Feeling lonely?

Am I feeling lonely? Am I feeling sad? Am I a person looking for sympathy? Am I full of negativity? These and many such questions have been coming to my mind since last evening. Another doubt that also came in my mind is, do I deserve this? Such thoughts came into my mind and then suddenly during the day, today,  I read a couple of beautiful stories. Today we went out to Nikhil and Priya’s friend’s home for breakfast; ended up into an excellent affair which turned the food event from breakfast to brunch to lunch. Jaya and I had met them only the second time.  

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We could see optimism in these four young people added to it was the joy of Rhea, my granddaughter’s banter and frolics. Suddenly the Doubtful Thomas from my mind went for a toss, and original Pramod re-entered,  after the famous Canadian Siesta! What made this change? Why the initial trauma which is not the normal Pramod?  

On our WhatsApp group on the previous day, an event had taken place. Except for a very few friend’s, nobody knows the real story. An old batchmate, who lives in California had joined back after a couple of years of gap. Even at that time, he had left the group in a huff due to disagreement. He has been undergoing chemotherapy for some time, and currently, he has fifteen manageable days in any month and fifteen bad days after chemotherapy. I will not delve into details of what happened (the group is 70 years plus batchmates of COEP 71, the famous engineering college in Pune) because those are unimportant.  

It was the acts of people, sometimes actual act and sometimes knowingly remaining silent that caused the episode. I realised that it is the act of silence or behaving with less empathy and love must have caused pain to the friends themselves, other than the affected friendI am not even discussing the main actor in this event. Some were magnanimous and openly declared their remorse, whereas others did not. When we behave abnormally, I am sure our blood pressure goes up. Possibly our blood sugar levels also shoot up for a temporary period. The event that occurred was so immaterial that it is not even worth discussion.  

What brought me back to normality? There were a couple of stories I read which told me that everything is all right with this world — the first story I am sharing verbatim. 

Story 1 

The first time I met Mayor Pete, I was working in the ER, very shortly after finishing my residency and moving back to South Bend. I was caring for a little Somali boy who had nearly hanged himself. We had no Arabic translator immediately available that could help me talk with his mother, and we were working on getting one of the phone translation services when a young man in a suit showed up and just started translating. I assumed the hospital had found and sent down an official translator because translators at the hospital where I did my residency training always wore suits. The boy was gravely ill, and I did not bother to ask who the new translator was, but he spent about an hour with the mother and I, just helping me talk with her about his treatment and his prognosis. Then he followed her and her son up to the ICU when the boy was admitted. During the whole event, he never mentioned who he was or said anything to take the focus away from caring for this little boy and his family. 

About an hour later, he came down from the ICU and shook my hand before he left. I asked him how long he had been a translator with the hospital, and he very casually replied, “I don’t work for the hospital, I’m Mayor Pete.” He shook my hand and left without another word. He had come and done what he needed to do and was on his way, either home or back to work. 

I learned later that he had simply heard over the police scanner that we needed an Arabic translator at the hospital for this tragic situation and just wanted to help. In addition to studying at Harvard, being a Rhodes scholar, working as a McKenzie consultant, he spoke fluent Arabic and worked for Navy intelligence in the Middle East. He is a pretty amazing guy, has done incredible work here in South Bend, and will do great things for the country I hope.” 

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Story 2 

I only read about this event so, I am describing it in my wordsA lady in her early seventies was detected with Alzheimer. There have been sad stories about people with Alzheimer. She was lucky to have husband, a very caring person. The disease was following the typical path. Once their young maid did a few dance steps when they were listening to an old song. The husband noticed his wife’s shining eyesHe saw this and signalled to the maid to continue with the steps. In those ten minutes, it appeared as if the wife went into a trance; she was in her own different world. The loving husband realised that the wife’s musical traits had woken up. He experimented with her favourite old Hindi songs, and it worked. They changed the home atmosphere and made everything musical. Their children lived in different cities and used to come whenever they could make it, to meet their mother. The progress of the disease had slowed down. Then they found accidentally that the lady liked to use crayons. A family with a young child had come to meet them. The lady enjoyed his crayons and did some painting. 

