Be a proud foot soldier!

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Five years back, I had written a blog where I wrote my thoughts about a tree that we have in our garden. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/ 

In retrospection, I find that my impressions of that time have hardly changed. The world can never be full of topnotch performers, leaders, inventors, people who lead the human race. The world is full of average people, with ordinary ambitions like you and me. You may never be famous, but that is ok! Do I mean to say that we should never dream, we should never think big? Should we not keep on gazing at stars? Should you not be the one hitting the sixer to win the Cricket World Cup? But there can be only a Dhoni to millions of cricketers playing on the grounds of Yorkshire, Maidans of Mumbai and the gullies of small towns in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is ok to be average.  

In the days of modern communication like FB and WA, the perspective can become skew. When an event takes place and is shared, you get a million likes! (Ok, I am exaggerating, but you get a lot of likes) You have some similar event in your life, but you don’t publish it on the FB, or maybe you publish it. You get five likes. You don’t need to get frustrated. What you have done is liked by your dear ones, and you have felt the joy because you did it. To me, the pleasure of doing things is more important than getting the likes. Just because you got a minimal number of “likes” does not mean that your deed was less important 

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You don’t have to change the world or find your one real purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter what their dreams or circumstances are. Success is not in fame and glamour, but in routine and mundane too! Real meaning and purpose of life can be found in doing something useful for your family and friends. Cheering up your friends, and spending some time with a person who is unwell and looking for company.

We have been lucky that many people come to Jaya and me to share their woes, sometimes not even looking for advice. We are not analysts, nor are we experts in resolving personal issues. But it is a great pleasure to see a smile on that person’s face when he goes after sharing.  Here what we do is give them an ear and make them feel at home. Tricky situations in someone’s life should do not make them bad people. We should make sure that their dignity remains intact after the discussions. 

In today’s world, we see many achievers who are below 30 years of age. Their every deed, every achievement gets them on TV and the internet. After watching these repeatedly, we start feeling inferior, for no reason. We think this way because we inadvertently begin comparing our lives with those of the achievers. We believe that the achievers life is the new gold standard of how to live life. But don’t forget that you are not called to live their life, you are to live yours! 

Your life’s calling is to help and love those near and dear ones in your life.  You should do this in your neighbourhood, your community or your circle of influence. By doing these good things, you may never be on TV; you may never be publicly praised. You may never be garlanded. Your fulfilment is based on what you are doing on your own rather than whether you are your interviewed on TV or there are articles written in various publications. In whatever you are doing, give your best shot! Make the best of what your life has given you.  

Look for small gems that life brings to you. Your grandmother may have better advice for you than the bestselling author.  Your mother might share with you a little titbit, which might help you complete your project faster. You may find a single mother telling you more about the sacrifice that some expert on TV may say to you. 

These are the men and women we ought to seek out in life—and learn as much from them as we possibly can, about living life to the fullest. Seek out those mentors. They may never be famous, but that’s O.K. 

In the blog link above, I have said the same thing about the flower Parijatak. That flower is not a fancy one like a rose or a heliconia. The Parijatak is like a footsoldier but keeps marching along like the infantry. It is not glamorous; not many people discuss it, not many write about it. These trees do not offer shade like their cousins, the Banyan and the Mango trees. But they keep on giving pleasure in their own way.  

It is not a crime to be well known and famous. But a tiny percentage of people reach that pinnacle. That does not mean that you and I are not important. It so happens that among a lot of talented people, some are at the right place at the right time. Hence, they reach the top but if you don’t reach there, it is not the end of the world. Not reaching the top does not mean that we should not enjoy whatever contribution we are giving to this world; we should always enjoy it. Offering the same help and support to others is a joy that cannot be compared with anything. A Padmashree winning person and one without the award may be doing the same work, with the same passion. Not winning the award should not make you unhappy because your happiness is in doing it and not in being recognised. 

Keep on marching, friends! That is what the foot soldiers do. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Connect to be Happy!

Passing through the doors, you rush ahead and hold the door ajar for the lady! Chivalry? But in today’s times, with women power and all, this could lead to an embarrassing glance or two.  Right? No, wrong! Don’t hold that door for only the ladies but do it for men folk too! The word for this gesture changes from Chivalry to empathy! Show empathy friends; you connect emotionally with others by showing compassion! Such acts are essential, and this is what differentiates humans from other species. An experiment was conducted in the 13th century, where newly born babies were kept away from human touch, emotions and interactions. All these babies died.

