At the peak of happiness!

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all? This sentence is from the Snow White fairy-tale. Her mother wants the mirror to reply. In the German language, the fair is interpreted clearly as “beauty”. But English interpretation is a little different. Fair in English is about the colour and complexion of the skin. Even in the white race, the “fair” or with the paler skin or blonde is considered more beautiful. But when we talk of the weather, fair means pleasant weather.

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Similarly, a question came to mind, who is the happiest of all? What is the meaning of happiness and what is our interpretation of happy? Happiness is a feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. The same question can be asked to happiness mirror. Who is the happiest of all? The obvious answer is the babies. Their primary needs are food and sleep. If they get their feed, on time, they have the least of the worries in this world. They will go to sleep when they feel sleepy irrespective of what is happening around them. But then we don’t remain babies, all our life.

I get a feeling that the older people would be the happiest among all groups. I am sure that you have already thought that Pramod is getting older and senile. But look at the things from the view of old people. Old means old, I am young as I will complete 70 this year.

Thinking like an older person is thinking about resilience and focusing on “what is”, as opposed to “what is not” — accepting your mortality by not being so afraid of it. When you are older, you view the time horizons in front of you differently. You understand that the days are finite, and we might as well enjoy the ones we have left. The waking up in the morning and saying, “Thank God for another day” is an indication of accepting the truth. I had read a joke about old age. A person tells his friend, “Look, buddy, my doctor told me the other day to think positively. He said that if you wake up and find that you do not have a single aching part in your body, safely assume that you are dead. Don’t bother even to get up!”  That was the doctor’s way of telling us to accept the facts of life.

As we grow old, we tend to forget some things, but it is selective forgetfulness. I was treated for cancer from December 2013 to February 2014. I was required to take 34 Radiations along with Immunotherapy. These caused me body rash, cough and a lot of pain in the neck, no pun intended. I took a lot of pain killers in those days. But I don’t remember these things much; I only have a vague memory of the trauma I faced. Selective forgetfulness is the gift given to us by old age. A study says that we become forgetful, but we forget more adverse events from our life. The corollary to the phenomenon is that we become happier. We also learn over a period that bad things in life are not special treatment meted out only to us. Everybody goes through different situations. Knowing this does not reduce the effect such traumas have on us. But it reduces impact knowing that it is a common problem.

You come to understand that the quality of our lives isn’t based on the events of our lives. It’s in reaction to the events in our lives. That’s a useful thing, to realise “I don’t have control over some of the events in my life, like the weather, but I actively have a say in how I respond to the weather.”

Which is the relevant keyword in our thinking? Happiness or Choice, to me it’s “Choice.” It’s declaring that you won’t be defined or determined by the circumstances of your life. You have a say in this. That declaration is liberating. That liberation is happiness. Happiness isn’t just the thing you choose; it’s the act of choosing it that makes you happy.

There are various things that we can do to improve our thinking and quality of life. If someone has depression, it is a condition that needs to be treated and not something that will go away by thought. It also won’t ensure that you will have a better future. But positive thinking will make sure that you look at at your life in such a way, that at your current situation feels happier. We should focus on “what is” and not “what we don’t have”! The younger people always think oppositely, as they believe that life is infinite!

To understand happiness at a particular stage, a person needs to be of that age. We were all children at some stage; hence we know what makes children happy! But when younger people interact with older ones, they don’t understand the real needs of the old people. We say that this old man or a woman talks too much. The issue is that as you grow older, you get less and fewer opportunities to talk.

On top of that, one can have hearing issues. So, the conversation can become difficult. Very few younger people will understand these issues, but many times it is the younger ones who decide the needs of older people. At old age, if people develop the ability to accept life’s realities, life’s experience is much more enjoyable. These people don’t need to fight hard to achieve their targets, as their targets are always short term targets. They know their financial and physical limitations and need to accommodate within whatever they have!

Friends, people of my age group sometimes have family responsibilities. But the older group does not have any such issues. Try and make the lives of older people happier. On my way to the gym, I see an old man sitting in the home premises watching things. Once I went and chatted with him for 15 minutes. He did not want me to go. He is 95 years of age and had most of his faculties intact. Near my home, there is an old people’s home. Once early morning, I had gone out to take some photographs. A group of three old people was chatting outside the gate of the home. I stopped and had an interaction with them. I could get away only after an hour or so. All of them wanted to talk; it appeared that it was their primary need. They called another friend who came out, and also joined the chat. From their face, I could see that they enjoyed the conversation very much. I was only asking a few questions to take things forward.