Along with old Hindi songs, crayons and drawing books, some colourful posters of butterflies, birds and trees were put everywhere. Alzheimer almost forgot the lady’s address. But life is never rosy. After a few good years, it’s speed increasedand the lady started going down again. But with the alert act by the husband who was also eighty plus, the family had good five years, in spite of Alzheimer. Was it only alertness? Or was it love? Was it empathy? He had his heart in the right place and wanted his wife to be a little more cheerful for as many years as possible. 

Do you show love and empathy only if the person is related to you? To me, friends are the second family to everybody. Age does not play any role. I can be friends with a six-month-old baby or six-year-old boy! I love to interact with 30-year-olds and fifty-year-old. My friends from school and college times are, of course, 70 plus. Those who are in reasonably good health feel as if they are fifty. But I find that most have their heart in the right place.  

When the world can be so lovely, who is bothered about the nitty-gritty of life? I may sound like a preacher, talking of love and empathy all the time; but that is what we should have in this world full of abundant heartless behaviour. With the heart in the right place, humans automatically are graceful and soft in the way, they react to any situation.  

Are there any online courses available that teach you how to behave with empathy and love? Are there any procedures available that bring your heart in the right place? Harsh behaviour and reactions are the cause of your bad experiences at your different stages of life. Simply remember that we are all born the same way, and we are also going to die the same way. We are on a voyage or a cruise, so why not make the best use of the same? Make it enjoyable instead of having self-inflicted wounds. Just take a look below the skin of any person, we are all the same!  

Read this when you have time! 

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/world-alzheimers-day 

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Want to be miserable, it’s easy!

I am fed up with positive articles and positivity in life! I have heard enough of lectures and written enough blogs on the subject. So, I thought, let me enjoy negativity! I was wondering what could be top three things in the list of things that make you miserable? Use of chemicals/alcohol that changes your mood, envy and resentment. The order might change for individuals, but for most people, this would be the sequence!

How many families have been devastated using such a substance? There is always the first time, which is risky, but it also depends on the company we keep. Mind you; these don’t depend on if someone has money, or there is a shortage of funds. These substances are addictive, and a person always feels that he or she is not addicted. They think that they could easily give up the habit. But it does not work out this way. Key to overcoming such a situation is first to accept that one is addicted.

I will share with you two stories. We were in a restaurant, and a family was sitting on the table next to ours. Two couples, one of them having two kids and the other couple, was having a kid with a pregnant wife. Luckily the couple was not allowing their twelve-year-old kid to taste the liquor. After some time, the lady wanted to use the washroom. She had lost control of her walk, and the son held momma’s hand and took her to the restroom. Any guesses what that child’s thoughts would be about alcohol, ten years later! Momma is always right!

An eighteen-year-old boy would hang outside his college premises, and the friends would have beers, sitting in their car once it started getting dark. The boy’s mother went and met one of his teachers. He was a favourite student of the teacher. The mother explained about beer drinking and requested help from the teacher. The next day the teacher called the boy and asked him about the beer drinking. He was surprised and said, “My mother seems to have met you.  What is wrong in having a couple of beers?” The teacher was surprised by this statement. When she further probed the boy said, “I have been watching my father having his drinks every evening after coming back home. So I assumed that it is a way of life.” The teacher explained to him the details about addiction etc. After further discussion, the boy said, “Madam, now I have understood the meaning of what I was doing. Now I will never touch alcohol in life!”

These two anecdotes explain what can happen in life due to addiction. So, go for these substances, and you will be surely miserable!

Next guaranteed way of becoming miserable is to become an envious person! Once you change your thought and become an envious person, nothing can stop you from being miserable. To make sure that you become and remain miserable, ensure that you look for new avenues for envy. Keep a diary of events that make you envious of someone. Some colleague was promoted above you, though you thought that you were a better candidate, note down your feelings in your diary. You can maintain an index page and details page like a book. When you don’t get enough time to remember events that made you envious, at least read the index so your fire of envy will remain stoked all the time. Later it may so happen that you will get a much better and higher paying job than your friend, but do not erase the entry from the diary. After all, this friend’s promotion was the cause of your envy!

