Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Friday, October 29, 2010

108. Coward

Scene 1:

I am traveling with three colleagues – two men and one woman. On our way, we stop at a roadside hotel for tea and snacks. The hotel has more chairs in the open ground than inside. It is evening time. The interior of the hotel is not so good, so we prefer to sit outside in the open air. We are just wondering whether to eat anything or a cup of tea would do, bang comes a vehicle. It is black Scorpio, playing loud music. Four young men get out of the vehicle. They are chatting loudly. They pull the chairs and keep on talking – more of laughing in fact - loudly. The driver of their vehicle gets outside, leaving all four doors of the vehicle open. The music is still on – piercing everything around.

I don’t like loud music. I also don’t like insensitive people. But I do not hurry. I always believe in giving people time to settle and to understand the environment around. The music is disturbing everybody there. It is obvious from the looks people are giving to those four men. Our group is disgusted with the loudness of music. There is a hushed discussion on ‘how people do not have manners these days.’
I know there is no point discussing the issue amongst ourselves. The noise making guys do not know that we are disturbed by their music. Without conversing with them, how can we assume that they will understand what we want? Whether we want or not, dialogue is an essential part of the life. So, I get up. Knowing me well, my colleagues are aghast.

“Don’t go and say anything to them, they will not listen to you”, one of my elder colleagues almost orders me. “Let me go and request them whether they can bring down the volume of the music. No harm in requesting, at most they won’t pay any attention to me...” I try to convince my colleagues. By experience I know that if I approach people in non-aggressive manner, people generally accept the request.

“No, they don’t seem to be of the type whom you can request”, another colleague chips in.

“There are so many people around. Why you only have to go and talk to those people?” another colleague is irritated.

“Let me try at least. I don’t intend to pick up any fight with them. But I cannot sit with this loud music here…” why I am apologetic even when I am not wrong – I do not know.

“You will not talk to them. If they say something mischievous to you, I will not be able to control myself and there will be a fight”, my senior colleague reminds me again. They three make me sit on the chair. For the next half an hour we all sit there irritated, angry, frustrated. We do not enjoy our tea and our well deserved break.

Scene 2:

I am traveling from Mumbai to Ahmadabad. Until the train leaves Borivali station, there is never peace around. So, till then I compromise with the situation. After the train leaves Borivali station, everyone settles down with the luggage and silence spreads.

However today there is some noise. Some people have the habit of speaking loudly on their cell phones. May be, one of those is in the coach today. Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. Now I start getting irritated. I try to locate the source of noise. I am sitting in the 15th row and the sound is coming from the first row. I approach the first row and notice that two youngsters are watching a movie on their laptop with full sound on.
“Hello guys, the volume of the movie is really disturbing me. Could you tune it down please?” I ask politely. One man says ‘Sorry’ and immediately the noise vanishes.

When I come back to my seat, at least ten people sitting in the middle rows “Thank” me for my action. I just wonder why none of them could request those laptop guys.

Scene 3:

I am in a train again, with another colleague. A young man is sitting next to me. At one of the stations, vendors enter in the train. People purchase eatables and magazines and soft drinks. One of the passengers sitting in the next rows says something ugly to the vendor. The vendor must have so many such experiences, he just neglects that rough speaking man.

I do not know what exactly happened, but I suddenly find the next row guy abusing the young man sitting next to me. The language used by the man is horrible. He is threatening the young man. The young man is confused. He tries to argue with that abusive man. That adds fuel in the temper of that abusive man.

I look at the abusive man carefully. He is wearing fancy, costly clothes, expensive wristwatch and goggles. He seems to be educated and rich – we all are in an AC compartment. I am not sure what has provoked this man – but the language he is using is unacceptable, unacceptable in public space. I am going to try conversation with this abusive man. My colleague senses that and urges me: “Keep quiet. Don’t say anything.”

I am aware that it is night time and I how can I not know that I am a woman! But does it mean that I don’t take a stand when someone is abusing an innocent person – though I do not know that innocent person?

The abusive man is making loud phone calls. He is inviting his gang at a particular station and threatens the innocent young man again. The innocent young man is frightened now. He asks me whether shifting to the next coach would be better for him. We are talking in a low voice. I advise him to stay where he is – at least we know that he is innocent – the passengers in the next coach would not understand anything. An old man sitting in the back row is interested in our conversation. He apparently knows this abusive man. His advice to the innocent young man is: run away as fast as you can. Get away and catch another train if you can.

To me the back row man says: You please keep quiet. Don’t say anything to that abusive man.

In front of the whole crowd of frightened and confused passengers the innocent young man sneaks away. The abusive man is making another series of phone calls – describing the young man and ordering his friends to “look after the young man”.

For me, my inaction was scarier than people’s response.