I am confident that older people are the ones who are the happiest in their lives provided they get the right atmosphere and the proper support. Their needs are minimal; others need to find some time for them! Don’t forget that we are also going to reach that phase at some time, hopefully! So, it will be a good idea to propagate such a thought process in society! Let us make a beginning somewhere !

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Dental Gum!

For this blog, I have used the title as Dental Gum (गम in Hindi). गम in Hindi means sorrows. People usually connect dental treatment with fear, pain, and sorrows. First, let me make a disclaimer or two. 

  • My daughter Priya is a Pediatric Dentist 
  • I had my first dental treatment at the age of 65, that too because I went through cancer treatment and had 34 radiation sittings. I was treated for dental caries. 

I somehow have the feeling that a person’s dental health quality is hereditary! My grandmother could eat raw mango (Kairi) easily in her eighties. I have the same ability, but I have a way to go.  

I chose the subject because I read an article about horror stories about dentists, in the US. Well, as in any field some people do not follow the ethics and can be called black sheep. Making a general statement about any whole group of professionals is incorrect. But not that I am not going to tell any horror stories (as I have taken dental treatment only once), but I will share with you some anecdotes shared by Priya with me.  

First things first, I have been brushing my teeth only once a day, I don’t do any flossing. I have never used any special brushes or toothpaste. I have had my share of chocolates and ice-creams, colas and candies. I have a sweet tooth, but now I don’t consume these things. So my heridetary theory should be ok!

Once I asked Priya about her young patients. I asked her, “How tough is it to handle the kids on the  chair?” She said, Baba, once my patients get confidence about me, they are straightforward to handle. It is their mothers who are difficult to handle. 

I am going to share anecdotes about patients, their parents, general situations in dentistry. Sometimes it is funny, many times it is surprising, but probably human behaviour remains very similar in different situations.  

Priya was treating a fouryearboy. He was very cooperative, but sometimes he needed a kid-glove treatment, pun, of course, is intended. One day he came inside, goggles and all; a la Salman Khan. He was a big fan of Salman. He came inside, sat on the chair and Priya started the work. After about ten minutes he signalled to Priya to stop. Priya stopped and asked him the reason. Without replying he indicated her to allow him to get down from the chair. Priya complied, he got down. He put on his goggles, put both his thumbs in the trouser pockets. He danced to the tune of the Hindi song, “Hud Hud Dabangg, Dabangg; after a couple of minutes, he stopped, climbed back in the chair and signalled Priya to restart the work! 

Some patients are too busy to take their kids to the doctor. There was one such lady, the same age as that of Priya. She always claimed that only time she could get her child to the clinic was 8 pm on a Saturday. After all, she was in IT. She would always tell Priya how difficult it was in IT and so on. Once the lady came almost twenty minutes late for the appointment and Priya had her next patient in another clinic. They met on the staircase; the lady started her usual dialogues of being in IT, but her hands were full of stuff bought in the malls. Priya apologised and said that she could not treat her child as her next patient was waiting at another clinic. The lady was upset, and before she could start her diatribe, Priya told her, “Look, I am a doctor, and I don’t know anything about IT. But let me share some personal information with you. My mother is handling Nvidia operations in Pune, my father runs his software business for the last 15 years, and my elder brother is working in Microsoft at Seattle for some time. So, there is a possibility that I may know a few things about IT, by induction. One more thing, when I was a child, my parents used to take me to doctors, whenever it was needed, without bothering about time and the day. Thank you!” The lady never spoke about IT stuff with Priya again. 

One lady came with her child. The child was fitted with a crown, and the child was not supposed to eat chocolates for obvious reasons. While eating the chocolate, the crown came out and was misplaced. Priya told her, “ I had told you not to give chocolates to the kid. Why did you not follow instructions?”  The treatment was done, and the crown fitted again; when she was asked to pay the money, she simply refused to pay saying that it was Priya’s fault, chocolate was incidental. Priya let her go and instructed her team not to give an appointment to that patient again!  

