Bonsai of Relationship ..

Create a beautiful Bonsai of friendship in life!

Advertisements

Bonsai

How is the relationship between humans formed? What does it depend on? There are legal relations which are by birth or by marriage. There are other relationships which just happen. Closest relationship is between mother and child. Then comes husband and wife and so on! I am not talking of relatives but I am talking of relations. One may be a close relative but we may not have much relation with that person. I am taking a look at relation between two persons as friends, whether  they are  relatives or not, even if there is  age difference between them and maybe they are of different sex.   

Years back we visited Canada. It was our first visit outside India and our knowledge about personal inter actions was limited. We had gone on a holiday for a couple of days with our Canadian friend Ed and his wife Dorothy! We were in early thirties and they were in fifties. On the way back to Ottawa, Ed asked me whether it was ok if he took a small detour. I said, “Ed, we have absolutely no issues.” Ed said, ” My mother lives in an old people’s home, I would like to meet her for half an hour!” While we were reaching the old people’s home, Jaya and I were trying to judge if we should also offer to meet his mother! Our problem was solved by Dorothy when we reached  the parking lot. Dorothy said, “Ed, you go and see your mother, we will sit in the car!” After, so many years of marriage, for Dorothy “It was Ed’s mother”! We were surprised that she did not feel like meeting the old lady! We were surprised with the relationship between the two ladies!  

We have been lucky that most of our close relatives are more of friends, than relatives. It is said that father and son must become friends once their shoe size matches. Similar thing can happen with grandfathers, uncles and other similar relationships, but for this to happen, the onus is on the senior partner. The age difference can come in the way. The relationships is a thing that cannot be explained. They simply happen. Two people simply hit it off on day one. In Bollywood lingo, it is called chemistry between two people. Chemistry just occurs. Sometimes two persons are poles opposite in their backgrounds, their thought process. Still they can be close friends.

During my engineering college days Sharad, Nayan and I were room partners. Only common thing between us was our mother tongue. But even today after more than 50 years we are very close to each other. The main reason I feel is that there never were any expectations from each other. We were very much aware of milestones reached, progress made or difficulties faced. In fact, we shared with each other everything, all the time. But discreetly, we had made efforts to nurture the relationship. In case of Nayan, we were lucky that out relationship went even one step further. Nayan’s parents continued to live India after Nayan moved to the US. After that, we suddenly realized that we had third set of parents, Opa and Omi! We had such lovely times with them whenever we could meet. This simply happened as Nayan moved abroad, and we could spend time with Opa and Omi! Now whenever Nayan and I meet, we share memories of Opa and Omi!  

Deepti and Raju have become family for us. Again, as destiny would have it, Deepti joined my business at the tender age of 26 and we have been together through the thick and thin of the business since last 25 years. When they became family, is not very easy to say. There is an age difference between us but it just happened. When Deepti’s mother became our Aai, we do not know. The funny part is Aai calls me, “Sir” and Jaya “Madam” but she is Aai for us.

I will share how these relations get matured and cultivated. A few years back, I was to go for my check up with Dr. Sant, for my sore throat. My granddaughter was one months old at that time. Priya had high fever and hence Jaya was managing Rhea. She called and told me the situation; I told her not to bother as I could easily go alone. This conversation happened while I was in the office. Five minutes later, Deepti simply told me, ” Sir, don’t worry. I have called Raju. He will go with you to the doctor, you don’t go alone.” Again, the destiny was such that I was detected with cancer during that visit and Raju was there to support me. Raju had simply come out of whatever he was doing, to go with me!  

On the other side,I have a friend, who is a very pleasant person, always smiling, always enthusiastic, always keen. But he has a tendency to keep relationships on/off. In initial phase, he lived outside Pune. He would pass through Pune very often but would communicate very rarely. Like all of us do, he also went through ups and downs in life. Some of these were very serious up and downs. But as expected he came out of these tough times, with flying colours and became a great professional. We were always on the periphery except when he needed close support. As friends, we kept on giving it. But later we realized that we were his friends only when he needed support! To me friends are simply there when needed, especially if you live in the same city. They are like shadows and they simply take up what is needed to be done. But alas in this case it is not to be so!  