Another friend was profoundly dyslexic when we were in school. We used to trouble him and tease him. We used to think that he was an idiot, and we were all smart guys. Later on, I met him at a social function. I felt that he must have become a slightly brighter version of the idiot he was. While parting, he gave me his business card. He had become a Managing Director of a multi-national and lived in Singapore. His two sons were studying at Harvard and Oxford. That is when I realised the real meaning of resentment. Friends, this is when really understood the meaning of the word, and I was miserable how I could have missed such an extraordinary feeling. On that day, I felt like a complete person who could resent anything and everything in life.

I went home, opened the bottle of my favourite poison and started drinking. I did not feel like eating any snacks along with my drink as I had envy and resentment to accompany me! But I felt like a complete person. How much had I achieved by meeting my old friend? By drinking alcohol and envying others for everything, I had fulfilment, but I felt that there was some shortcoming. Today, I became a complete person. I became so miserable that night that, the next day, I woke up with a big hangover but had the satisfaction of achieving my goal.

There are other small ways to reach your goal. Another prescription for misery is to learn everything you possibly can from your own experience, minimising what you learn from the good and bad experience of others, living and dead. Such prescription is a sure-shot producer of misery and second-rate achievement.

The results of not learning from others’ mistakes are fascinating. Get into the habit of entering the frequent disasters of humanity -drunk driving deaths, reckless driving maiming’s, incurable venereal diseases, conversion of bright college students into brainwashed zombies as members of destructive cults, business failures through repetition of obvious mistakes made by predecessors, various forms of crowd folly, and so on.

My additional prescription for misery is to go down and stay down when you get your first, second, third severe reverse in the battle of life. Because there is so much adversity out there, even for the lucky and wise, this will guarantee that, in due course, you will be permanently stuck in misery.

I recently read a story about a rustic who said: “I wish I knew where I was going to die, and then I’d never go there.” Most people smile (as you also must have done) at the rustic’s ignorance and ignore his basic wisdom. If my experience is any guide, the rustic’s approach is to be avoided at all cost by someone bent on misery. To help fail, you should discount as a mere quirk, with no useful message, the method of the rustic.

Friends, I envy and resent all of you who keep on thinking you are smarter than me but don’t worry, I have a solution, my chemical poison!

Modernity, Life’s full circle!

 

Oldage3A couple of days back, I was talking to a classmate of mine. I had called to wish her on her 70th birthday! I was pleased when she said, “Pramod, I feel as if I am around 50 or 55 but surely not 70!” The in and around 70 generations, was born after India got independence from the British in 1947. Our behaviour, thinking and attitude depend on our personal experiences, and the way society acts. Under Britishers, the Indian public, government officials had a different attitude towards Goras! Indians would treat Britishers with deference. My father was a police officer, and whenever he spoke of Britishers, I could feel that he would talk with a lot of respect to the Britishers. It was the result of 150 years of British dominance. My father, otherwise, was not a docile personality. Such an attitude could be seen in the sports arena too! Sunil Gavaskar was the first cricketer who showed “attitude” with his bat and then as a person against foreigners.

Later generations have changed; it can be seen in the behaviour of Tendulkars and Kohlis! As people started travelling internationally and met foreigners regularly for business or otherwise, the change was seen in society, in general. But change is not seen on personal levels in certain areas of life. Lately, I see people writing emotional stories and sharing their views about family-related issues. Our generation has become, so-called old, but due to migration, our children could be anywhere in the world right from Timbuktu to Rio de Janeiro; the children have spread for work and due to immigration. The result is that the parents live “alone” as per current discussions. When husband and wife are both around, how can they be alone?

The thought of lonely parents is mainly due to love but also due to unchanged attitude towards life. The post-independence generation did not migrate as much as the current generations do. They were in touch with the base more often. The life expectancy during that period was much less compared with today. The males from the older generation died just after retirement. In those days, the nuclear families had not come up. Hence the retired parents would continue to live in the joint family. They never felt “alone”.

Probably in various stories or write-ups I read (I call them sob stories which friends don’t like), people mix up the words “Alone” and “Loneliness”. When the parents are together, they are not alone by definition. But they can be lonely. But to me, loneliness is the isolation that comes with an expectation unmet, a feeling unreturned. According to my thinking, this is the crux of the matter.