Scene 4:

Delhi Metro. From 3rd October the first coach is reserved for women. Generally there are Metro persons guiding people at the platform. However, few men still find themselves in the women’s coach. Whenever I come across such men, I politely inform them to move to the next coach. Generally they accept and move on. And all the women who are sitting and standing around me say ‘Thanks” to me. But why they did not tell that man to move away?

Why am I such a coward? Especially when I am with someone? Many times I feel we are at our best when we are left to ourselves. When we are bound by the people around, we are supposed to please them, accept their beliefs and life values. This leads to many compromises, which makes us a different person altogether – forcing us to behave differently than our beliefs. So, better to be away from bondage.

We wait for someone else to take a lead – because our approach to most of the situation is that of confrontation. We assume that a fight will take place and hence we keep ourselves away from intervening. But many times you can resolve the situation by just having proper dialogue; you don’t have to be aggressive to make your point. You have to believe that the person in front of you does not know (rules, expectations, demands of the situation etc.), so make an effort to convey those.

If only I could just stop behaving like a coward, I would be able to learn more, grow more, enjoy more and live more happily.

Cowardice is the biggest barrier one has to cross to live like oneself – the greatest fulfillment one can have in this life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

107. Seed of Goodwill

I am waiting for him in front of a Mall (which he had told me) near a Metro station beyond Yamuna river in Delhi.
I am bit anxious. We had talked few times on the phone. He sounded like a person whom I can very well trust. But one never knows.
I am in unknown parts of the city, in not much familier city. It is evening time - the Sun has already disappeared beyond horizons. I have a plan to explore unknown areas with him. What if he is not a good person?

Sounds like a bollywoodish story? Too familier?
No, that is not the story. This is a different real life experience.

I meet G at the appointed time at the appointed place. He looks young but he is a family man - married and has kids. Within seconds I start walking with him. We move on to different areas. G is helping me to identify accommodation in Delhi. We move on from place to place - first in a cycle rikshaw and then walk. On the way we talk. He asks me questions about my job, my past, my hobbies, my plans. Without any hesitation I answer his questions. I too ask him about his work, his family, his hobbies. He answers those.

At the end of the house hunt, he is coming to see me off to the Metro station. I know that one of his colleagues is waiting at his office. I insist that I would go alone and he can spend time with his colleague. He invites me to his office. I go in. There is nobody except his friend. G asks his friend to bring in soft drink for us. We drink that cool liquid and chat.

I call S - to tell him that I am with G and possibly my search for accommodataion might end here.

Who is S?

I have met S only once. I was referred to him by D.

Who is D?

D; I met long back - sometime in 1996. We were part of a meeting and then he motivated me to write. Till then I was writing only scholarly articles but never about my thoughts, feelings and experiences. D was instrumental in drawing out that side of me. I wrote a series of articles for a newspaper that year - thanks to D. Incidently D was the editor of that newspaper!

Then I lost track of D. Recently when I started my Marathi blog, AbdaShabda, I posted some of the writing that was published in 1996. I rememberd D, wanted to say Thanks to him. One of our common friends connected us and we started communicating as if there was no gap.

A seed sown long back has given so many unexpected fruits to me.
I am sure it happens to all of us.
The seed of goodwill has such a long and ever expanding life! It brings surprises, it brings happiness, it brings so much joy .. and it produces many more seeds of goodwill.. that is the beauty of it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

106. Moment

Life seems to be a constant flow of moments.
Each moment is in a way independent, but collectively they make something called experience, memory.
The chain together shapes personalities, perspectives, attitudes, and the entity called life.

The moments are of despair, of pain, of joy, of happiness, of creativity of loneliness, of frustration, of passion, of detachment, of creativity, of what not.
They encompass so varied feelings and situations that it is difficult to provide an all satisfying definition or arrive at common understanding.

While living some moments, one feels that it is permanent, it will exist forever. One tries to hold on such moments. But they vanish. They disappear altogether. One cannot re-live those.

On the other hand, when one wants to forget some moments, they seem to haunt, they seem to highlight themselves. They seem to be there all the time, with more vigor every time one looks at them.

A moment has a very little life, and we give it longevity, by our choice.
A moment has a very little life, and we forget it immediately, by our choice.

The moment: when we make our choices.
The moment: when we decide how we are going to treat it.
The moment: when we detach ourselves from the past.
The moment: when we overcome pain and find ourselves a different person altogether.
The moment: when we forget and forgive.
The moment: when we do not expect anything from others.
The moment: when we cross the barriers and grow.
The moment: when we smile and move forward.

These independent moments weave together, make us and shape our life.
Like everything else around, life too is momentary.

Better to just have it. Fully, as far as it exists.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

105. Sejal’s World

I wish I could borrow Sejal’s innocence.
I wish, like Sejal I could trust all.
I wish, like Sejal I could see the hollowness of the ‘beware of’ announcements.
I wish, like Sejal I could instantly be connected with everyone around.

