Live with Gay Abandon!

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“Tum Jiyo hazaro saal” is a song from Hindi movie Sujata, sung by who else? The great Asha Bhosle! The film had Nutan and Sunil Dutt in the lead roles. If one must use the idiom gay abandon, then this is the song sung by Asha Bhosle with real gay abandon. The meaning of this idiom is “In a happy and carefree way”. The way she has sung this song creates a happy feeling and maybe a thought process that we should also become a little carefree!

When we are growing up, obviously there is not much difference between a girl and boy child, except for the sexual difference; along with this difference accompany specific ways in which the girls and boys behave. Girls like to play with dolls and boys with cars. It is their inherent nature. But it is you and me who tell the girl child to become subdued; oh! You are a girl. I am ok with suggestions about the modesty aspect of it, as the world is full of complex situations and people. But in making them comply with the so-called modesty, many times we also kill the exuberance and vivaciousness in them. But this is only one side of the story. Even males become subdued as they grow. What is the reason for this? The change is because some people are born serious-minded; this creates thinking that we must become serious and subdued as we grow. We abandon the “Gay Abandon” attitude.

How many people are there in your life who laugh their heart out over a nice joke? Not many. Ok, you need not be too exuberant in the formal settings but on a personal level, why not? Why not do whatever you do, wholeheartedly? I will tell you something about the cultures of different communities. I am a Maharashtrian, and till my generation, the atmosphere in our homes was subdued most of the times. Dancing Maharashtrian was a myth. But during my daughter’s marriage, we had a musical program where the whole family danced. Did we dance? We danced with gay abandon for a couple of hours! Slowly this trend is seen in many families. As against this look at the Punjabis! They will dance at the drop of a hat, they will sing, they will enjoy life! We have extroverts or introverts, but the majority is introverted. The Britishers have a stiff upper lip. The South Indians, as a rule, are mild-mannered introverts.

What is the difference between a child and an adult? To start with the child has no inhibitions, so they enjoy things wholeheartedly.  As we grow, we are supposed to become mature, steady and serious. People in their small groups may be a little more free with each other, but this behaviour is limited inside the closed walls. I will share an example of a Punjabi family. We were on holiday in Nainital, a few years back. We were having a cup of tea in the garden near a lake. A group of people came for a stay. As soon as they got down and saw us, they waved at us and said, “Sir, how are you? How long will you be here? Let us have fun.” Next evening when they came back after a fun-filled day, one of them came and said, “We got some lovely fish today. I will tell the cook to serve you the fish. I hope you eat non-vegetarian food!” Not many others will behave this way.

I have a theory for this. Punjabis who live on the western border of India have always faced the brunt of the attacks by the enemy for more than a thousand years. For them the life must have been so uncertain, they evolved into, what else, Punjabis! Why don’t all of us treat every day as a war like situation? Such thinking may make us boisterous and freewheeling like our friends from Punjab. Why do we think of rules and constraints all the time? I am not saying you break any laws or regulations but why not make yourself open! Take a dive in the water instead of dipping your toes!

I have seen my granddaughter Rhea growing up. She is 5 ½ years old. She is spirited; she has terrific ideas in her mind. We play games like a home, running a restaurant. She decides the role-playing characters. We have never prevented her from asking any questions; we have never told her to stop doing something. All this is always done within the framework for basic home rules. These rules include minimal screen time, finishing her food in the plate always and so on. But our discipline has never stopped her from laughing,  dancing, sharing a joke. She treats us as if we are of similar age when we are playing games. As her understanding is increasing, she is turning into a pleasant personality! She is a happy, boisterous child.

People should do their work seriously but should not take themselves seriously. We don’t need to move around in the society with a poker face! Don’t forget that it is also a funny world, not everything is serious! The other day I was walking down the road and saw a person waiting for someone. In a hurry, he had put on a black shoe and a brown shoe! I pointed it out to him, and both of us had a great laugh. He quickly went home nearby and made amends. I could have ignored it; he could have got wild at me. But we both chose a better option, to enjoy!

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We have become so serious in life that we have started “Laughter Clubs” in our society. Common causes for laughter are sensations of joy and humour. When many people join the laughter clubs, it indicates the malady in our society. You don’t laugh at anyone, but you can always laugh with someone. Nobody can stop you from laughing at yourself! One can always say, “What a fool am I?” and laugh it out.

A human being laughs when the feeling of joy and humour is generated in mind. But not all react the same way, that is the crux of the matter. You meet a friend after some time, why not give a big smile and bear hug! You feel it that way so why not display it? Why hold yourself back? You meet your ex after a long time. A lot of water has flown down the bridge. So why not enjoy the moment? After all, the person was your ex, and you have had a great time at some stage.

