Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dubai - Am Back after 15 years

When I was born, my father said, "This is my dream girl." The best part about my childhood was in knowing that.

The second best part was that my dad used to travel a lot and always took us with him. While most people dream of visiting the top league touristy destinations, my dad looked for any place that caught his fancy. If there was any place where he couldn't take us to, he would ask what we wanted and even when he didn't have enough money, he'd get it for me and my sister. We looked forward to those trips more because it meant we got lots of stuff as gifts from him!!!

A doctor by profession, there was no real scope for him to travel but he used to save money to travel and within the limited means, he used to take us with him. He visited South Africa, Swaziland and Namibia even when those with Indian passports were not permitted to visit the country at the time due to apartheid. 

Every year, we visited at least two countries on a shoe string budget and a constant favorite for us was Dubai, the shoppers paradise, and as kids, we loved buying our clothes, shoes and stuff from Dubai. As a teenager, I remember buying a lot of my awesome gals stuff from Dubai. We always stayed at the Palm Beach Hotel and had a great time there. I think I've inherited the same love for travel from my dad and I am really glad that I don't have the "I will visit only the UK/US" attitude. The world is much bigger than that, don't you think?

Almost every weekend while we were in Africa, my dad would take the car and drive us to some location and we would camp in tents, eat local food without fuss (that's how I learned not to be a fuss pot - seriously, there 's no fun in being so - it ruins a perfect day) and enjoy just being alive and kicking. No frills, that was the way we traveled and how I still love it!

When I reached Std 12, all of this traveling came to an end. Life became tough because studies took the limelight and we didn't really have any time for such travel, especially as my younger sister was to appear for the medical entrance exams. You know how life seems at that point, don't you?

After 15 years, for the first time, my dad is taking us again. It means everything to him not because he is desperate to see Dubai but because it takes him back and closer to his golden days of traveling with his kids in tow. Dad was never one of those fussy travelers. He made friends with people easily (like me) and no one could forget him once they met him. But I also know that without me, this trip wouldn't be as special for him.

This time, we are going on an all-frills trip. This is Dad's dream and I'm glad, no, I'm thrilled to be part of it. More than anything else, my dad is taking Adi on this trip and that just makes the dream reach a full circle. 

More than this Dubai trip, more than anything else, what makes this travel special for me is - I am back with Dad and Mom, traveling with them to a golden past and this time, carrying Adi as my future and legacy with me. We will go beyond clouds to the realm of dreams because ultimately, it is those dreams that come true and make this life worth striving for.

Pray for our love, togetherness and happiness, please. 
Dubai - get ready for my family!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cochin twestival 2011: Why it Rocked!

Cochin twestival 2011 turned out as special as the spellbinding effect of the city called Kochi. People scoff at times, asking me why its so special a place to me in comparison with other metros that, according to them, are better developed today. 

The city itself has a magical appeal
You know, the city of Kochi is special to my heart. It is not where i grew up, in the literal sense. Even when I was living in Africa with my parents, Kochi held the key to my dreams and devotion. I constantly dreamed of this city, with its narrow lanes, bright as button red buses that look like long moving buttons and its cosmopolitan clutter of people constantly on the move as though they will miss a bus or a ferry in case they lost a minute.  

Generosity of Spirit & Love
For me, meeting tweeples I knew only through Twitter and getting to know them in person was a real highlight, more than the terrific rock band or anythingelse. It gave me a real feel into the generosity of spirit and love that streamed through Tweeple as they exchanged thoughts and notes about each other. 

Excitement in the Air
There was an excitement in the air, as though romance had lit fireworks in every heart there. Truth is, when people are able to open out to each other, irrespective of any cultural, religious or other differences, there is a real vibration of genuine love that is bound to crackle and make a difference.

Happiness in Being United, Standing Together


On March 24th, 2011, the Cochin twestival took place at the Cochin Gymkhana club. Right from the moment I stepped in, I sensed a synergy, that was palpable among those who were already gathered there and I looked at everyone - their faces full of joy and anticipation and tension that everything should go well. 

Helpful, Caring Volunteers at Cochin twestival 2011
The volunteers at the Cochin twestival deserve appreciation. They were reassuring, helpful and constantly on the move in anticipation of what's next. This is something that thrilled me, considering that many of the Tweeple were all meeting each other for the first time and this kind of dynamism from volunteers gave it an all time high feel.


