are specific to you! So go ahead and follow them religiously.

I found one slide about rituals about our life! I thought it was interesting.

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Loneliness & Isolation!

Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you. It may be felt more over a long period of time. It is also possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by people.

Isolation is being separated from other people and your environment. Sometimes this occurs through decisions we make ourselves, or because of circumstance e.g. doing a job that requires travel or relocation.

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The above picture shows a positive way of looking at life!

The above two are definitions of two feelings, that human being gets some time in life. This can happen at any age and can happen due to different reasons. There are different remedies to the same. But one thing is sure, these feelings are bad for the humans and earlier humans overcome them, is better. Though age is no bar, chances of this happening at an older age are much more. World over these two feelings are discussed together hence I am also treating them as same but one thing is well proven that these conditions lead to early deaths!

What are the reasons for Loneliness & Isolation?

Though the reasons are many, the most important being living alone, introverted personality, major long-term illness, loss of job and death of the spouse. Some of the reasons I have mentioned are a real shock, like death, to each of us but some are not able to cope.

I will try and separate them into tangible and intangible reasons. I am using this word in a slightly different way. Tangible means perceptible by touch but I am taking it as something for which there is a visible reason, like death.

  • Death of spouse, close family member or a close friend is an event which puts everyone in a state of loneliness for some time. Many of us overcome these shocks within a reasonable period of time but some people take much longer or they need medical or psychiatric treatment. This could be because such people are
    • Born that way, introverts
    • Don’t have close family ties or ties with friends
    • Live away from the family
  • Living alone for various reasons can be is another thing that creates loneliness within us. This can be because of loss of the spouse, a job change resulting in other family members living elsewhere.
  • Some are introverts by nature and find it difficult to meet new people. So, when the people whom you meet regularly, go away from your life, things can become difficult. Some people have a feeling that they don’t belong! They also feel a lack of purpose or meaning in life.
  • Poor physical health, frailty, mobility issues are some of the issues that can lead to the feeling of loneliness. Long-term illnesses and treatment make you feel that you are alone in this world. I was treated for cancer in 2013 end. My treatment went on for three months and rehabilitation was another three months. Luckily my own and my family’s positiveness helped me. In such situations having a reasonably comfortable financial situation is also helpful.
  • Some people have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. This is an illness of the mind. It creates a situation such that there is a fear of rejection from others or feelings of being “different” or stigmatized by society. What happens in such cases is that others in the society do not know how to react to such persons.
  • Inability to participate in activities due to access issues, mobility, illness, transport. This really is an issue which can be easily resolved but you need to take support from people if required. During one of our alumni get together, one of our friends who has very poor eyesight called me to say that he wanted to attend the gathering. I coordinated with one friend who lived in the same area. Our friend really enjoyed the meet!
  • Retirement from work, home relocation, starting out in a new role or community puts some people in difficulties as they are not able to cope up. These changes in life are level two events after death in the family! I know of someone who left his home in Mumbai fifteen years back and stays with his children in Pune and Bangalore. But he still cannot overcome this change simply longs for his Mumbai home.
  • Language or cultural barriers, or reduced connection with your culture of origin is one more reason. This can easily happen in India, especially for older people, when their adaptability is reduced. Living in foreign countries for six months, post-retirement can be tough because of the language issue, weather conditions like snow. People feel in Geographic isolation.
  • Feeling lost in the crowd is another mental condition that needs treatment.

How to cope up with Loneliness & Isolation?

It is very easy for others to say, you do this and you do that but persons who face the problems find it difficult to reach the solutions. Those who are born with natural positiveness, also face these difficulties but they overcome them. Another example is, we think that Public figures and stage personalities do not have stage fright. That is not true, they also have the same issues like all others but they overcome them, mask them, hide them well.

  • Connect or reconnect with friends and family: staying in contact with loved ones can prevent loneliness and isolation. If your family does not live nearby, technology can help you stay in touch. Speak to them on WhatsApp or talk on Skype video. These are free. Keep in touch with them regularly.
  • Get out and about: Regular outings for social functions, exercise, visiting friends, doing shopping, or simply going to public places can help. Don’t avoid functions either public or private. If not, take long walks in gardens where you will see many people and maybe you will like a few of them, you may want to know them.
  • Volunteer: Helping others is a great way to help yourself feel more connected. Besides that, the feeling of goodness that comes within you because you are able to help somebody boosts your happy feelings.
  • Consider getting a pet: Pets are wonderful companions and can provide comfort and support during times of stress, ill-health or isolation. They give you love without expecting any returns. Expecting returns and NOT getting it, is one of the reasons, why the isolation starts. But don’t forget one thing. There is work involved in having a dog as a pet. Their food, their walking, their poo poo collection and so many things. Then along with your visits to the doctor, Vet visits get added.
  • Get support: If loneliness and social isolation are causing you distress, you should discuss your concerns with a doctor, counsellor or a trusted person. Don’t feel shy to openly asking for support. Remember people may not know that you need help unless you tell them.
  • Focus on others needs: Focus on the needs and feelings of others, give less attention to your lonely thoughts and feelings. You can be involved in yourself all the time or you can think of others too! Interacting with others is better! Enjoy the site of different people in their own thoughts and their own moods, you can smile at strangers too!
  • Try new things: Try to do some different things but don’t expect perfection and don’t expect people to appreciate what you are doing!