The next episode could be an incorrect diagnosis or was it the socalled horror story; I am not sure! I felt that it was a case of the wrong diagnosis. An eightmonthold child was brought to the clinic; Priya was surprised, as generally such small babies rarely have any teeth. The mother told her the following story. A couple of days back while the mother was cleaning the babies mouth, she saw a gold tooth in the baby’s mouth. She took the baby to three or four doctors, and all of them said that the gold tooth needs to extracted; treatment needed to be done under general anaesthesia. Since the baby was very young parents were not too keen about the procedure. Somebody suggested to them Priya’s name, and they came to the clinic. Priya looked at the child and saw what was inside. She had a small instrument in her hand. She put the instrument in the babies mouth and plucked the golden “Tooth”; it a piece of gold that was stuck in the baby’s gum. Out came a small earring. Priya gave it to the mother. It was the mother’s earring; she had never realised that it was missing. Somehow it had fallen and went into the baby’s mouth and became the “Golden Tooth”! The tears of joy came in the parent’s eyes! The father asked Priya “Doctor what will be the charges?” Priya said, “No charges; I am happy that I could do this without any anaesthesia”!  

How trial by media can affect a professional career can be seen in the following anecdote. A child was being treated by a dentist. He checked up with parents if any medicine was being given to the child. The mother said that they were not giving any other medicines. The doctor gave the local anaesthesia and started the treatment. After some time he felt that the child was becoming listless. They rushed the child, to the next door paediatrician. From there they rushed to the hospital. But the child died. The trial by media started; the newspapers showed the doctors name and the photograph of the clinic. The baby’s parents gave statements and hid the fact that there was another treatment being given to the child! The medical council did its investigations and in the end, found out that the dentist and the paediatrician had followed the correct procedures. But all the media trial and photographs in the newspapers made life very difficult for the dentist. He left Pune and moved to another city!  

Friends, life can be exciting, rewarding and tough at the same time for professionals. But some times, one loses control over the situation, and things do get haywire. Customer is always the king or a queen; the kings and the queens also can go overboard and need to be told so. But at the end of the day, professionals have to remain true to their profession and continue to perform! Don’t forget to show the smiling face, especially when a child is being treated.

 

How are you doing today?

Years back, when I travelled to the US for the first time, whenever we went  in shops or malls, a question was always asked, “How are you doing today?” Honestly, we were never used to being asked such a question. After a few days, we got used to it and would reply, “Oh, I am doing good. How are you doing?” Beyond that generally, there was no further discussion.  

If you look at this simple sentence and its effects on day to day basis, these are unbelievable. Consider a scenario at an office. There are workers, staff, managers, bosses and the boss. Every person who comes to the office, goes to his or her place of work and starts working, no hi or hello! Work gets done, and at the end of the day, people will go home. But this is not life; whenever you meet someone, even unknown person, you say hello or equivalent (こんにちは, नमस्कार, Hola) depending on the language of communication. Someone may ask, “How was your weekend?” or “How is your wife, has she recovered from flu?” Such discussion brings people together, and you feel that you belong! This sense of belonging is what brings people closer personally or formally.  

The sense of belonging makes a big difference to organisations. Every day when you come out of bed, you must feel that you want to go office as many things have to be done. If you go to the office as compulsion, work becomes a formality. Your efficiency and productivity remain average.  

I will share with you a story of the Chairman of a large company in Pune. In the company, they used to have a meeting once a month which 25 senior officers from the company attended. Last half an hour of the meeting was reserved for a brief one on one meeting with each of the officer. The Chairman knew details about these officer’s family and would ask questions about their welfare. I understand that similar practice continues and now the chairman’s son handles the meetings. I know many people who worked for this organisation, and they always have good things to say about the company.  

I will share a story about Mr Sharad Pawar. Mr Pawar is a senior leader in Indian politics, has been chief minister of the state of Maharashtra. There are a lot of controversies about his wheeling and dealing, but this is the way politics works. I will not go into those details. He has a fantastic relationship with many people in Maharashtra. Years back he was travelling from Pune to Aurangabad, about 240 km distance. 100 km from Aurangabad one the cars in his convoy had a flat tyre. All the vehicles stopped for the change of tyre. Everybody got out for fresh air. Some people in the area saw Mr Pawar, and within ten minutes about fifty people came out to meet him. Within no time this number increased to a hundred. People came there with some Roti, Dal, Juice, buttermilk and what have you. It was an unplanned stop, but Mr Pawar had an excellent rapport with the people in that area. He started chatting with those people. He asked someone how your younger daughter is? Are her marital issues resolved? To someone else, he asked if he had settled his land dispute. He said to another person that he came to know about that person’s father’s death, he gave his condolences. It was an unbelievable site to see his rapport with the people in those years; the team was forced to spend almost two hours before they could restart their journey. That is how people loved him 

This incident took place in a remote area of interior Maharashtra, and it was unplanned, but the event turned out to like a festival for those people because their beloved leader was among them. Hats off to him for a terrific public relations and contacts. His tag line must be “How are you doing today?”  