Around 150 tweeps attended from all parts of Kerala. A welcome note and the twestival video kickstarted the occasion, and a brief insight was given about blogging and tweeting in Malayalam by Mr Pradeep Kumar and Mr Adarsh. There was a discussion about the Adarsh Charitable Trust, followed by a talk on MAD.

Is there a Malayali who does not love rain?


What thrilled was the presentation on Ente Mazha (My Rain), an active rain lovers community in Facebook. It started like this, "When Jayakrishnan wrote a letter to Clara for the first time, it rained. Whenever they met, it rained...." This 'pingili' intro brought a taste of nostalgia and romance to the young hearts gathered at the Cochin twestival 2011. Is there a Malayali who has not felt emotionally drawn to the love story of Jayakrishnan and Clara (Thoovanathoombikal, a film directed by Padmarajan)?

Cochin Twestival 2011 also held prize distribution for  blog competition that was held as part of the twestival and it went to @cyberganga and the prizes were given away by Ms Sharanya Nair.

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala


This post on Kerala's caste system has not been written with an intention to ridicule or glorify any caste as such. I do not ever judge or like to be judged on the basis of my caste. I do not support any form of caste discrimination because I know exactly how it feels to be treated differently because of one's caste. It isn't a great feeling.  


First Question is always "What is your Caste?"
In Kerala, one of the first things you are bound to be asked by even new people you've just met is, "What is your caste?"  This is not a tirade against any caste but my experience, personally. And just for information, I have never used my caste name 'Menon' to this day. That is something I have learned from my father - who has never used 'Menon' in his name because he believes his destiny is shaped by values, vision and actions, not  by his caste.

As some one who is a Menon by birth, I can also tell you frankly that it often feels like a curse to be born as an upper caste in this state known as "god's own country." 

Except that it has some social benefits at times and in some places, it helps.

In Trivandrum, when I was studying there, I was the last admission to the hostel that was already full. I got one of the best rooms - very spacious for four people, and it had a clean bathroom too. I didn't know how lucky I was till i got to meet the others who were final year students.

They all told me that you had to be either a VVIP (you know i am not that!) to get the room in the first year itself, or you had to be a Menon (that I am). I was shocked. I couldn't believe it though I was grateful for getting a good room. When the phone in the hostel stopped working during a holiday weekend, some of the girls asked me to go to the neighbor's house and make the complaint by phoning the telephone department. I said, why should i do that, why don't you people do this?

They told me, "The lady of the house will let only upper castes into the house."

Several Kerala Christians and Muslims accept Caste System
I said, you must be joking. I couldn't believe this is happening for real. With these girls in tow, we went to the neighbor' s home. A Christian doctor's home! Imagine, and i thought Christians were totally opposed to the caste system! 

Anyway, the door opened. Lady of the house looked at us like we were scavengers, carrying some terrible infection. I explained and she asked very rudely, "whats your caste?" and when I said Menon, she said, "Only you come in, ask the others to stand out." I was so uneasy and angry. I made the call and quickly came off. This is the extent of literacy in Kerala - we ask for caste, we demand dowry and gold but of course, we call ourselves very educated and cultured.

In the same hostel that I stayed, another Christian friend's father who came to meet his daughter asked me my caste. When I said i am a Menon, he told me directly, "I always tell my daughter never to mingle with those who are not Nairs and Menons. It's a matter of our family honour." I was shocked. This is coming from a well-known businessman from Chengannur, a Christian by religion and his daughter is an engineer who is studying for IAS!  

No wonder, Swami Vivekananda called Kerala as a 'madhouse of caste.'

Kerala Menons have to fight for their basic rights
In real life, being a Menon is like being denied every decent right that is available to everyone else in the country. My father topped and got entry for both medical and engineering way back when entrance exams were not yet the norm. As always, the seat for medical colleges were prone to manipulation and his merit seat was denied to him because he is a Menon. Not just him, a whole batch of Menon students who had cleared and should have got the medical admission were denied the same in the name of caste! Thankfully, my father filed a case in court and it is the famous lawyer Advocate Shiva Shankara Panicker who argued his case (his son is Justice K Radhakrishnan, SC Judge at present). He won the case and my father got his medical seat. But he had lost an academic year during the litigation process and so did the others. Even now I don't know how much has changed for the Menons. 