There are so many beautiful but small things in life that we miss them, we forget them in our journey called life! Years back, during my tottering days of blog writing, I had written a blog about “My favourite things”. We all have such lists, and I am sure my list will bring a smile on your face.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/few-of-my-favourite-things/

Let me assure you, the feeling of joy, living life with gay abandon are infectious things. Others around you will slowly change the way they react, and the world will become a better place. I had a neighbour a few years older than me. Whenever I would phone him and ask how he was, his answer would be, “It’s so hot (in summer)! Oh, it’s so wet ( in monsoon)! It’s so cold ( in winter)!” He was never happy. For me, summer means Mangoes and pre-monsoon rains. Monsoon means greenery everywhere starting with drenching in the first showers. Winter means sleeping a little more with blankets, and going for a pleasant walk decked in sweaters and scarves, after a hot cuppa!

It’s your mindset that decides the joys in your life. Some look at everything with dark glasses like my friend mentioned above. They can never live life in full and neither do they allow their near and dear ones to enjoy it.

Friends what I have said is beautifully captured in the French phrase Joie de vivre. The French phrase is often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; it is an exultation of spirit. It “can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do… And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, an absolute joy, a philosophy of life. It involves one’s whole being.”

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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.

 

 

 

 

Dachau-Arbeit macht frei!

The meaning of this phrase is “WORK SETS YOU FREE”. It is ironic to see this at the entrance of the Dachau Concentration camp!

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We were to reach Munich to start our Alpine Holiday. We decided to reach there a day early as I thought that we must visit the Dachau Concentration Camp, 15 km from Munich. Auschwitz may be the most known of the camps, but Dachau was the first camp that started in 1933. Since these events are 70 plus years old, I have shared a brief history of the camp and this concept in general. Our tour guide had pointed out that since this is not a picnic spot, we should refrain from posing for the photos, we could, of course, take as many photos! When he was explaining the details, there were goose bumps on body and by the time the tour was done we were mentally drained.

 

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Although Dachau was initially established to hold political prisoners of the Third Reich, only a minority of whom were Jews, Dachau soon grew to hold a large and diverse population of people targeted by the Nazis. Under the oversight of Nazi Theodor Eicke, Dachau became a model concentration camp, a place where SS guards and other camp officials went to train.

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The “new” camp, completed in mid-1938, was composed of 32 barracks and was designed to hold 6,000 prisoners; however, the camp population was usually grossly over that number. Electrified fences were installed, and seven watchtowers were placed around the camp. At the entrance of Dachau was placed a gate topped with the infamous phrase, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Sets You Free”). Since it was concentration and not a death camp, there were no gas chambers till 1942. Thirty-one thousand plus people were still killed here though it was a death camp, mostly, Jews!

 

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WALL SHOWING SOME OF THE NAMES OF WHO DIED!

Throughout the Holocaust, several concentration and death camps facilitated forced medical experiments on their prisoners. Dachau was no exception to this policy. The medical experiments conducted at Dachau were ostensibly aimed at improving military survival rates and bettering medical technology for German civilians. These experiments were usually exceptionally painful and unneeded. For example, Nazi Dr Sigmund Rascher subjected some prisoners to high altitude experiments using pressure chambers, while he forced others to undergo freezing experiments so that their reactions to hypothermia could be observed. Still, other prisoners were forced to drink saltwater during efforts to determine its drinkability. Nazi Dr Claus Schilling hoped to create a vaccine for malaria and thus injected over a thousand prisoners with the disease. Other prisoners at Dachau were experimented on with tuberculosis.

 

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Initially, political opponents were kept there and slowly as the Nazis became stronger, they brought Jews, Homosexuals, thieves and more people. These people were used for producing items for the war machine. About 30 subcamps were created around Dachau to help increase production. Though people were used for slave labour, many were asked to stand at attention in freezing conditions for hours together, and of course, many died.

 

Was the visit to Dachau worth it! Of course, it was! Such visits bring humans back to the reality of what has happened not in too distant past! And showcases to them what can happen in future! The German nation has taken the hit on the chin and has developed these areas as visiting places so that those who want to understand such horrible events will know what happened. They have not hidden their warts! The German education system has ensured that their children visit at least one such camp as a part of the curriculum to expose them to this aspect of life. I am sure they must be learning what not to do in life!

The human mind is impossible to fathom. We have known of so many sacrifices made by humans to save others’ lives at the cost of their own lives. How can humans become so cold-blooded as to kill people just because they have a different religion, different sexual orientation? How humans could be used as Guinea pigs to perform some medical experiments, though sure deaths were known! When millions were killed in Gas Chambers, not even one person thought that this should be stopped! No one thought they should protest! Was that mass hysteria? Was it a mass fear of authority?

It brings me to my favourite subject, is this possible in today’s times of relentless social media? I think this would be impossible in today’s times. If you look at the world today, North Korea is leading in such acts followed by some countries. But even strongly autocratic countries like China and to some extent Russia are not able to hide their follies because of internet. With Julian Assange’s of this world, it is going to be even more difficult for governments to hide things. In today’s world of “breaking news”, information is available to you if you have some communication device in your hand. You don’t have an option! News can spread real fast, probably faster than nuclear chain reaction!

So let’s pray to Him that generations after us do not have a chance to visit Dachau’s (created by later generations) ever; hence, they should never be allowed to happen! I always feel that in Indian reference, it is important to see Taj Mahal and Nainital but it is equally important to visit Jalianwalla Baug! It is our reality check!