I came across a term Limbic Resonance. Limbic resonance is the idea that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system of the brain. These states include the dopamine circuit-promoted feelings of empathic harmony, and the norepinephrine circuit-originated emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger. Enough of tech terms which we don’t understand. It is the empathy and non-verbal communication between mammals that connects them. A child hugs the mother when there is fear or doubt in mind. The hugging gets things going in the child’s brain, and normalcy is slowly restored. Without Limbic Resonance humans will become unreachable and heartless like lesser animals. This property is common in all mammals.

There are some lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are perfect for us and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier; they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. The experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others, find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.

I will share an example of a friend. This friend is from a different religion than Hinduism. He lives alone in Mumbai and has gone through health issues. Luckily after the initial scare, the problem turned out to be an easier one to handle. He is a widower too! In the recent election in India, NDA looked like being a winner by miles. Media had been hyper how the NDA government will make India a Hindu state. After the election, the friend talked with his Hindu friends and requested all of them to help and make sure that Hindu fanatics do not become too aggressive. The friend asked them to ensure his safety in case of some unfortunate events. Due to loneliness, he has lost touch with society and his mind must be hyperventilating. Friend, start getting back in touch with the community, don’t remain away, don’t force loneliness on yourself. That you live alone is a fact. But whether to be lonely is in your hands!

A friend has an interesting way of looking at life. I was walking with him once; the friend had his dog with him. On a footpath, one beggar was sitting with his dog. The friend stopped, gave the beggar some alms. Then he asked the beggar about his dog, and they exchanged notes about the dogs. While we were moving ahead, I could see the shine in the eyes of the beggar. My friend said, “ I only acknowledged that the beggar exists. Such acknowledgement of persons is fundamental in life when you have nothing else to look forward to”.

I have experienced this personally. Once during my morning walk, I observed some very senior citizens, standing and chatting among themselves, outside the older people’s home. I stopped and said hello to them. One thing led to another, and we spent an hour talking together. My chat, now I realise, was making them feel wanted in this world. It gave them the recognition that at least some people in the world are aware of their existence.

Showing empathy is one way of connecting with people. A way to show your empathy is to listen, summarise and show! Very few people have the art of listening to people, and I am not one of them. When I am discussing things with others, I tend to answer even before the other person has completed what she wants to say. But if you follow the “listen, summarise and show” method, then the other person feels nice. The person feels that you are connected with them.

We see some people selling stuff at the road signal junctions. They are trying to live life and earn some money. Many people behave very brusquely with them. Some ignore them as if they don’t exist; others make some rude comments. It is quite simple. Is there any harm in showing them some empathy? Why not just smile at them and indicate that you do not want to purchase anything or say that you do not want to buy the stuff. This small gesture will make them feel a little better, knowing that someone is acknowledging their existence.

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You don’t have to change the world or find your one real purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances. You don’t have to achieve something that will give you a Nobel prize. Giving a little joy to others is good enough. I had mentioned in one of the blogs,  the tag line of the Voice of America radio station of the ’60 s of the last century! If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours!

To resonate with others, we need to connect when it matters. Such connections nurture both us and others and earn trust. Just as in cricket, timing is everything. Proper timing will score you six runs in place of dot ball. It is here the metaphorical doors come in. How do you feel when someone holds the door open for you—especially when you’ve got your hands full? When would you hold open a door for another person? Keeping a door open at the right time indicates tending to the need of the others when essential.

All those people want to be understood and appreciated. By connecting in this way, they trust you, follow them, and you are actually looking out for their interests. You are attentive and willing to open doors for them. The power of resonance will keep you happy and healthy and open doors for you too!

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So friends, open that door and hope that you have done it at the right time; you will see the inkling of a smile in the eyes of others, a little brightness, and an instant connect! The gesture might open some vistas for you! By the way, even empowered ladies love this, let me assure you!

People in our lives, courtesy FB!

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In my childhood, in fact, in everyone’s childhood, there have been games like “My spit goes farther than yours” played with friends. It was great fun & did we enjoy such games!! Facebook game of “My Friends list is longer than yours!” appears to be the latest variant of the childhood games. But is it fun? Does it have childlike innocence to it?