It's a typical truth in Kerala that we judge the honor of a family by its caste and religion, and of course, social sign posts. This phenomenon has further divided Kerala as a caste-ridden, materialistic society that places almost zero emphasis on nurturing human values like compassion and commitment to the unfortunate or vulnerable sections of the society. We have become a state that is obsessed with status symbols more than anything else. This shame is growing with us, destroying all that was good, pure and beautiful about Kerala.

Okay, i am not accusing anybody here, am just telling u what an ordinary Menon/Nair/Nambiar goes through in Kerala. It also ironically means that you get more respect in the homes of Christians and Muslims who in turn love to call you by your caste name, as a sign of respect. For many of their weddings, they tell us, "We have kept separate seating arrangements for you, Menonkutty." Not sure whether that's a good or bad sign yet. 

In a nutshell, we as Menons and Nairs, are deprived of opportunities in education, government jobs and government promotion lists (but we have the right to die out of frustrations arising out of govt discrimination). Fact is that Menons in Kerala are denied jobs, education and promotions at every point. So what? We have social respectability, as if that can pay our bills! 

Worse, people prefer to forget that the very last Rajah of Travancore passed a law which allowed those who were socially vilified as "Untouchables" to enter the temples in his realm. This was way back in 1936. Does anyone remember it today? We talk of other social reformers who have now earned the status of gods. I admire them but why is it that the last Rajah of Travancore is never given the same respect? Is it because he is unfortunately of royal birth and lineage?

The one truth that everyone likes to bury is that it is the so-called, much vilified upper castes in Kerala that supported and paved the way for equality based social reforms in Kerala. Today, their contribution is buried under the sand and they are all condemned as perpetrators of caste based prejudices.

Mata Amritanandamayi on Caste
In an intimate conversation that I was blessed to have with Her Divine Grace Jagadguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma, as those of us who love her call her - but please note, I am not a devotee, i am someone who loves her deeply - ), I asked her, "Ammey, why is there so much hatred and anger and intolerance in the name of caste in our society? Isn't God above caste? Why is it such a big problem even today? Do you support it?"

Amma looked deep into my eyes and held me close and said, "My child, it has and will always be a big problem in our society. That will not change. No one can change it. You cannot change it."

I was deeply disappointed by her reply and I persisted, "But Ammey, you emphasis only on love. Why then do you speak in support of the caste system?"

She smiled a beautiful smile, the one that intoxicates our hearts with deep, unbelievable love. Then, she told me, "I do not support the caste system because God is above caste. Caste is of no importance to God. God sees and responds only to love. But when you, as a person and as a daughter in a family, live in a society that believes in caste and has age old practices relating to caste, you have a duty to respect the beliefs of others,  because you are part of the society, your family is part of it and so it goes from one family to another. God is not bound by caste, it is people who are bound by it because they chose to. Amma, specifically, believes only in love and not in caste."

I always wonder - Why is it that in God's Own Country, this is never really put into practice? Why have we not yet opened our minds and hearts to greater awareness? 

I am a Menon by birth. I will remain so till I die. But while I live, I will live as an instrument of God - that is what Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has taught me.

P.S. Before you abuse me saying that I am glorifying Menons or criticizing other castes, please understand this: I don't have an agenda here. I am a Menon who is married to a Thiyya and my son is perhaps the best amalgamation of both castes - half Menon, half Thiyya. I don't endorse any caste except the caste of humanity and love.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why does it hurt?

A very close friend of mine got married.  That's great news. I am happy for the couple and sad about how we have begun to communicate to our friends and loved ones.  

If we are angry, we use Facebook to send out angry messages rather than just sit down like normal people do and talk common sense. Or maybe common sense isn't so common anymore. I don't know how communication works these days.

Call this sentimental bullshit. Call it old fashioned values, which I am usually guilty of. But it hurt like hell to be hearing this piece of important, good news first through Facebook.  

If you were me, you would probably be more balanced than upset about it, right? That's what I am thinking right now to console myself.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thank you Twitter and Facebook

Thank you, my dear friends, for the overwhelming support and encouragement that you gave me in promoting and discussing my post "While Jyotiraditya Sleeps" - both on Facebook and Twitter. The responses, the feedback and the feelings that came through were so overwhelming.

I wish i could capture it all but i don't want to take up a lot of your mindspace and time. But among the many responses that I got on Twitter and Facebook, one comes to immediate recall with this message from Ashwin Issac, a fine young writer in the making whom I 've been fortunate to know through Twitter. 