Connecting with others is an art but can also be looked at, as a scientific method. 

Positive Intent 

First and foremost, when someone comes to meet you, or you go to meet someone, show a positive intent. The opening remark could be, the Hey, looks like there is an issue, let us solve it, or there is an issue, and this is what I have in mind. Should we  brainstorm?” This type of opening statement will bring positivity into the atmosphere. 

Unsure, it’s ok 

You can be hesitant, and it is ok to be uncertain. Nobody is born with solutions to all wrongs in the world. When asked you may say, “I am not sure, let me think about it. When do you think this needs to be resolved? Let’s meet today at 4 pm.” That person has come to you because probably he is also not sure. It’s ok to be unsure occasionally. 

Be open-minded to listen 

A person comes to you and starts telling you something. Sometimes it so happens that you have understood most of what the person has said. But don’t start an argument with him nor should you persuade the person to do it differently. It is possible that the person is using you as a sounding board. Unless you are asked to comment or suggest, only  listen.  

Take any opportunity to connect 

It is imperative to get in touch with everybody at each available opportunity. A sentence like, “You always look fresh, what is your secret?” makes a big difference. Make a comment about the achievements of the people from your colleagues family. But be careful to comment if you are a male, connecting with a female colleague. Be a little cautious and you may not talk about her dress or her looks or hairstyle! She may not feel comfortable.  

I want to share with you a story about the effect of saying, “How are you doing today?” In cold storage, one lady was working in the second shift. She would always say to the security person, “Hey, how are you doing today?” She would always add a sentence or two, every day. On the weekend, everyone was in a hurry to rush home. When the last person left, the security person said to his colleague, “Where is our fine lady? She looked delighted when she spoke to me today.” He told his colleague that he would go inside and check. At a remote corner in the cold storage, the lady had fallen and was unconscious. He picked  her up and rushed her to a hospital. Next day when he went to see her, the doctor profusely thanked the guard for his quick action. The doctor said, “Another hour or so and the lady would have died. Now she is stable.” 

Stay in touch, stay involved! In the ’50 s of the last century, Voice of America radio station operated out of Sri Lanka. Their tag line was, “If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours!” 

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Emotional Turmoil!

While writing two blogs about my friend Prakash regarding the major catastrophic event he and his family had gone through, I never realised the emotional turmoil I was going through. My endeavour while writing is always to make the least number of errors, both grammatical and factual. For this purpose, I had to refer to the book written by Kavita about the event, a few times. Every time I skimmed the book, the reading process did some more churning in my mind, as I read a few paragraphs. The pictures of what the family had gone through kept floating before me.  

Today’s blog came up as I read a news item in today’s newspapers, which rekindled the old memories and reminded me of the story of another friend. This story is again very touching! This friend of mine was a friend from my Bombay days. We were neighbours, he was one-year senior to me. As was typical of those days, we spent evenings playing tennis ball cricket on their terrace. He came from an upper-middle-class family, had a well-appointed home, went to a convent school. These things of course never came in between our friendship; honestly, I never realised his financial situation in those days. His father was our family doctor, so when the doctor was at home, we would be a little under pressure! The friend was ever smiling, but he was not what can be called as a mixing type.  

As so happens, we lost touch around the time when I was in tenth grade. A few years later, I moved for my engineering course to Pune. One of my classmates had also moved to join the medical curriculum at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune. Once when we went there to meet my classmate, I bumped into this old friend, who was also learning to become a doctor. Our friendship was renewed, and we kept in touch intermittently.

As our education was getting completed, I heard that he got engaged to his classmate. I was so happy for him. Then came the news, later, that they had broken off! Later on, our friend went to England and settled there. Another 45 years passed as we again had lost touch. Once I was scanning the Facebook and searched for my friend and lo! There he was! I sent him a private message. I, of course, called him by the nickname from childhood. I shared my email id with him.  

A couple of weeks later, I received an email from him and was I happy! He said, “Pramod, it’s sheer luck that I got your message on Facebook; I was about to close my account on Facebook.” Then he gave details.  