Ultimately, one has to find his own solution and there is no formula for this. Attempt different methods to interact with people, you may find some givers or some takers but don’t give up if you meet only takers initially; those people may have their own problems but keep on attempting. The world is too beautiful to live alone, try and enjoy to the best of your ability with others, with or without someone’s help!

There is a saying, if you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours! In the same vein if you see someone looking lonely, forlorn, isolated go out of your way to bring that person back to normal life! Tomorrow that person could be you!

Death, a journey in Peace?

Friends, you will have to pardon me! This is a major modification of a blog I had published four years back. This is a very important subject for me, hence I want to share my thoughts with you again; I have gained more insights on the subject in last four years. I have a new title ending with question mark; why the question mark you will ask me! In the matters like rituals, I think like a trained engineer, always challenging the hypothesis, if I am not convinced! When we communicate in writing about death, we say “Rest in Peace”! Ok, I am a non believer, but still I will go with the theory, that after death the soul goes on its journey! But do we allow the soul peace it deserves?

We have one life and our aim should be to pass through the life’s journey in such a way that we are truthful, respectful, gentle and have empathy for others. How do we give respect to others? Why do we respect others? Whom should we respect? These are the questions that came to my mind when a friend of ours died. The departed soul was a respected professional, gentle, truthful and always had empathy for others. Such a person should have been reciprocated by the same thoughts and deeds by others after he departed. We should have same philosophy in life and death, irrespective of how others are and how they behave with you.

This person was a “non-believer”. His views, about the “after death” were very clear as he had already told his first family in clear terms, about not performing “any” religious stuff after his death. After his death, things began well, with no religious stuff at the time of cremation. Respecting his views, family followed his wishes, they respected him. Though it was very late at night it was decided to wait for one of his siblings, who was staying far, to reach for the cremation. This was also I am sure must be one of his wishes.

I want to tell you my observations of events, at the time of his funeral. I have not spoken to anyone from his close family and I am just writing the thoughts that come to my mind. Our friend lived his life in a small town and was a respected professional. When his body was being taken from home to the hearse, some religious stuff was performed by his neighbors. His immediate family almost lost control over the situation; family became spectators. So much for peace of mind!

But let us not forget and look at the other side. Some people and their families believe totally in rituals. Others should give respect to their feelings. Recently, I attended death rituals of someone close to me. Their family totally believes in rituals and on 13th day, there was a full blown religious stuff. Next day one of the siblings said to me, “You had to sit through a lot of things, in which you don’t believe in.” I said with humility, “please don’t embarrass me; your family believes in these things so it was my duty and wish to participate in everything, to respect the departed soul on final journey”.

In Hinduism, after death religious functions are held after a certain number of days based on age old traditions. In this case, since the person who died was a “non-believer” a decision was taken by close family, initially, NOT to have anything religious. So far so good. Then suddenly we came to know that there will be religious ceremony on a certain day, not one but two of them, held one after another, believe it or not, the same ceremony was to be repeated. One was at their home and the other one was at their work place cum old home! If this change was decided by first family, I respect the family’s decision.

In such situations it is incorrect to say that something is correct or wrong because everything depends on the perspective. Why did the first family take this decision? Were they pushed by other relatives into taking this decision? Were they forced to take such a decision? I came to know later, that this decision of double Puja, was taken to “take care” of bad vibes that might be generated because of death, as there was a marriage in the family after 3 months. The decision was pushed by the other family members on the first family. Amen! If there is God then, why are people scared of Him! He brings you to this world and then takes you back when the time is up! Then why the fear of “bad vibes”?

Who should take such decisions? The first family or the next level of family? Why such decision could have been taken? In Hinduism it is suggested to perform these religious functions after  death, so that evil will go away!! Is death evil? Is almost a natural death, due to old age, bad? How does a loving peaceful souls death lead to bad events in your family or create bad vibes? How will this natural process cast a long shadow of death on your family and the events that will take place in family in future? How do you know that performing religious Puja will ensure that everything will be hunky dory in your family, post puja? Does it ensure that no bad thing will ever occur in your family? Will there be no deaths in the family, ever? What is bad about death? Yes it is bad and shocking if it happens to a young person, as an out of turn event.

I will share with you another  example which I had noticed when I attended one more cremation recently. At the cremation, many people are present but one can make out who is from the first family. During this event another cremation was taking place. I saw a gentlemen, whom I could judge that he was first family. This was confirmed next day when he was also present to collect the ashes, generally first family attends to this chore. On both occasions his cell phone was regularly ringing and he was all the time busy attending the same!! I cannot imagine that a person from the first family is so busy, that he had to take his calls all the time during this process.

Is one really so busy? Can you not be involved with the family even for a small duration, when death has occurred? Can you not respect the departed soul? At least for the last journey one is expected to honour the dead person. In Hinduism dead body is treated on par with Him!! Whenever you see an unknown funeral passing by, you automatically bow!! Maybe the cell phone guy was GOD himself!!

In all this discussion we have forgotten about  the wishes of the departed person. Should we not respect him? It will be polite to follow his views which do not affect anyone. What happens if there are no rituals? What is wrong in having views different than the “normal” views? Then again what is a “normal” view?

My friends I am confused. How the so called educated persons follow things that have no scientific background? Why under the garb of religion, things are pushed on the family? Why could the close family not resist such a push? Did they do it to err on the “safe” side by following the so called traditions? I hope my thoughts will give the few people who read this blog, strength to resist such pushes in life. RIP Sir!!