He stated, "The post tells me a lot more of a mother's emotion to her son. Whatever I missed to see in Mom, I saw after reading this. Thanks a lot!"

As a writer, this comment is every writer's secret dream. To be heard by a wide cross section of people across the world, to be able to transform our thoughts into their action sphere and in the process, to be able to inspire them to forge new dreams and relationships. That is the core dream that spurs on writers to write what they do - it's about making other people's aspirations and dreams come true.

For me, the encouragement and positive feedback that I've been receiving from Twitter and Facebook cannot be captured in sufficient words.

All i can say is the two words that must be said though they fail to capture the emotion with which I am saying it, "Thank you." 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

While Jyotiraditya Sleeps

In an interview to a famous magazine, Indira Gandhi had once stated that no matter how turbulent or busy her day was, she had always peeped in to watch her sons sleep because just looking at their innocent faces told her that her world was this and not the political dramas that constantly swept her life apart - she said that she could never resist the temptation to kiss her sons while they slept because they looked like angels...too good to be real. 

I think I understand what she meant now. Because I am a mother and in a way, like her, a pretty lousy one at that.  When I was recently asked how it feels to be a mother, I went blank and with that blankness came the realization that I have never never looked after my baby. Not in the real sense of the word. 

That realization struck worse than anything I've ever felt in my life. That guilt boomerangs into my conscience, making me feel that I'm worse than I can imagine being. Nothing was worth it.

Or, is this the trauma that working women undergo? Maybe it makes sense now what my father always says: he has big dreams about his daughters, but his biggest dream is to see them as good mothers who are there nurturing the precious lives that have been gifted to them as part of their destiny and dharmic role in life. I know that deep within, my father is perhaps right.

As my son sleeps, dreaming of his birthday party, that he was so keen to have and he himself having personally gone and invited the parents of his buddies (and informing me later!!!), I am filled with deep pain and regret that I was never really there for him when I should have. I was too busy with my career. I never saw him take his first baby steps. I never heard him say his first words. I never shared his little pains, aches and tears. I was simply not there when I should have been. 

What makes it worse is that Adi is a fantastic child. He is so understanding about my work-centric behavior and that's just incredible. He tells me that he loves me all the time. I know he does and that's why missing his milestones hurt me even more. But maybe somethings were just meant to be - like I am selfish, while my mom wasn't - she sacrificed her dreams of being a career woman to become a mother for the two daughters she had. It sounds so easy - to sacrifice one's dreams - but in reality, in today's world, its the toughest and most difficult thing to do and I still can't do it. 

What makes me mad is that people so coolly assume that it is so easy to be a working woman - they take it for granted that you have chosen money over your kid, they imply it at every opportunity as if you are a robot, with no feelings but endless opportunities that you exploit. It's pure imagination. The reality is that you feel torn by two worlds and both are of your own making because both mean everything to your life and legacy.

And now watching my Adi sleep, I am torn with emotion. I am so grateful to God for blessing me with Adi.  I had prayed in temples after temples, churches and finally, in the masjid, for this beautiful son. He is not and has never been mine. I can stake no claims over him. God has given me this priceless gift for a beautiful purpose that He alone knows.  My role is to just guard what God, in his infinite wisdom, was compassionate enough to bring into my life. I have promised God that I will never intervene or interfere in the decisions and destiny that He makes for Adi. I know my place in this cosmos. I am not about to take on supreme soverign powers like many moms like to do. I don't have their wisdom or their competence but I trust God does.

Yet for the brief time that I have, I will continue to watch over him, like a star that is destined to look from afar and yet blink away its tears because no matter how it tries, it's destiny is to burn away, from those it loves and those it wants to hold near.

 In Elizabeth Noble's novel, The Reading Group, she writes:
"You could waste an amazing amount of time watching a baby sleep. When he slept, all his creases flatten out and his perfect skin, with no visible pores and no marks, was smooth. The tiny veins on his eyelies made them blush and the lashes cast a shadow on his cheeks. His rosebud mouth, with the tiny feeding blister in the middle of the top lip, pursed and unpursed in dreams...Every single inch of the baby is enchanting to his mother, from the back of his head, to the tiny toenails...When he is awake, you are constantly moving around him like a worker bee in his service. But when he was asleep, you could just watch him and marvel at him and let the balloon of love for him that lived in your stomach inflate until it almost hurt."