He became a surgeon and lived in Northern England all his life. It appears that he did not travel much to India. He did quite well financially. He did not marry, he never explained hence I never asked. Then he was reminiscent about Bombay days. Our school days full of tennis ball cricket in the evenings. When it became dark, we would chat about everything in the world, until we were called home. Our email exchange continued sporadically, and we became comfortable with each other.  

Then in one of the emails, I shared with him how I went through Cancer treatment, end of 2013! Since he was a doctor, I shared with him as many medical details as possible. His reply was very positive and helped me to understand some more things from a medical perspective. I was surprised by his in-depth knowledge about cancer. He was a surgeon, but he was not an Onco Surgeon. From his next mail, I understood the background about his depth of knowledge. He had also suffered cancer of the throat region and had gone through massive doses of chemotherapy. Then he revealed a piece of very shocking information.

He wrote, “Pramod, after taking treatments for a few months, one of my doctor colleagues (who was my Onco surgeon) had a “doctor to doctor” talk with me. He said that the chances of my surviving beyond six weeks were remote. Why don’t you inform your family?” From what I knew, he did not have much contact with his family.  But he also wrote, “At the end of one month, a procedure was done. Suddenly after that procedure, my health started improving. The doctors have now removed me from the critical list and my current status at this time is “managing cancer”. I may require chemo once in a while as sustenance dose.” 

Well, this is not the story! The story started after this, at least for me! He once informed me that he was coming down to Pune for his medical college reunion. I was thrilled, and I said that we should meet. I told him, “Taj Blue Diamond will be the convenient hotel for you!” He said, “Pramod, there is one issue that I have not shared with you. When I was told that my days were numbered to six weeks, I got my lawyer and liquidated my fixed assets quickly, and I had substantial liquid money too! I organised and distributed 90% of assets to charities. Kept about 10% for unseen expenses, if required, after my death. Now with my health improving, I am seriously short of funds, but luckily, I have a pension! So, I am managing somehow. I came to know about this reunion and decided to attend, probably my first and the last one! So, staying at Taj is out of the question!” 

I thought, Oh, my god! How has this happened? He had many expenses, but luckily his most medical costs were covered under British Medical System. But overall, he was going through tough times. Other than his pension, he had no income. What turn can life take!  As he was past retirement age and in ill health, he could not work again.

This story again put me in severe turmoil, my mind was churning, and I did not know how to handle this. There was no way I could pay for his stay in Pune, he just would have refused.  

There is another twist to the story. I knew the dates for my friend’s stay in Pune. He had said that he would call me when he came to Pune. He did call, but somehow, I missed the call. During that period there were many phone calls to me from unknown numbers. So, I wrote him an email. He wrote back to me saying that he was sad that we missed out on meeting each other in Pune. He was back in England.  

After this episode, the frequency of our communication has dwindled down to a trickle; this has nothing to do with missing each other in Pune. My last couple of emails have remained unanswered. I must find out about our friend, and I hope that he is doing alright.

I am still very uneasy! Emotional turmoil continues!

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!

Virus Bonhomie!

Virus Bonhomie!

This blog is about a specific group, but I have tried to make it as generic as possible. But it applies to all the groups of friends.

Once upon a time, there was a set of retired people and not so retired people, who lived their life, enjoying their golden period. Things were quite good. They were travelling, enjoying with family and had a great time with their grandchildren, once in a while. They had illnesses, they had their anxieties but were game at carrying their burden, gracefully. Of course, the children were around but there was a small issue, they were around the world, for many. Children and their family was a great solace, once in a year or two years, in some cases after five years! There were WhatsApp messages and Video calls, all keeping them very happy in the winter of life. Everything was smooth; children were very caring; they ensured that there were caretakers available round the clock if needed. Everything was hunky dory! Once in a while, there was a cool breeze and warmth of good old friends. The breeze came out of the blue and kept people gasping as they had gone their separate ways in the journey called life. Friends from the old gang were expected to meet only once in a while. Yes, these folks were also in college once upon a time; had groups and great friends!