I joined Facebook a few years back when someone suggested I join, and I joined. I did not have much knowledge of FB (today also my knowledge level of FB is not much different.) What is FB, why do we use FB, are the questions that come to my mind? I know that Mark Zuckerberg is the owner and I also know that there are N number of more zeroes in front of his wealth figure than that of common man’s wealth would have. I have seen the movie Social Network based on the birth of FB. Beyond this information, I also know that this site is used for socialising. I am aware that that FB is now used for advertising, I presume it is like google advertising. In between news feed, you will get a few ads for banks or MakeMyTrip and so on. I am sure it is a paid service, and FB gets paid for this. But this benefit is for FB and not you and me!

In earth’s history, we define periods as AD and BC; similarly, there are times Pre FB and Post FB! Life has become very different during these time zones and it is difficult to compare these pre and post-FB times. In Pre days, people used their phones to talk to each other or physically meet up, now people write on your wall to ask “hey, how is your hernia doing?” In post days I have seen people posting their journey details when they travelled from Mumbai to Delhi by road, a snippet of posting. “Finally we reached a reasonable Hotel, and I rushed to the loo, what a relief!!” Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw must be squirming in their graves, “Why I could never write such Gems during my lifetime”?

What is the best way of using FB? Every individual has a different opinion on the same. I use it for an essential function of birth date management. FB reminds you of the birthdays of friends, but I like an idiot do not write on the wall, I call people and talk to them on their birthdays. Initially, I used to be worried; I thought people would think that I am breaking their privacy by calling them. But I have realised people like it if you call!! I am on FB, like United Nations observer. I do not do anything. I observe what others are doing. It probably helps me understand how people of different generations interact with each other. I use FB to publish my blogs!

Senior citizens and retired people are in their own world. They keep on posting about subjects that they pursued during their active days or of the fields they wanted to take up but could not get the opportunity or the forum. The younger female gang around twenty-five, have a peculiar way of saying things, it is FB language (Chow Chweet etc). Of course, they keep on writing about sweet nothings! Then the very young brigade can have 1300 to 1500 friends, may write about anything in this world. In the case of active young ones, this figure can reach even 2500. It is okay because they are trying to find their path in life, and this includes finding of who real friends are. Then there are mature persons in forties; even they sometimes put personal stuff on FB. Did we share personal details with 200 or 400 hundred people in Pre FB days?

There are an average of 200 friends for many, but this figure can reach 400 in other  cases. Do you have 400 friends in real life? Do we even have 200 “friends” in real life? Friends is an FB term, but it is mostly acquaintances. Can we handle so many friends? Friendship is like any other relationship & needs to be cultivated. After your daily grind, do you get time to cultivate such large numbers?

I have seen two persons around the age of fifty, who have around 2000 friends!! 2000 is a large number under any thought process. How are these people selecting friends? Is it that in your daily work or life if you talk to a new person or meet a new person, you immediately send him/her a friend request as soon as the meeting is over? Is this Zuckerberg’s idea of Facebook? I have seen some people advertising their business opportunities daily to the same 2000 people by way of the news feed. Won’t people get fed up?

It reminds me of a story I read in newspapers. A lady became friends with an unknown person from a different town. One thing led to another; then they decided to meet physically. During the meeting, the guy had different ideas and started getting physical with her. The lady resisted and that resulted in the guy getting wild, and ultimately he killed her! Do people understand the meaning of dealing with people in anonymity? What people write and what they are can be quite different. When you meet people face to face, from gestures, eye contact one gets the feel of the personality. Behind the computer screen, this is not possible, and you might end up meeting a Frankenstein!!

 

The world is full of people who follow different, paths! I am talking of a personality we met much before FB days. You come across them, through newspapers, in personal interactions, if you are lucky. We were fortunate to meet Mr Anna Apte. When we met him, he was eighty plus. His passion was to write a book about computers in Marathi. The event was more than 25 years back, in the early ’90s when computers were not so common. Anna had never had formally learnt computers, but his zeal was to be seen to be believed. He would come to our home before 7 am, of course with pre- intimation. Jaya used to leave for office at 7.30. Once he had taken an appointment, he would be there on time, come what may! It could be raining; it could be freezing weather in Pune winters. Nothing would deter him. Anna would come all wrapped up, with his eyes shining. He would come for 15 minutes, get his doubts cleared from Jaya and then go with an ever-smiling face.