I can't believe it, my little prince Jyotiraditya is going to be five on March 14, 2011. Sleep, baby, sleep.

For now, for a while, you are still mine. But God, give me some more time. Please.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

International Women's Day: All's not well

Kusum Lata Sawhney did a fantastic write up in the Hindu Magazine, Sunday, March 6 2011, weekly edition, to celebrate the 100 years of celebrating womanhood on International Women's day. She wrote about what makes the mother-daughter relationship a truly special one. It evokes memories, brings to light how Indian moms are changing so as to sync with their own pressures, perceived failures and disappointments. She talks about how the values of life have changed. She reveals that today's women want things faster because they are more ambitious for themselves and not necessarily for their family's happiness. Let's face it - our problems as women have more to do with our values and ambitions and less to do with male domination, that we so commonly hear of.

The same author  says, "The issue is not whether we are spoilt or not, but in fact, to understand that we are spoilt and we have to rein it in. ...It was very different before. A generation that was grateful for what they had, working constantly to make it better but realistic enough to know what was possible and what was just a pipe dream."




This is true. I agree. 

Two generations ago, it was unimaginable for daughters to question their mothers. I know this sounds unbelievable but I've never raised my voice to my parents, I have never argued with them and if I ever did, it was always with my sister, never with my parents. Even now, I can not even imagine raising my voice to my parents. It's just the way I am. 

We have come a long way. 

In the days of my grandmother, for instance, it was unthinkable for a "respectable" woman to step outside the house unless she had the protection of her father, brother, husband or son. In many parts of India, this still applies but women in general, from those who work in the fields to those who occupy glamorous jobs, we have traveled a long way and contributed immensely to families we are a part of, societies that have benefited from the work that we do and overall, the nation's growth.

However, all's not well. There are widespread social consequences.

Here are some:

Safety

Ask any older generation or contemporary Indian woman what she fears the most - safety would be one of her answers

A friend from Mumbai told me that whenever she travels alone or stays in a hotel alone, she is doubly careful not to mingle with others and she keeps to herself than risk giving the wrong impression that may lead to trouble later on.

A friend of mine, who had worked in a multinational company Bangalore and in other cites, told me that her worst experience was when she worked in Kerala.  As part of marketing, she had to meet affluent clients and most of the time, they made suggestive comments, lewd remarks and insulting gestures. When she complained to her employers, they said its part of life, its part of the profession, they offered no help, assistance, they told her to deal with it because for them,  the affluent clients cannot be lost but they can always get another employee.

In Delhi, if you are working and you are single, the one thing you are alert about 24X7 is how you are perceived by others at the workplace. A majority of working women fear cab drivers particularly if they are traveling on their own.  

We are celebrating Women's Day but the biggest problem affecting Indian women is still safety.

Real Happiness

Today's Indian woman appears happier and more in control of her life than ever before. 

But, is there real satisfaction and real happiness? 
There is a constant pressure that today's Indian woman faces.  The quest for real happiness continues, like an internal struggle for most women. Earlier generations had not pursued this pipe dream and that was their safety net.

For example, a single woman today has to face the pressure of her family and society to get married to a respectable family, not always of her choice but that of her parents. It's not a bad thing but not a great sign of advanced India either.  

A single woman who decides to put off marriage for a later date is subject to the worst kind of moral judging by those around and near her. Her reputation is torn to shreds, forcing her to rethink her decision or risk losing her reputation.

Has any of this changed? Not unless we decide to begin with ourselves.

In the course of my work, I have met several bright, talented young girls from good, educated families who see their work as a temporary phase before marriage and force them to marry against their wishes. Some fight, some give in - but what makes it sad is that the society forces this on some one because of gender, not even giving a voice or choice. The richer and more well settled a girl is, the more of a trade-off her marriage becomes. It's happening today and we all know it but the society keeps mum. We no longer have social reformers with guts to challenge what is happening in the name of family honor and respectability.

Take married women. If they are working, the pressures of doing the balancing act is double the effort, strain and tension. They have to be social and professional multi-tasking robots.  Gradually, they become great at it but at what cost? 

Peace of mind ends up in pieces, tensions spar at work and boomerangs at home because not all women have the ability to segregate what happens in office when they are back at home,  and so many little things like that affect a working woman.