Another case is of a college mate, whom I met recently, after 45 years of gap. He was a pleasant person in college days but soon after college he moved to foreign shores. He used to come to Pune, like all migratory birds always do but he never met me during this period. He has an added qualification of “NRI” which he displays proudly.  Our friend has need for small help these days as he has acquired some property in Pune. His experience with his “friends” was not so good. I was a little upset when he informed me about his experience but in the same note his rant about change in Pune culture, change in friends not keen to support etc made me think a little more. When I came to know the other side, looks like our “NRI” friend has different set of friends for fun and getting work done! Looks like our friend is riding a big white horse! With shining armour! So, his “friends’ simply ignored his requests. Apparently, he forgot that any relationship needs nurturing. Nothing is constant in this world including relationships, unless cultivated. Our NRI friend forgot that relationship is like a balloon, you need to pump the gas very slowly and check, pump and check. One must get the feel of knowing when the balloon will burst.  

Give and take in a relationship is not like an accounting ledger. You don’t need to create a credit entry, immediately after a debit entry is created. But at some stage ledger needs to be balanced. At the same time, you cannot simply create a major debit entry too! Nurture, coax, help each other to become closer and closer. There is nothing in life like a lovely relationship.

I could go on and on! While writing this, I have become nostalgic but friends don’t forget that the beauty of this world is enhanced by great relationships. But you need to nurture them, cultivate them like a Bonsai. The purposes of bonsai is primarily contemplation for the viewer, and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower. We can compare relationship with Bonsai.

Bonsai is a Japanese  art form using cultivation technique to produce small trees. Bonsai is not intended for production of food or for medicine. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. Similarly, relationship between two individuals is cultivated for pure relationship, friendship. There are no expectations. Create a Bonsai of friendship, between two individuals, these are grown with care in a container made up of love! Like Bonsai plants relationship can go on and on, living in their own meandering path.  

 

 

Don’t Break the Flyovers!

Take decisions in life from long term view! It’s your life after all!

Our personal life and the life around us has many things in common. In both cases, issues crop up, they are studied, they are discussed and decisions arrived at. In retrospect, we realize that better decisions could have been made, finer solutions could have been found. As the saying goes, the hind sight vision is always 20/20! Had we been able to take decisions closer to 20/20, things could have been better! Mistakes happen in both public and personal life. The end result is complications and stress. This thought gave me an idea of comparing these two aspects together.  

COEPFlyover

In Pune’s newspaper, I saw a photograph of the perpetual traffic jam on the flyover system near the engineering college. The city planners built an elaborate system of flyovers to overcome the traffic snarls in that area. I have read somewhere that by building fly overs, planners tend to push the traffic snarls in to the next traffic junction where we have traffic signals. But in this case, something else happened; just after the fly overs, there are traffic signals and the traffic gets choked there itself, even after flyovers were commissioned, not much has really changed. At the next junction, which is signal free, there are no traffic snarls. 

Life is always in WIP (work in progress) mode. It means that at every stage we keep on processing information that reaches our brain. We of course know that our brain is the world’s most advanced and fastest Super Computer. All new data is processed, churning takes place, information is sent back and forth to the stored database/ information in the brain. The result is arrived at, on the basis this churning and processing. This happens so many times during the course of the day, that we tend to take decisions but we process results based on priorities. Sometimes our priorities clash, sometimes end results clash.  Humans tend to push certain issues under the rug or come up with a temporary solution. These solutions are reached, based on the analysis of the available data, to solve the issues based on current situation. Most of the times, humans don’t take long term view into consideration and this action sometimes creates problems, later.  

Did you any similarity in the above two paragraphs? Indeed, there is similarity and we tend to put issues on back burner, we sometimes ignore problems. City related issues are handled by the humans,  in a very similar way. This affects large number of people in the society. But in our individual cases incorrect resolutions affect individual lives directly. What needs to be done such cases? For any issue or a problem, overall solution needs to be considered and not a short-term solution.  