Do we ever form such relationships on FB? I have my doubts. Probably all the technology that we have can bring different advantages. But we “know” people in the real sense only when we meet them face to face and regularly.

Friends! Some of you know me through my blogs! Some of you knew me before my blog avatar! But the love and blessings that I get from all of you would never have been possible if we had become only FB friends! I came in touch with a lady who is my age! She collects donations for a social a organisation. A high level of closeness  got created with her, though we met only once or twice a year! Can FB give such friends? Only Zuckerberg can tell!

 

 

Society Living!

First things first! My sincere apologies to my friends who read this blog yesterday! I was trying the WordPress site on my cell phone; after finishing a couple of paragraphs, I inadvertently pressed the “Publish” button.  The incomplete blog got published. I am now completing my blog; I am sure that those who read it were surprised, but can reread it if they want to!

The modern life has created a new way of living together, cooperative societies, condos or colonies. The concept started taking off in ’70 s of the last century. The idea is kicking and alive. In Mumbai before this was “Chawls” where people lived and in Pune there were “Wadas”. The main thing common in those structures was common toilets. Some homes had bathing places within the homes, and others used a small washing area in kitchens as a place to take a bath. I am now old enough to talk of “Olden Days” or “When I was young”. But I have realised over a period that each era had its fun and difficulties, joys and sorrows. I will meander through these times and share some incidents, anecdotes or narratives.

Now with several people migrating all over India, all the new societies have become mini India’s. These homes have become “homes away from homes”. The neighbours replace relatives, and people celebrate festivals from all religions and areas of India. We see cosmopolitanism at its best!  Later another wave of migration starts and parents of the young ones move in with their children. You have kity parties, Daru parties, senior citizen parties, kids having fun together.  The evenings are full of gala times, and many children are seen playing physical games and remain away from screens of all types. All in all, these are modern mini villages!

The first home I remember was in Mumbai, at Dhobi Talao behind Metro. It was a six-story building. All were two-bedroom flats, and each had its bath and washroom areas like in flats. My father worked for the police force, and the flats were rented by the Government from the owner. The name of the building was Gopal Mansion! We kids had a real time in those days. A fascinating thing happened in the life of Gopal Mansion.

http://gopalmansion.com/

A few years back, S.M.D Charitable trust purchased this building and converted it into a very neat and clean low-cost living facility for people who travel from outside Mumbai for the medical treatment of their near and dear ones. There are many hospitals around this area, and the people get to stay in Gopal Mansion for supporting people under medication and treatment.

Later when I bought my properties, those were in the Societies or Condos. The experience of living and interacting with people is fascinating. I have lived my life after education, in Pune. Shortage of water is common in most areas. In one of the societies, we had severe water shortage. The committee decided to call a plumber and get every water connection in all houses checked. The society consisted of 120-row houses/ townhouses with interconnected terraces for a group of home. One of the persons simply refused to allow checking of his taps on the terraces. One enterprising person suggested that we could go to his terrace from the next house. The tap in his water tank was leaking and water flowing all the time. Leakage must have happened for quite some time, as a lot of Moss had grown up in that area! So much for responsible, educated citizens! He was fined heavily!

In the city of Aurangabad, one fancy condo complex came up, and the homes were quite expensive. It was expected that people would have two cars and a couple of scooters. The facility was provided for these numbers. One guy had 16 cars, either BMW’s or Mercedes! He would park all of them on the premises. There used to be minor disputes on the subject, but recently a dispute blew into something huge. People got embroiled and had fist fights followed by police complaints. Next part is interesting. People had doubts about 16 cars and all and were not sure what business he used to run. Complaints were made to the Election Officer that person is handling cash for distribution in the ongoing elections. There were counter complaints. At the end, when the police came, they found out that the person was already in jail for some other reason! Let me tell you from my experience that the committee is going to find it very difficult to handle this person.

In another society where I have a condo, there lives a known bad element. I don’t live there. I am told that the person uses the house for nefarious activities; he probably runs a high end escorting service. On top of this, initially, whenever he entered the society, he would come brandishing a gun! (In India, Gun laws are extremely stringent!) The committee team went and met him, and they requested him not to display his gun, at least! Luckily he agreed to it! He does not pay his monthly subscription on time! Recently, a committee member saw his car in the society. (the person does not live there) By the time a few people came together (for obvious reasons they meet him in a group!) he was gone! Who will bell the cat?