If its not a working woman, the family related worries and pressures take a toll. 

Where is the real happiness in any of this? Happiness in a woman's life becomes fleeting like candy floss.  

But of course, we must celebrate womanhood because we are doing a great deal of amazing things that our grandmothers couldn't imagine and tey would be proud to see us doing it today.

My maternal grandmother did not study at any place but she was a very beautiful and intelligent woman.  She was married off very young and she had children very early in life, perhaps at an age we cannot imagine. 

What I always remember about her was that my grandmother was happy, simple and very spiritual. She took great pride in her family and her children. 

She never cribbed and she was very tolerant about things even if she didn't always agree with them. She never said her life is incomplete because she didn't earn or because she became a widow when she was in her forties.  She took life's twists with complete faith in God. 

I used to jokingly ask her if she would have accepted if her sons had married from another caste or religion and she used to say, "I don't mind at all. What matters is they love each other. I would never never like any of them to marry because the girl's family has money." 

Today's mothers - will they say the same? Time will tell.

When she turned sixty years old, she renounced wearing jewelry and vibrant sarees. She said that she wants to prepare for her death by leading a simple life. It was a choice she made and a bold one because no one liked or approved of it. Today, it is inconceivable to meet a woman like that but in that generation she belonged to, it may not have been a rarity. 

Women like my grandmother saw their family as their wealth.
 
We, as women, are tied to those whom we love and by destiny. We cannot run away from the children we bore, can we? We cannot and we will not. 

An Indian mother cannot run away from the responsibilities that she holds close to her heart.

Freedom of Choice
There are so many professional, highly competent women who are unable to even exercise choice of clothes that they want to wear because their fathers, husbands or their in laws will not permit it. 

Of course, they won't permit it for fear of how their women are perceived and the safety issue creeps in but even so called contemporary women don't always use the choice of asserting themselves because they know the implications of exercising such real choice would rock a boat that's already dithering in troubled waters.

That brings us to the problem of choice. Indian women, through their journey as girls, brides and mothers, were never given any real choices by the society. They were reined in by the guise of customs, traditions and what not so that they would remain respectable and would uphold the family's honor. 

Many girls in well-to-do families are not given choices because they are seen as chattel. This is true not just in affluent places in Delhi but in several areas in southern India too. 

It's not so different now. I have met many girls who say they chose x profession though what they really wanted to do was painting or modeling or singing or acting, but their families said that would be a disgrace or not socially acceptable, etc.  

We, as women, talk about making choices about our education, marriage and children. How many women really have ownership of making such choices in this country? 

Handful. Maybe less.

Coming back to Kusum Lata Sawhney's cover story in the Hindu, she sums up stating, "A mother may appear cruel but by being honest, she is demonstrating her love. As my mother keeps saying. 'No one else will love you the way I do' and when the child understands that no matter early or late - in those times or these times - it becomes a great source of power and fulfilment. No matter the times we live in."

Proud to be a woman. Happy International Women's Day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Facebook Request: What Not to Write to Me

Energy, in today's world, is a creative force with superior outcome (my definition of it) and when we come across negative messages or interactions, whether in real time or in our direct communications with others, it leads to unnecessary and uncomfortable emotions that can destroy the basic foundation of relationships. 

A lot of energy is thus wasted and generated based on mistaken perceptions that we assume or presume from what other people say or perceive about us.


The reason I am writing this is because I believe that many things that I write, tweet or say openly should be construed in a positive spirit by those who spend time to read it. I have faced several recent situations where something I have written or said is misinterpreted.

Please consider this a genuine request that is not written with arrogance but with helplessness when some people send me unacceptable Facebook requests, among others as given below:


1. This is a request to all my Facebook friends and blog readers. 

Please do not send me reactive emails, assuming that an article I wrote is a reaction to something relating to your life or situation. Thank you for reading my blog but please understand that whatever I write on my blog is based on my life and my situation. Please refrain from reading unnecessary meanings into what I say or do. It may have nothing personal to do with you because my world is different from yours and your priorities may not be mine. 

If this is hard to believe, sorry. Maybe we don't share the same wavelength or mind space and perhaps we should understand that some spiritual, cultural and ethical values can not be the same for everyone. I have mine, and I respect the fact that you have yours.


2. I am a very private person, please do not send me FB invites unless you know me and unless we have some kind of dialogue on meaningful issues that interest us. This is not arrogance and please don't see it so. 