 MumbaiPuneHway

I have displayed a google map of the area in Pune, where there are traffic snarls, after new flyover system came up!  The Red circle indicates the snarl area. If we consider the traffic arriving from 4 to 1, we will know the real problem. The new flyover system helps people to cross the railway line in problem area. In fact, all four points do the same thing. But point 1 has been closed for this crossing long time back. Point 3 has been closed recently. Point 2 and 4 help in crossing the railway line, but these crossings pass through narrow or congested roads. In last few years, besides traffic from 4 to 1 coming in red circle, traffic has been pouring in through the new road, from airport, parallel to the river. All this indicates that problem definition and solution did not go hand in hand. Huge traffic volume comes to the red circle area. The solution should have been to not bring traffic to snarl area and divert it via different routes. But the studies were not proper and hence solutions were incorrect. What is the solution? I don’t know. In Mumbai some such issue about a flyover was resolved by breaking a particular flyover to be replaced by another one, which resolved the issue. We have similar problem in Pune University circle area. In University circle area, one could see from the beginning, that solution was not correct. On top of the wrong decisions, judgement about future traffic density were also grossly under estimated. End result, the same. In peak hours, a group of policemen is required to manually handle the traffic chaos!  

In our lives, we also misjudge many things. Sometimes, we make wrong investments. Sometimes we misjudge our future requirements at home as well as finances. Sometimes, we do not take decisions and let the problems linger. I have seen this happening in people about their health. They try to ignore issues or postpone the checkups. A friend I met after many years, told me that he is afraid to get himself regularly checked up by doctors. I asked him the reason. He said, ” I am afraid that some health issue may get detected”. I said, that is the reason for getting yourself checked.  

In public domain if we make a wrong decision, we can find different solutions, including from above example, break the flyover and build a new one. This creates inconvenience and costs a lot of money. No individual is directly troubled with this solution. But in our own case, we and family are the direct sufferers. Wrong career moves, wrong investment decisions, involvement with wrong type of people, are described as errors or wrong decisions, in retrospection.  But they take their toll!

Friends, try and learn the art of visualizing things about future, while taking life’s decisions. We have enough information stored in our brain, learn to utilize it correctly  while we decide something. When we have to take major decisions in life, sleep over it before taking the final decision, ask friends and mentors. Don’t feel shy to take advise. Ultimately, it’s your life!  

Pet the Whale!

Look for the real things in life and try to enjoy THE moment!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Plan Senior Citizenship

Golden phase in our life of senior citizenship, is phase to enjoy, to be in peace with everything, to give back to society any which way possible.

Our group of friends from Engineering College meets for breakfast, every first Sunday of the month. The camaraderie and the joy during the meet is seen to be believed. Why do we meet? How did we start meeting? I presume this urge of meeting school and college friends must have been there all the time. But till a generation before ours, there were hardly any means to locate long lost friends. Internet, WhatsApp and FB are the vehicles that have made this possible.

As a group of friends in the age group of late sixties, we try to discuss different topics during these meets. Topics range from “How to manage major Illnesses” to Yoga, Vipashchana and what have you. There was once a discussion on cashless society last December when we had demonetization exercise going on. This time it was about us, the Senior Citizens! The other option was GST but everybody opted for the first one. My friend Prem has a way with words. He said let us not call ourselves old, we are senior citizens! This tweaking of the word had so much positivity,  that it set the ball rolling in the right direction. It culminated in my writing this blog, for which I wanted the title “Plan Old Age” but I changed it  to “Plan Senior Citizenship”!

The caricature below is the attitude we should have, especially at this age. In younger age people,  tendency is to think that they are infallible. They think that nothing is ever going to happen to them.

 Snoopy

The quality of life in the our Golden Period will be dependent of how we handle different things in life. There will be many scenarios in current situation, as they are in any other situation. Health of an individual can be broadly explained as

·       Those who may need physical assistance

·       Those who may need support due to brain related illnesses like Alzheimer, Dementia and so on

·       Those who are senior but do no need regular assistance or support 

The personal situations also will have a lot of variation e. g. 

·       Those who are living with the spouse    

·       Those who may have lost the spouse

·       Those whose children are nearby

·       Those whose children are far away 

With so many combinations, it is natural that each person’s status will be different and will need specific solution. We can however make a general attempt regarding what could be done to make life easier, relatively manageable and happy. I am not writing about bucket list! The key is to keep our health and wealth,  in good condition, in case of health both physical and mental, and in case of wealth it means management of funds that we have at the time of retirement. In spite of our best efforts things may not work out the way we want.

Speak Up

This is a very important aspect that humans usually avoid. Our body keeps on sending signals all the time. We assume that if something goes wrong in any system, it will auto correct, we should not rush things. Wait for a few days. At our age please don’t do it; if you find any variation, get it checked from the doctor! Don’t become paranoid but be careful. Acidity can be acidity but it can be preamble to heart attack too! With age, body’s chances of fighting out and  recovery are diminished, so not speaking  up may result in something irreversible.