A few years back suddenly, a species started appearing on the horizon! It looked like UFO; nobody initially knew what it was. On searching Google, people came to know it was called Bonhomie! (Oxford meaning of Bonhomie is cheerful friendliness) As usually happens, nobody was sure what was happening. These people realised that two naïve guys were bringing in an unknown creature called Bonhomie in their lives. Thanks to WhatsApp, FB and modern technology in general, things started moving fast. The group of people was a little confused; they were not aware that they were getting converted into “group of friends, close friends!” The thought itself was breathtaking. Am I going to meet my long-lost friends again? Am I going to meet Ashkya, Dhanya, Panya, Didya, Sharya again after so many years? What fun we had when we were together in college?

Lists were made, groups were created thanks to technology and two idiots! Phone numbers were shared and, in some cases, photos were exchanged. Calls were made and demeanour of all the people enjoying the golden period slowly started changing. People at home were surprised and took some of them to doctors. Doctors said that there is a new virus spreading fast, especially in people who are enjoying a golden period. There was just no cure to that. Sometimes these people show signs of Euphoria. But let them be. This virus can cure many ailments in that age group. Of course, Bonhomie is not a cure-all. It cannot cure cancer, heart attack and stroke! But this virus is an antidote to overcome anxieties created by such illnesses. Stresses in life, worries in general, feeling of loneliness!

Finally, the D day arrived for the group to meet! Meet they did at their favourite place near the river! Words like Mithi, Salya, Jadya, Taklya, Lambya were thrown in with gay abandon. There were slaps on the back. There were bear hugs, and of course, some tears of joy (which I have even while writing this piece too!) And the party started. There would be formal meets maybe twice in a year. Friends began meeting in small groups; old gangs came together! Bonhomie virus was spreading, and parties started in Mumbai too! Small picnics, big parties, idli/dosa at favourite joints was the name of the game.

As the gang became closer, good old fights and skirmishes began; it as if they were young adults again. The resolution in all the cases was always virtual or sometimes by a phone call. Group magazine started to keep bonding; it died its natural death over a couple of years. Photo albums were created to be shared with all, but this also stopped after a period, a natural thing. But after every meet, there was an only one discussion, “When are we meeting again?” And the party continued. Joy was spread among friends regarding achievements of next generations, some of them in studies, some in art, some in painting. Travel photos and experiences were shared and advise taken from others for the next holiday.

Honestly, things were too good to be true! But bonding continued. There was sharing of sorrow due to the demise of family or friends. There was real enjoyment when some long-lost friend suddenly started meeting again; then a friend started sharing his old passion, paintings. He started getting time for his love and made everybody’s life all the more enjoyable by sharing his art. Everybody looked forward to his paintings.

I am all for a healthy world but started getting jittery that our group was travelling in the direction of destroying the virus of Bonhomie. Bonhomie is one virus that I want to be alive all the time. Google search was done. Google explained that there was a healthy antidote, for this virus, called EGO. The group was slowly managing to infuse this antidote daily. Some friends were getting worried; some were overwhelmed. Some were relentlessly doing it. One friend joined only to introduce this dose. Advise of the spin doctor was taken. The Doctor said that the virus of Bonhomie remains healthy with a regular dose of a vitamin called communication both verbal and written. The doctor suggested reducing the discussion for some time, to find out if his judgment and treatment indicated was correct.

Reduction of this vitamin indicated that the doctor was right. There were hardly 2/3 friends, who showed interest in checking out if the monthly meet was ON! The experiment continues. But the spin doctor also suggested a communication by way of a big write up, which sometimes kick starts the rejuvenation of virus Bonhomie!

Friends, don’t let this virus die. You will know it’s importance after it goes into a coma. Instead of the current two idiots, there can be 2/3 additional idiots who will nurture this virus. If not on first Sunday, friends can meet on second Sunday, at a different location, at a different time. Suggest whatever you think will keep the virus kicking! We all have a large stock of anti-dote EGO. Just dispose of it! Throw it away. It is true for all the remaining life of any person young or old, man or woman. Have fun, nurture friendships. God has gifted us three great things. Nature, the family and friends. You cannot destroy nature because it is self-sustaining and self-correcting. But others need to be handled carefully; they come with a label “Fragile! Handle with care”!

But rest assured that two idiots will not rest till the Bonhomie virus is kicking in again!

Do nothing holiday!

Why do we take holidays? There are different reasons for this. The working people take a holiday to come out of their day to day grind and to rejuvenate. Sometimes, we take holidays to visit relatives, to attend family functions. Other times we take a holiday to visit places, see things. But sometimes, we should take a holiday only for the sake of taking a holiday. But is it necessary that every time we travel, we should do something, see some places, perform some activity? Well  at least we took a ” do nothing holiday” for the first time and it was fun. One thing that is my favourite on any holiday is to watch human interactions along with nature!