In fact, a majority of my FB friends are those I have never met but they are my emotional support system today.  Everything I discuss with them has some meaning in my life. They help, support and advise me and vice versa when required and maybe I trust them more because they don't try to barge into my life and make judgments at one go.

When some FB friends knew that I am taking a break from work to be with my family, they offered job opportunities for me in their firms, even to the extent of sending my CVs to key people. They did this without meeting me or knowing me personally because they cared and they felt responsible for my happiness. These are precious people for me both on Twitter and Facebook. 

When I needed an urgent product plan, I contacted only three FB friends. Their responses were honest and sincere in return. They tried their best to share their best inputs with me. They didn't have to. They don't know me. But they still gave it their best shot for me. Relationships on FB are like that for me. There is a lot of creative synergy and trust that is impacted. It is difficult to develop the same trust with each and every one and I am sure that you would understand too.

However, recently, I have been getting ridiculous invite messages like, "Hi dear, we met in college and want to meet u in Delhi" - sorry, I don't respond to such messages. If you met me in college, I'd know instantly who you are and whether I want to be even friends with you on FB.  Maybe I may not want to be friends at all. Please give me my own space. 

I 've  also got messages like "Can we be friends? Do you know where to buy fish in Delhi as I am from Kerala and I need to eat seafood?" and "I like your smile, can we be friends?"

Sorry - I am the wrong person to send such messages to. Its ridiculous to send me an invite like that. 

Please understand.

If you still want to send me a Facebook invite, you can but please introduce yourself more contextually. Tell me a little about who you are, what your interests are and something on those lines rather than "hi, we met in a book store/college/shopping mall, can we be friends" -
it makes no sense to me. Sorry. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thank you Baba

Past midnight, we went out for some black tea to stay awake, and Hubby and I snatched some moments together, having tea, taking a stroll, & just talking abt our best moments in our life's journey together. Everything has been Sai's grace because the two of us never planned to be where we are today.
Thank you, Baba.

Mahashivrathri 2011 - Unforgettable

When I was growing up, the Mahashivrathri Bhajans were conducted in our house, or in the homes of family friends. In those days, bhajans were conducted at homes. For the same reason, I know the intensity of hard work that goes into demonstrating it successfully. After a break of eight years, I took part in the Mahashivrathri bhajans till 6 am in the morning.

The bhajans always start at 6pm and continues till 6 am in the morning. For those hosting it, every little detail has to be anticipated - 

will there be enough space for hundreds of people to sit, 
will there be batches of singers to fit into the timeslots per one and a half hours, 
will the refreshments be given every two hours, 
will flower garlands wilt and need to be replaced in five hours, 
will oil need to be refilled in lamps at x frequency, 
will prasad if prepared early get spoilt by morning, 
will devotees need soft cushions and temporary arrangements to lie down, in case there are older devotees, 
should water be served more frequently during bhajans so that singers dont find their throats turning dry, 
will there be generator back up for mike system in case of power cuts etc.

There are countless little details that hosts have to address throughout the Mahashivratri Bhajans. For once, it felt good to go and sit as a devotee and not as a host. The International Sai Center did everything to perfection and the credit goes to the hard work and 24x7 commitment of the Seva Dals (volunteers who are blessed and chosen to serve Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's mission to love and serve all through service based initiatives). 

The singers - male and female - were fantastic. Even at 2 am and 4 am, they sang with gusto and passion. They made people like me forget about sleeping. The singers were young and old, displaying the strengths of age in a balancing act. The young singers have good, clear voices but they have the 'i know what I am singing' cool attitude and that sometimes leads to a few scrapes and jerks because they have to develop control of their voice gradually, if you know what I mean. 


For the old singers, the strengths were more. Their voices were so well modulated that they could have given professional singers a run for their money. Also, they don't take risks. They know how to curve and bend the ragas beautifully. There is attention to detail and to perfection. Most importantly, the older singers are more conscious about singing in a way that blends with the musical instruments and the rhythm of the song. 

I would hate to make a choice but if I had to, I'd say the male singers outdid the other group. It's funny, come to think of it. I too have been a bhajan singer in the Sri Sathya Organization in Malawi, Zambia and Kerala and I know the kind of rigorous practice that we constantly do to excel in singing bhajans. However, the male singers outdo us everytime and I can't understand how or why because they (men) don't practice as often and as rigorously as we tend to do. 