It is necessary to speak up about things other than health too! This will enable us to resolve things rather than bottling them up.

Act early

Act early is next to Speak up. If you speak up about whatever issue you may have and act quickly, there are obvious advantages. We have been taking action on everything all our life but in older age we may think in terms of delaying action, sometimes because of not understanding the gravity of the situation! Maybe our reaction time has increased!

Make new friends and keep the old

This should be true all your life but during your working phase of life, you do not get time to increase your friends circle. But in old age there is definitely  a lot time available. So use it fruitfully and make new friends. Keeping links with old friends is an obvious thing but sometimes we forget importance of this. With old friends we can share anything and everything. Try to become an extrovert if you are not. When you go out, it could be a good idea to talk briefly with new people. When you go to a restaurant or get into planes, trains, buses say hi to person sitting next to you. Believe me you, in most cases people open out!

Make a rule to talk to at least one new person whenever you go out. You may have apprehensions, you may sometimes be rebuffed by someone who is a strong introvert. But don’t lose heart, people generally want to talk. Talk a bit to your grocer or the chemist. But make sure you don’t get popular as a big bore!

Be wise financially

When you retire, what you are left with, is all that is you are left with. Try and get advice on financial matters and tell your advisor that you want to be conservative. Don’t take actions based on sudden events that are out of control. Your actions should be well thought of.

Don’t be emotional about finances. Your assets are going to go to your children but make sure that they are in your name till you and your spouse, both are on the terra firma! Occasionally a child may need some funds from your kitty. Take a very measured decision considering your long term requirement and if you feel that you may be hand to mouth, be a little unemotional and deny the loan. Look at this as Catch 22 situation (meaning of Catch 22 situation is a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions). If you give the loan, your child may be happy but you may not be!

There will be some couples who do not have children. They need to discuss the matters in more details because their path for disposition of assets, after them, could be different. Nominate someone much younger than you, to execute your will! 

Don’t get tricked into card frauds attempted by tricksters asking for card details. Don’t get seduced by someone offering high interest rates way above bank rates! 

 Think out of box

Reverse mortgage is an avenue not much used in India. It is reverse of taking a housing loan from a bank. You mortgage your house to a bank (many nationalized banks are doing it) and against this you can get monthly, quarterly money from bank same as EMI’s you pay to the bank. By doing this you are opening up the value of your home  during your life time and you get to stay in the same home till you both die. I will not go into tenure and closure details but they are very fairly handled by banks. Only persons who may not be happy in this arrangement is your kids!  One very important point, since what you are getting is loan from the bank it is tax free!

Important threshold for doing reverse mortgage is the age, at which reverse mortgage should be done. Since we do not know our last day on the earth, one could think of 15 year period but when to start this is going to be a very tricky decision. 68 or 70,  what age is the right age we don’t know! 

Appoint a Proxy

This is a very natural thing to do and will make life smoother for you, in case of your falling sick and not being in a position to handle paper work, deciding line of treatment etc.

Make a Will

WILL is the most powerful document that can be used to pass on your assets to your next generation and it over rides everything else. Again, ensure that the “WILL”, will pass on assets “after both of you pass”! Keep emotions in check! Making WILL, will give you comfort that you have organized things well so that next generation does not have avoidable headaches!

Consider moving

Consider moving from a bungalow to an Apartment. Managing things in independent homes beyond a certain age is not easy. So downsize to a home where many services will be handled by common facility providers.

Live Well

This need not be said but our abilities to eat and drink get compromised with age. Limitations on physical activities also crop up. Hence we should not keep on eating things, we were eating in our younger age. Eat healthy food.

Same is true for exercise. By not doing appropriate exercise suitable to our age, we may damage muscles, bones or whatever.

Keep Connect with younger generation

This connect is absolutely essential to remain young mentally. You may also have a disconnect with technology! You may have disconnect with new thinking! All these things will make you feel lost.

And  last but not the least, never utter the sentence, “In our times ….”! 

Golden phase in our life as a senior citizen, is phase to enjoy, to be in peace with everything, to give back to society any which way possible. Make new friends, learn new things and rest assured that these are the things which you can do at any speed you want, the age is not going to come in the way!