In another society where I used to live, the nasty person used to live. He was hands in glove with the builder! In the initial phase when the builder used to handle day to day work, this person used to take his cut on money collected from members. During cooperative society formation, he used to help the builder by sharing details of internal meetings with the builder. When he sold his home, he made sure that the society would be required to go into litigation for the money that was due during the transfer! He used to steal diesel purchased to run the generators!

In another society, there was a funny incident. The usual water shortage was tackled by some people coming together to go to each home for checking the leaking taps! While they were doing the checking, they found out that one of the taps in a home was leaking heavily. The lady of the house was suitably embarrassed and immediately got it repaired. The funny part was that the lady was part of the group who were volunteering to do the checking. How can one miss such leakages is a mystery to me!

I know of a person, living in an independent bungalow. He was the maintenance in charge of a large engineering plant! Whenever we went to his house, we would always find taps having serious leakage. He used an ancient 50-year pump (maybe installed by his father) to pump water into the main tank!

My observation is that people have been learning to live in modern homes but have to share responsibilities. One important aspect is that you cannot choose your neighbour! Secondly in modern careers, people travel outside India for work and look for better and better facilities. But they forget that costs are involved and many times pay reluctantly, though they have high double incomes, sometimes. Most are becoming mature but now main issue that comes to the fore is their egos! There are unnecessary disputes and fights just to satisfy egos! But all in all, it is fun to live in these modern villages or towns tucked away in major cities! Merging of languages and citizens for various places in India happens very smoothly.

Salute to common, modern “Society Living!”

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries, local organisations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organisations also use the term. 

 My buddy Nayan shared with me an interesting article! It was under a mundane title “Thought for the day.” The writeup was summarised well in the last sentence! 

“Don’t forget that while you are busy growing up, your parents are growing older!”  

Our biological age increases every second which is known to us. The phenomenon is as natural as a tree grows. The basic fabric of today’s society started to form around ten thousand years back when humans took up farming. Farming meant that you sowed something, which would take a month or two to be ready. So, when you planted, you stayed put at that place. Starting of organised farming was the process of the switchover from a nomadic society to a stable community which is rooted at a site, though this happened slowly. You liked the surroundings; there was a river nearby with plenty of trees! You had your plot for farming and built a shelter. That was home. More people came and stayed put in that area; this was the creation of the village.  

Organised society created stability but took centuries to reach today’s format. With stability, came revolutions of a better kind, Industrial revolutions. This revolution brought scientific thinking and research in society. In the last hundred years, there has been tremendous progress in the medical field, treatment, and healthcare. We are becoming a healthier society. The population has grown in substantial numbers. The phenomenon of “parents also growing” is a recent one from the last 30/40 years, at least in India. This problem has been existing in countries like Japan for a much longer time. 

As usual, I will blame everything to longevity, improved food quantity and quality, better medical facilities (though affordability can be an issue). Are all these changes bane or a boon? Of course, they are a boon! The only point is that we are not used to them. A few years back a Japanese friend requested me to send some chikki for him to Delhi. Chikki is an Indian sweet made of Jaggery and peanuts. My friend wanted to take it to Japan for his mother who was around ninety years of age. In Japan, they used to get similar sweet in olden days when his parents were younger. My friend shared with me that his father was 93 years old and would go and buy grocery a couple of times in a week, travelling in a Metro.  

Coming back to the article Nayan shared with me, in India another significant change is taking place. Along with longevity of parents, the children are travelling to greener pastures in different countries of the world. Some migrate permanently or go on projects for a few years; then get better opportunities and continue staying away from “Home”! Definition of the home has also changed. Children move out of the “Home” many times after 12th grade, so technically they have left home to take up professional courses. Post education, they start their career in India or abroad. At that juncture, the parents may be busy in their jobs and could be in the age group of 50 and 60. Around 50 years back, males died 3 to 4 years after retirement. Now they don’t, which is good news. But this has led to the issues for which Indian society is not mentally prepared. Parents are living much longer than at any time before, and our community is not prepared for it. We do not know how to handle this, and there are no fixed norms. Do old parents live away from their children? Should they live in old people’s homes? The problem becomes even more complicated when one of the spouses dies! Who will look after parents if they become weak and cannot handle their activities? What would be the support system? There is no organised support system, at least in India.  