Both parents and children would become and remain unhappy if they do not train their minds to become detached. Life will be much easier if there are no expectations. The closeness and love between them are natural, but remaining too attached causes all the issues. When people live in different cities, states or nations, you cannot expect anybody to be available at the drop of a hat! In today’s business and work scenario, work pressures are high. People are sometimes even worried to take their annual holidays lest they become redundant in today’s competitive world. What does the world detach mean? It means disconnected. Synonyms for detaching are dispassionate or uninvolved.

Once both sides learn to remain detached, life becomes much more manageable. My generation has been luckier than our parent’s generation. We had the benefits of better education, slightly better family finances, more opportunities than the previous generations. We have travelled in bullock carts as well as in Concordes! We have written letters on postcards, and we are using WA and FB! Our life and lifestyle have changed from the rationing of foods to plenty of everything. We bought Coca Cola for 25 paise; now we don’t mind paying Rs.250/ for a cup Coffee!

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My friend HK and his wife are in this photo. They go around on their bikes all over Pune district regularly.

Now my suggestion is that we should also change our thinking about relationships and responsibilities! We also have the benefit of better health compared to the older generation. Should our thought processes also not become modern? When we have done so many things during our working days, why can’t we manage our lives post the 70’s? What is the big deal? Should we be dependent on our children for support during this golden phase? Financial dependence and needs can be different for each individual and family. These requirements should be resolved by each family but besides that, why we cannot be independent of children? There could be health issues. Your child may be living in the same city, or maybe she lives 100 km from where you live. That does not mean that the children will have time to help and support you regularly.

On similar lines, children should also understand that your parents growing older does not mean that they are helpless or lonely. The technology that has brought back your old friends, your classmates, are also being used by your parents. They are also having their alumni meets. They meet their friends, and in some cases maybe their ex-flames! Life is changing; there is more openness. We hear of cases where people are meeting each other for companionships. In case of death of one of the spouses, parents of both sexes look for friendship, companionship or in some cases remarriage too! The parents are mature enough or sometimes may not be mature enough. But it is their life; children can give suggestions but let the seniors take the decisions about life.

The seniors should think like what my classmate said the other day. The cliché “age is just a number” becomes relevant. Health permitting, you need not “feel” old. It is up to us! I have come across people who are of the same age as me but talk and feel like a 90-year-olds. I had shared a story about the parents of my Japanese friend. The father is 93, and the mother is 87. The father regularly goes out and travels by Metro to get their groceries etc. It is because they must have decided to remain independent of the children.

Parents, venture out in the bad, bad world, and then you will realise that it is a good, good world! Children, don’t you worry too much about your parents; after all, they are the ones who have brought you up! There is some chance that they know something about the world, is it not! Don’t go overboard about splurging on your parents; they know that you also have your own life! You need to take that holiday to see the midnight Sun! Your children will be going to Oxfords and Harvards of this world! Be sure you use your Video WhatsApp or Google Duo or Skype once in a while. You need not give them iPhone so that you can use Facetime! They are happy with what they have!

I am just saying be realistic, be practical. I humbly request to those who write “Sob Stories” on WA or FB about lonely, old parents. Some parents can get into unhappy mode again, reading such stories. Please leave them alone, let them lead their life (they will be there to support you when you need). But don’t forget that they can live happily on their own!

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Success Mantra!

After my previous blog “Titbits” my friend Subhash suggested that we should analyze the life’s successes vis a vis, education, studies, ranks earned and being a “scholar” during school/college times. One of the definitions of success is the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status. In Asian culture in recent times, there has been a big emphasis on taking good education, it may be in their own country or in other countries. There is a general thought process that education changes a human being and the human becomes more cultured, sophisticated and becomes a better person.  

Does it really happen that way? In most cases, it does happen. But how do you measure success? Is fame the pinnacle of success? Does amassing wealth make you successful? Do all these things take you to upper most layer in the society? Frankly there are no clear-cut answers because there is no real definition of success. One thing is always said that a person appears more successful if he or she is a good human being too! What is important, a good human being or a successful human being? It is important to be successful good human being!