This Mahashivratri, I prayed for myself, my family and for others with all sincerity. People, especially logical and goals-oriented people, scoff at the significance of such auspicious events. You ask them to a cocktail party, it makes sense to them even though by the end of those parties, not a shred of common sense is usually left. You ask people to pray for their own welfare for a change, they ask, "What can God possibly do that I can't?" 


Let me put it this way. If you close all the windows in your home and ask the sun, "If you are so damned powerful, try and enter my house now!" Obviously, the sun, an important source of life and sustenance, is not going to lose its powers. Those who open their windows will usher in sunlight into their homes, and those who challenge that energy giving source turn out to be the actual losers....it is their own growth and vitality they compromise on in the long run.
Without prayer, you will drown out the voice of God that guides you gently and gives you a sense of direction in your thoughts, words and actions.  

In the Bhagawad Gita, for instance, Krishna dons the humblest role though he was  a prince in his own right - he becomes a charioteer. Why? The symbolism is that God takes on any role possible in your life - provided you are open to God -  to control your five senses and guide you to take the right decisions when you are at crossroads in life.

Wise men called man's quest for god as the path to self realization. Smart men are calling it mind mapping and discovery of new consciousness and knowing yourself, what not. There's nothing new about it.  In the context of Lord Shiva, the Vedas call it 'pure consciousness.' Whether a leaf, a beast or a human being,  the spark of pure consciousness is latent. That infinite consciousness is called Shivattwa (pure consciouness) and the symbolism of Lord Shiva reflects this all pervading principle - the ashes that He wears on his forehead- tells us that whoever we are, however great we are, all that is left of our relentless pursuit of life and death is the final result -the legacy of liberation from this vicious cycle itself. 

To become nothing but a glorified particle that adorns God as pure consciousness and be regulated by the Will of God, overcoming the vagaries of the waning mind, symbolized by the crescent shaped moon adorning Lord Shiva.

The spiritual energy during the bhajans was like sheer electricity. There was so much of love, faith and peace vibrating in the hall, comprising of hundreds of devotees from all walks of life and diverse age groups - it was just incredible to be a part of it and to be right there, praying for others and their welfare.


For me, it was a spiritual recharging experience because it has been so long since I could take part in something so intense and deeply overwhelming. Later, the next day, many people, most of whom I dont know and have never met, send me messages of affection, love and blessing to show that they are so happy that I prayed for them. I am happy too that they gave me an opportunity to prolong my tryst with God.


Thank you, Twitter - for the amazing blessings and love that came pouring for me and my family from all parts of India and other places. It's incredible and I am humbled by such unconditional, overwhelming support.


To God, I remain forever indebted.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jyotiraditya makes a Birthday Card for Ma'am

Today was Adi’s classteacher’s birthday. Yesterday evening, he was excited about it and wanted to make her a card. He had homework to do and preparations for his class test so we couldn’t help him to make the card.

Guess what? In the morning, he realizes this and begins to cry and rave and rant about wanting to give his ma’am a card. So, we quickly make our own B’day Card for Ma’am. It turned out pretty.

We cut out a small patch of pink glossy paper, the kind that is durable and one that you can use for projects and stuff. From a magazine recipe that was part of a write up on Valentine’s  day, we cut out the beautifully designed words ‘I Love You’ in 3D cube like image. We cut it small and stuck it on the pink glossy paper. We wrote nicely beneath, “Happy Birthday, Ma’am.” It didn’t even take five minutes to complete.

Then, inside, I wrote a happy birthday message for Ma’am, also thanking her for teaching so many valuable lessons during the year and for giving so much support and encouragement. I asked for her blessings in Adi’s life always because a teacher is also a life giver, someone who sets the right foundation early in a child’s life and I believe that.

Adi loved the card and took it to school happily. He presented it to Ma’am and he told me that she was overwhelmed with happiness. This is what Adi said, “Ma’am took my card, opened it and smiled so much. Then, she closed the card and gave me a kiss on my cheek! Everyone was looking”

A blush in Jyotiraditya’s cheeks and pride clearly evident in his voice. “No one gave Ma’am a card, only I did. Ma’am told me, Jyotir, I am so happy that you made this card for me on my birthday, thank you so much.”

Little gestures matter a lot in building and nurturing strong relationships. Somewhere, somehow, my five year old has sensed this early in life.

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