We were planning for a holiday in Himalayas. We were trying the eastern part of India and but in the end somehow, we finalized on Manali. We booked the vacation for a week and had decided to take it easy. Except for arranging the travel logistics, we did not bother to find details about Manali, except for weather details. This was essential, as in mountains weather can be fickle and it can become cold. We geared us with woolens; our planning was on the dot as weather turned out to be the same as what we had  encountered in Alps, last September, rainy and cold, at least for a few days.  

During this holiday, we had decided not to do much of research so that we could get some surprises when we reached the destination. We had some information about Manali. Our some knowledge about Kullu Manali was 30 years old, when our  son Sachin had come here for trekking, while he was in school. As we landed at Kullu airport, it was a pleasant looking small airport surrounded by mountains.

When we came out with our baggage, we were surprised to see only 5/6 cars that had come to pick up travelers, around 30 of us. How others were going to move further was a mystery. The driver said that the distance to our destination was about 45 kms. In his inimitable way he said, that we it will  take 1 ½ hrs. We took two hrs. Courtesy, very narrow and bad, bad roads. Same distance was covered in one hour and twenty minutes on return journey though the driver was not as brisk. This was because we started our journey at 5.30  am

Manali in April presented us with snow clad peaks, cold weather, sunshine and rain to our surprise. Of course, it also gave us local Puri Bhaji and Parathas. When it was not cloudy, weather was divine though we had to wrap ourselves in caps, mufflers and jackets. Our main plan was sitting on the lawns and soaking in the sun and the nature. We did take a few photos and a couple of videos but the main agenda was to absorb the sights and whatever we could absorb from the nature. What more do we want in life when you get beautiful nature, lovely weather and surroundings, birds chirping; add to this our usual reading stuff!

Please keep volume high to hear the birds chirping!

We knew that Manali is famous for trekking, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding and its snow. We found another adventure activity there. At Solan Valley, we saw a couple of hundred three-wheel cross country bikes. People take cross country rides on these bikes, with a driver. Behind the driver, there is two-seater bench where parents and kids sit to enjoy the ride! We were also lucky to see the light snow fall. The flowers in bloom at our resort were beautiful.  

Besides surprises of Manali, we enjoyed our human interaction. We met a doctor couple from Mumbai. Young folks with their 6/7-year old child and their mother, who needed support even to climb down the stairs. But their enthusiasm was to be seen to believed. They had driven down from Mumbai and total driving distance was going to be about 4000 km. Driving this distance with their mother who had physical difficulty in moving around, must be tough. The mother would stay in the hotel all the time when the gang went for trekking and other activities!  

We met a couple from Pune, our age group, with their retarded daughter who must have been about 40 years of age. They were on circuitous tour from Delhi to Dharamsala to Manali and back. An arduous journey by road for anybody. But their enthusiasm and the way they handled their daughter’s needs was amazing.  

Best interaction with people, happened at the Pune Airport when we came back. We hired an Ola Cab. When we sat in the cab, the driver said that it was his first trip. I asked him why he started so late during the day; we hired the Cab at 6.30 pm. He said that it was his first trip with Ola! We both gave congratulations to him and wished him great business in future! He was so naïve, that he was unaware of basic things. When the trip started, I gave him the OTP I had received from Ola. He asked me what to do with the OTP. I said that he had to key it in. He asked me where to punch the OTP? I naturally did not know. Then I suggested to ask him to check with another Ola driver. It was finally done. He was very helpful and at home he put our bags in the lift for us, in fact he forced us to wait on the side! 

We had a pleasure of meeting one couple from Nasik. Husband was an engineer, and his wife a painter. We naturally found some common friends. We spent lovely time with each other. A couple of times, we had local lunch together.  

As planned, did we not do anything? We did a lot of things which we should be doing. We interacted a lot with people. We did not rush into things. Manali “activities” were anyway not suitable for our age group. We soaked into the nature, enjoyed the surroundings. Eating and purchasing was only incidental but trying local stuff was the main aim. One so called activity we did was going to the Spa! That 90 minute activity was very relaxing but so was our “not doing anything”! The 90 minutes in Spa gave me deep insight about Manali, local life and surroundings, from my masseur! This “not doing anything” bug has caught up with us and I am sure our next holiday will also be similar.