In certain areas of life like sports, entertainment education or the lack of it has not apparently come in the way. If we take examples of Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopda, they have been at pinnacle of their careers in sports and acting. They have both been good humans, they got themselves trained for being excellent in language and general behaviour. On top of that they are extremely successful commercially! They have been in their field of excellence since a very early age of 16 to 18 and never had time to take “education”! Another important aspect is that they are successful for a long duration. But this does not mean that everybody should not get educated as it did not matter in these two cases.  

Another famous case of a college drop-out is Bill Gates. But he was a drop-out from Harvard! Getting admitted to Harvard itself is success! But looks like he had urge and drive to do something more than completing his degree and rest as they say is history! Recently he has been sharing his wealth of billions of dollars for well-being of human race. He is also encouraging other rich people to share wealth for betterment of society, in general. Yes, Bill Gates can be said to be one of the most successful persons, living. 

Then there was famous rivalry between Tesla and Edison, both scientists. Both have invented so many things that it is difficult to say who was better. But from the history that I have read, Edison had more business sense than Tesla. Edison was a cut throat competitor whereas Tesla was a naïve person. Edison monetized his inventions quite well but Tesla never did that. Edison was all the time trying to see if Tesla could be commercially ruined! But to me Tesla was more successful with his one invention! He invented that A C current was better than D C current (invention by Edison) in real world. This is a difficult case to judge, commercially Edison did much better than Tesla, invention wise  probably both were at par. As human being Tesla was better than Edison. Friends, it’s your take to decide who was more successful! 

That brings us back to the thought that we had in the first place. Does education make a person successful? In our school and college times, there have been colleagues who were successful in getting very high grades all through. After completing education, different areas of work was chosen by different people. Some reached pinnacle of their chosen path but it appears that in most cases the so called “toppers” did not remain “toppers” in real life! Many times, the path to success is also dependent on “being at the right place at the right time”! It also depends on grabbing the opportunity when it comes knocking on one’s door! Those who did this have been really “successful” in life. 

Being at the pinnacle of chosen path makes one successful but being a good human being adds to that success. But I have seen many “successful” persons who in real have been average in what they could achieve. But they have marketed themselves with the authorities who matter. The success in public sector areas and having done the right “marketing” with authorities have earned some people with national accolades like “Padma” awards in India. Some have been so strong in “marketing” themselves, that their mediocre achievements or pseudo achievements remain hidden!   

How to compare success in area A and area B? A friend became MD of one of largest company in India. He also continues to be a very good human being. So, he definitely achieved great success in life. Another friend started a manufacturing unit and manufactures world class products, again a very good human being! If we compare the two, then who is more successful? It is very difficult to judge. Both have worked in different environments in private sector. Both were classmates but were not known to be “scholars” in college days. Another person, a known “scholar” in college times became top boss of one of the India’s premier educational institute. He was always in touch with Govt bosses because of his work. He was awarded with a “Padma” award. This person was recently heard giving a speech about education policy and was found to have put forth average thoughts. Who is successful among the three? I don’t know.  

Success is not dependent on whether one is successful in private sector or as an entrepreneur or in govt sector. Success is independent of the field you are in. It could be business, sports, art, job, armed forces, scientist, social worker or a politician. You must do a great job in what you do and remain a good human being even at the pinnacle; you must retain humbleness and show empathy for others. To be successful in life, one needs to be sincere, consistent, must have perseverance, must be able to take others with you.   

How you achieve these parameters, defines your success. More successful or less successful are comparisons done by others. It is probably impossible to compare success in two different fields. It is not possible to compare a great gymnast with a great scientist! People will always compare between brain and the brawn! Like in studies it is always said that those who are good at Math are very smart. I don’t think so. One who is very at good music is equally smart in his own field!  

This discussion and comparisons are unending; but one thing is sure that the world becomes a better place with successful people. But this success should not be a “marketed” success, it is the success of the human who has contributed to the society, keeping core values intact. But one thing is sure that “success” list is not the same as list of successful candidates declared after college, school level exams. It gets mixed up and many a “back benchers” end up at the top!