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So, the article suggested and shared a story of using modern technology, not for automation but to remain in touch. A group of very senior citizens created a WA group, and it was mandatory for each member to send Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night message to the group at a particular time, allowing for some deviation. Messages made sure that persons in the group are ok. If a message from someone was not received for a specified time duration, they had formed a system to go and physically check with that person. In the story, somebody did not send a message, and his friends rushed to him and found out that he was unwell. They rushed him to the hospital. Later when the son came, they explained to him that providing for is not the only need of the parents, but they need to interact with someone, meet someone when possible. They asked the son, “When did you last talk to your father?” “See, that’s why we have this group. Otherwise, we people would be talking to walls and windows”, the couple said as they left. This was the whole point.

Nayan and I were room partners in COEP hostel; later during the day our third partner, Sharad sent me a story about a lady from Switzerland. In Switzerland, people get sufficient pension for their retired life. But they have a concept called “Time Bank”. The lady, who had retired and aged 67, was helping some people who were 80 plus. When she retired, she took up an assignment of supporting these old people. She does not charge any money. Whatever time she puts in is added to her “Time” account. This “Time” can be withdrawn when she will need support in her older days. There will be someone to support her who will put in “Time” which will get added to the next person’s account and the cycle will go on. What a fantastic way of supporting older adults in need of support.  

It struck me with an idea of combining two different stories which are two very similar thought processes. Today our group of college friends are of the age around 70, but at some stage, some help will be needed, so here is what we can do. These are preliminary thoughts but can be converted into a full-fledged system. 

  1. Create a WhatsApp group- use it for daily tracking as mentioned above 
  2. There are some apps available to track the user’s location all the time, and certain people like his family and a few close friends can know where the person is located. (Ok, those who are going meet the girlfriends will also be tracked!)  
  3. I don’t know how far this is practical, but one must have a landline at home. Sometimes the mobile phone doesn’t connect!  
  4. Include likeminded younger people who have just retired. They will be volunteers who can physically take up support responsibilities. 
  5. Subgroups can be formed based on the locations. But the basic system alerts could be used by all.  
  6. There can be a team of volunteers of much younger people who are willing to take up a social cause. They can take it up as once in a month activity. The volunteers can 
    1. Take the elderly to shops, banks or small purchases 
    2. Take them to movies, dramas 
    3. Arrange community get-together for the elderly 
    4. Help them go to local offices 
    5. Train them with the usage of new gadgets and technologies 
    6. Play games or solve puzzles with them- find your way of spending time with them.  
  7. I read one interesting but touching story of an old woman whom a volunteer would meet once in a month. They got very close to each other. One day she said that she wanted a promise from him. He was surprised as she had never demanded anything from him before. He said, “Ok, tell me.” She said, “Will you promise me that you will shade some tears when I die?” 
  8. Give them love and affection.  

Your question is right why the title is Mayday! Mayday! It is not an emergency situation, yet. The situation I have described above is the real-life situation, and it needs to be treated with the same priority we give to the distress signal. Else? I don’t know.  

Looks like destiny is going to bring Sharad, Nayan and me back together though Nayan is in California and we are in Mumbai-Pune area.  

Friends, you will hear much more from me on this subject, in future. 

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I am humbled!

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Friends are going to call me and ask why I have used antonyms in the title. Most friends will pull my leg and tell me that the words Pramod and humble don’t go together. But I am sincerely humbled. I started as a tottering blogger somehow managing to write  400word blogs; what I wrote in those days and what write today are both called blogs! A captive audience of Jaya, Sachin and Priya encouraged me, initially! They would give me a star once in a while, as I was in KG stage of blog writing!  

During a dinner last evening with my college mates, a friend asked me, “You were never a literary type, how did you end up being a serious blogger?” I started thinking about my journey and how I ended up writing. We never know where we are going to end up in life, about the place where we finally settle down, what career is one going to choose, whom we would marry and so on. For my preengineering years, I was in Mumbai’s Elphinstone college. I stayed at the hostel with my dear friend Sharad. One day we just decided that we will move to COEP in Pune. The reason why did this is unknown but it is possible that we thought hostels in Mumbai and Pune would be the same, so why not! In plain English, we still do not know the reason.  