Alas! I know Sejal is not only that – not that I know her thoroughly. Sejal might have her fears and her worries. Sejal might have her moments of broken promises and lost trust. Sejal might have been ignored and dumped. I have lived enough to understand the ups and downs of human life. I know that every human being that we come across is a package – we cannot choose only what we like in him/her and throw away rest of it merrily. Life would have been too easy then. We have to accept people as they are – in the process live with what we do not want and do not like.
But is it the outcome of situation or of paradigm?

I can see the question coming from all of you.
Who is this Sejal I am referring to?

Frankly speaking, I do not know much about Sejal. I may never meet her again. However the impression she created on my mind will remain for a long time.

I was traveling from Patel Chowk to Hauz Khas by the prestigious and comfortable Metro. It is an enjoyable journey. Especially with a coach reserved for women makes it more comfortable even though I have to stand for 20 minutes.

At Central Secretariat Station a mother and a four year child climbed in. The child was screaming for something. The mother was looking at the child but clearly she was not listening. Her mind was somewhere else. She seemed to be in trouble. Generally children know it very well. Within seconds I realized that the child was seeking attention of the mother not for herself, but that was the strategy of the child to draw mother out of her troublesome feelings and thoughts. But the child was not getting much success and hence she was becoming more vocal.

Other women passengers instantly understood the predicament of the mother and the young child. They tried to help. Someone asked the child her name, she refused to answer. Some other woman asked the child where she was getting down, the child refused to answer. Someone asked the child whether she liked metro, the child refused to answer. The mother was standing stone faced, the child was screaming and everyone around was helpless.

Suddenly the mother spoke, “Listen, there is some announcement.”
The child was so happy that her mother spoke to her, and her face illuminated. She smiled, her eyes fully shining.

It was a coincidence that the announcer was saying, “Be aware of strangers, and don’t be friendly with them” – not exactly in these words but conveying the same meaning.

The child was excited. “Ma, where do strangers live? I want to see a stranger.”
That was very unusual demand and the mother looked helpless.
To help the mother, one woman said, “Look, I am a stranger”
Everyone around was relieved and looked thankfully to that woman for intervention.
The child gave a piercing look to that woman. She touched the right hand of that woman as if to asses whether she was real. Then the child announced the judgment: “You are aunty. You are not a stranger.”

We all were struck by the simple answer.
“But I do not know your name. You do not know my name. So, we are strangers,” the woman was quite determined and was not giving up easily.

The child felt rather insulted at this. “My name is Sejal, I am not a stranger. You are an aunty, you are not a stranger.”

Sejal looked around. She said, “She is an aunty, she is also an aunty, and there is another aunty and the one reading a book is also an aunty. Here are all aunties. No strangers.”

I wish I could be like Sejal when dealing with the world. I wish I could trust everyone around and I wish I could establish an instant relationship with everyone around.

I wish at least Sejal could do it even when she grows. Sejal has her own world, let her continue exploring the world in her own way.
Whether our system will allow that freedom to Sejal is the question.
Whether Sejal will be able to face the world alone is the question.
Whether Sejal would be happy is the question.

If Sejal can do that, even if she is alone in her world, that does not matter.
Let it be Sejal’s world.

Friday, October 1, 2010

104. Thank You!


In a way they are the most ordinary words.
They are used much more without the feelings - they are more of a formality.
For me, they are more artificial than natural.

But still they are ok, when one speaks them.
The smile that accompanies the words, conveyes the meaning deeply.
And if there is no such smile, one can easily take those words as a mere formality - a much more superficial expression to hide the real feelings - sometimes; not always!

It was just a decade ago, that I came across Computers - and mainly its three aspects - Word Document - for reports and proposals. Excel for project budgets and PowerPoint for presentations.

I liked computers. I loved the machine in fact. Got addicted to it to some extent. So, picked up it much faster than my age or intelligence normally would have permitted.

Once I came out of the addiction, I could notice the humours aspect of peopel associated with Computers.

For example, there are many Power Point Presentations with the last slide 'Thank You' written on it.
That is ok, if the presenter means it.
In the last five days, I have listened to 10 PPTs and each of them had 'Thank You" on their last slide.
But most of the times, almost always, I have noticed it that the presenter him/herself does not know that the last slide is 'Thank You' or 'Thanx' as is more fashionable these days!
The presenter goes on and on, clicks the next slide and suddenly realizes that it has nothing more to offer than 'Thanx' and then s/he says : "So, thanks."
It sounds as if the person is compelled to say those awfull words.

But why say it when you don't mean it?
Why pretend?
Why try to follow manners when you know that they are meaningless?
Why not plan what you want to say?
Why can't one speak, communicate without some such media like a slide?
Why can't it come right from the heart?
Why not not say that you don't want to say?

Why not be just yourself?
People may like you or not like you.. that is their choice.
Why our pleasure should depend upon others' choices?

Oops.. I am not going to say 'Thank You'" to you for reading this post.