Our stay in hostels changed our view of looking at life. We learnt to absorb shocks while living, without any fuss. One night a friend slipped from the roof of the building and died; he was a stargazer. We had no option but to absorb that shock; we would show brave face as if nothing had happened. After a few months, there was an earthquake which shook the building, literally. Again, we handled this event as if nothing had happened. But we were shocked from inside. Someone or the other would always be short of funds at the month end. Others would ensure that he never felt the pinch. But all were vicious against those who were nasty and would cheat on others to save the money. Some did well in exams, and some did not. Friends and partners were always there to discuss and support while facing tough times. In most cases, we did not even know anything about the background of others; they were simply friends. The hostel has given me life-long friends, and I cannot write the names as the list in real loooong! Along with Sharad, Nayan was my room mate! 

Our stay at the hostels changed the horizon and gave us a different way of looking at life. The similar change I had felt when I moved to live on the 7th floor condo a few years ago. Before this, all our homes were on the ground floor. I had apprehensions about how I would feel by not being “grounded”! But then I don’t know when the perception changed into a broader (and taller) way of looking at life. When we moved to the 7thfloor apartment, I was taking cancer treatment. In the initial phase of the treatment and posttreatment, we had time on hand to sit in the balcony to observe the rolling hills, flying birds and movement of people and vehicles in the small bylane that was visible from the balcony! Jaya had retired just before my treatment started, but did not get even a few minutes of retired life; my granddaughter and I kept her very busy. But when we started sitting in the balcony for tea or chit-chat, we realised that unless we changed our thinking and took a new approach, our vision remained constant. By changing the fundamental approach to thinking, we look at life differently, it provides us a different perspective.   

I found my bearings with the blog “Dance of Civilisation”! It gave me confidence that I could write more and was not feeling intimidated by the thought of writing and publishing. This process of writing and publishing gave me pleasure, and it was enhanced by your comments, phones, WA messages and analysis. Recently people utterly unknown to me have become followers of the blogs. 

Friends, I am honoured by receiving comments from you on my blogs. Vijay gives his thoughts on most of my blogs and shares his thoughts. Vijay has almost become a blogger now and writes long comments and his opinions on what I write. Another friend Pradeep started reading my blogs a couple of months back, and he has read most of them. One great thing about Pradeep is that he does not mince words when he shares his opinions. Pradeep lives in the US and shares with me his views based on his stay in the US for the last 45 years. Some insights that he shares are the result of his extended stay in the US and his analytical mind.  

One comment which I liked the most is by a friend. He minced no words and declared, “You have started thinking that you are an expert in every field, but to me, it is pseudo expertise!” The comment made me think about the way I write. But on the same blog, another friend who met me for breakfast said, “You don’t write like an engineer and keep things very vague.” I told him, “I try to explain two sides of the same subject instead of stressing my viewpoint only.” Such conflicting comments confuse me. A friend is saying that I am a pseudo and I give my strong opinions without considering the other side; whereas the other friend blamed me for being too mild and not writing specifically what I want to say.  

To become a better writer, I have bought software that checks grammar and gives me suggestions and shows my errors. Similarly, I need to locate a software which will analyse the different comments and show me the way forward. One thing is confirmed that people think and talk about the same thing differently. It is like five blind men describing an elephant. The experience has also taught me that people comment about the content and not the way I write.  

In future, I am hoping to take formal training with online courses about creative writing and become a better writer. But the question is better than whom or better than what? As long as I am happy with the way I write, it is ok with me. But please don’t misunderstand. I am not claiming that I am the best blogger in town. I would rate myself as slightly below average on certain days and somewhat above average on a few days. Where would you rate me? 

Thanks a million! I have reached a milestone of the 400th blog which I had never imagined I would!  

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Back to Nature!

My friend Anjali made a beautiful comment when she shared her observations about nature. On a WA group, there was some discussion about the bird Swallow. She said, “You may not see them much in Mumbai as we rarely watch open sky in Mumbai. But I have observed them in Pune and Vadodara. Swallows nests are art by itself, the way they create them. There are many birds which I have seen sitting on the parapet which reminds me of my childhood.” 

Thanks, Anjali for taking me back to my childhood in Mumbai and Pune. Even Mumbai in those times was leafy, and Pune is still quite green. Over a period, some trees were required to be uprooted in Pune for redevelopment, but many new ones have been planted. We humans tend to forget the nature in our rush to live! What does nature do to your persona, your mind, your stresses? I go for my daily walks. My preferred time is 5.30 in the morning. In winter, I do not hear any activity of birds as Sunrise is away. But now with the onset of summer, one hears a lot of chirping going on. Probably Moms are waking up the kids to get ready for school! I walk a treelined path, and by the time I end my walk, my body is fresh due to exercise. In my mind, I feel as if I am in heaven as I see the different shades of greens, summer flowers and listen to the songs of birds. All this is accompanied by a cool breeze Modern young fellow humans walk with the earbuds and are busy listening to music or talking to someone on the phone. Once I had the opportunity to speak to a young lady when she stopped to check what was wrong with her music system. I asked her why does she not listen to God’s music in the form of birds chirping? She gave me a look which meant, these oldies …. 

When you are nearer to nature what is the effect? The research tells us that when people are exposed to the natural environment and natural features, they tend to have a reduced stress response. When you are out in nature you have lower blood pressure, better heart rate variability, better mood. 

Research also says that the significant change that happens in our mind is in the first five minutes. Later changes are incremental. Working people have higher levels of concentration and lower strain in the afternoon if these people take a walk in the gardens during their lunch break. It may help employees in replenishing the resources needed to perform well on the job during the remaining working day. 

The idea that nature is good for us has been gaining ground since the 1980s. First came the biophilia hypothesis, the theory that humans have an innate desire to connect with nature, followed by shinrin-yoku, the Japanese concept that absorbing the atmosphere in forests can benefit your health. Researchers of shinrin-yoku have since identified plenty of physiological and psychological benefits, while globally studies suggest time in nature can restore our ability to focus, increase creativity, lower the risk of depression and even help us live longer.     

Then are we waiting for some enticement? Why don’t we at least try to spend some time with nature regularly? One can always argue that it is impossible to do it when you live in cities. But I don’t agree with this at all. This interaction with nature does not cost us anything. I can understand that people are busy with work and do not find time for such activities. To me, it is about setting priorities. Try and find out huge banyan trees that are there in your city, go just see them. I am sure there will be at least one water body like a lake or a river where you live. Just go and sit there. You need not do anything. It is exceptionally soothing to your mind, to your ears to listen to the flow of water. If you try to make it one day picnic on the weekends then you may not get much time, there are other things to do weekends. But make a quick trip to gardens, lakes or walk on leafy roads. Make before the traffic starts.  

These are tree house and Manali photos. We have taken such breaks with nature in the background and found them very stimulating. Last year we took one week holiday in Manali, and it was serene. Snowcapped mountains, cool breeze and Sun not too bright. It was a blessing. Three years back we went to Brisbane, Australia. One hundred km north of Brisbane was a tree house resort. Jaya and I went there with one of Jaya’s classmates from her school days. We just hung around in the area which was full of tall trees. One day there was torrential rain, and we could not go anywhere. We enjoyed the onslaught of rains, cards, movies and reading! It was accompanied by cups of tea with rain pouring in the background. 

If your work involves sitting in front of a screen all the time, walks on the paths surrounded by the tree are going to be beneficial in two ways. First is the obvious one, walking and second one is the green surroundings cooling down agitation and stress in you. Even though  such a simple solutions are available we tend to ignore them; instead we end up going to doctors for treatment for backache and anxiety or stress.  

There’s also a lot of work done on the psychological benefits of being in nature – on wellbeing and cognitive functioning. In general, people are happier when they are closer to nature. Happiness is a broad concept, and so we measure things like positive and negative emotions, people’s sense of vitality, being energised and also how satisfied they are with life. When people are immersed in nature, even in urban nature, they tend to have more positive emotions and vitality than when they are indoors. 

These are Nainital photos. Being with nature regularly can be compared with sleep or a power nap. When you go for a walk during lunch break in the garden, it is like taking a power nap. Going out on weekends can be considered equivalent of trying to sleep for eight hours a day. Both are equally effective. A holiday in natural surroundings helps you making up for sleep deficit!  

These are some of the photos from the area near my house. I am sure there are such areas in each city. You need to locate them and start using them.