Friday, April 25, 2014

A Book Review: The Test of my Life by Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj Singh’s book ‘The Test of My Life’ has been summed up accurately by ‘Master Blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar in two words – ‘Pure Inspiration.’ I can’t think of a better word for this book.

Yuvraj Singh’s ‘The Test of My Life’ takes us through a tumultuous, personal account of Yuvraj’s life as a cricketer and cancer survivor. The best and most interesting part is where Yuvraj talks about his ‘deal with God.’ He told God something on the lines of ‘Take my life but give us the World Cup’ and it almost became true in his life, according to Yuvraj.
All of this is just an icing on the cake. There’s so much to learn and look forward to in Yuvraj’s book. You should buy the book - it's pure inspiration.
ABSOLUTE HONESTY
Throughout the book, you will marvel at Yuvraj’s honesty. It isn’t easy to write so openly about a difficult childhood because of parents who couldn’t get along with each other. It isn’t easy to confess how one’s parent would throw ice cold bucket of water on an early winter morning to wake up the child for ‘cricket practice’ or that a parent could become violent and dangerous if a cricket score wasn’t met. It isn’t easy to reveal how one parent fought with the other saying, “You are going to kill my son!”

An excerpt from the book where young Yuvraj tells his parents to resolve their differences in a calmer way for his sake and his younger brother’s sake:
“I had been trying to patch up things between them because I loved them both dearly. I think they understood the corrosive effect their relationship was having on them and us. They decided to separate and Mom moved out of the house. I think it was the best thing that happened to me till then. It meant my mother could finally live her own life, my dad his own…
“The way they used to fight, it was scary. It is through all of that I learnt internally to keep a lid on my own anger, to control it.”
It takes guts to write like this. Yuvraj Singh has that gutsy bone in him.  And every page of this book proves it.
IGNORING THE EARLY WARNING SIGNS
In Yuvraj’s book, he constantly refers to one important fact – he had ignored the warning signs till it was almost too late to save him. He kept putting off his health check ups, not taking the early signs seriously and not doing anything about it. He was finding it difficult to eat food without throwing up, he had serious breathing difficulties and so on. 
When he coughed badly and later saw blood in the basin, he thought he probably had bronchitis. Cancer never crossed his mind.
Instead Yuvraj Singh continued to think on about the ‘Next game – let it get over’ instead of opting for a comprehensive medical check up.
This is something we are all familiar with because we too do the same. We postpone health check ups till the warning signs are no longer there.
From Cricket to Cancer
Many months of denial finally caught up with Yuvraj – he had to confront the truth and it wasn’t easy for a fitness freak like him. Yet he makes an important point even in the midst of such pain –  every clinic, lab and hospital including their staff kept their promise of absolute confidentiality. He specifically appreciated this in the book with gratitude. I liked that about Yuvraj Singh.
Next where he described the FNAC test, I found myself crying.
As the needle went into my chest, as it pierced skin, tissue and muscle, it wasn’t a mere syringe at work. It was as if the doctor had pulled out a knife out of a fire and stabbed it right into my heart. I don’t know what the local anesthesia was supposed to do but it couldn’t be this. Surely, it wasn’t supposed to feel like torture or hell or death. In those few minutes, I felt trapped between living and dying…That night, sleep evaded me.”
If you don’t feel the sheer agony and pain that threads his words, you should check this with a cancer patient. They would enlighten you and you can send a prayer of thanks to the Universe that you didn’t have to undergo anything like this.
But I must stop now and resume Yuvraj Singh’s story in Part 2. 
If possible, you should set aside some time to read this book. It's such a heart touching journey into a fine young cricketer's perspective on tackling life's tough challenges, health and healing.
Stay happy, healthy and blessed.
♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all cancer care givers across the world including doctors, nurses, para medical staff and others who help in healing and making the lives of cancer patients bearable and happier through very painful phases. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who are in various phases of suffering and self-healing in a positive and  affirmative way. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Thursday, April 24, 2014

To Him, Whom I love

The first time I saw Him, I had a letter clutched in my palm. I was eleven or twelve years old. He ignored me and did not accept my letter.

He took my heart instead.



I can tell you this. If my heart is ever cut open, it is Him you will see there. 

Maybe more than all the oceans in this world, the continents that spans us, the words that embrace us, the love that precedes everything else, my love for Swami remains above everything else.

This life I have is truly blessed because of the sweetness of that love – the love of Swami that equals the love of a thousand mothers. He is Father, Mother, Mentor, Guru, Best Friend – all of this in one form. It’s hard to explain, really.

And yet I still have a thousand reasons to love Him. Maybe I don’t even need a reason. Loving Him is enough – the ultimate experience in my last sojourn of this life.

So many reasons to love Him:

He laughs at my fears and says lovingly, “Why fear when I am here?”

He has stood by me and showed me that nothing is lost when one’s life falls apart or when one’s trust in humanity crumbles. 

He alone helped me see that God is Love and that in our veins that same love runs like an invisible channel waiting to be channelized into the Universe.

He taught me that my pain is nothing but an inevitable awakening from the Universe – an awakening of love, compassion and awareness.

Even in the midst of bone chilling pain, His smile appeared, He made jokes that I found myself smiling at and I found the courage not to crumble, cry or ask “Why me?” 

Instead I said, “How can you joke at a time like this?” He patted my head and said, “You need to smile more through these tests, that’s why.” He has an amazing sense of timing, pranks and humor but few people know it.

He gives me love, courage and unconditional protection. He is my Hero.

I love my Lord, my Guru, my everything. His glance, His smile, His voice and His walk – I love everything about Swami. I don’t know any other way to say it.

And if I maybe allowed to make a wish today, it is always this -  May my final thoughts be of you - Swami, may I finally find my way back to you – the origin of my Being and may I say your name alone and none other with the last drumming of my heart beat.

[Today is April 24th – the Samadhi day of my God and Guru. This is my most humble offering at the lotus feet of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Your Voice, Their World

Your voice can be the hope of the blind.
Your voice can help transform lives. It can bring hope and empower those who are feeling weak to soar and fly beyond their pain.

Nope, I am not kidding when I say this. Whatever you give the Universe, it will bring it back into your life manifold. 

Here’s the action plan to get started:

2. Login with the credentials required.
3. Click on ‘Participate’ in the top menu.
4. Choose to record your own poem or one from the database.
5. If you choose the first option, you will have to submit and type the text of the poem you want to record. This can be a poem you read or somewhere by any poem.
6. If you choose the second option, refer to a list that you can pick and record a poem.
7. Take care to make sure that your environment is quiet and the microphone is turned on.
8. Once done, send out a thanks from your heart to the Universe that gave you this beautiful opportunity to help a visually impaired person’s life. 

Make your voice contribution to the world. With love, make a difference.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad! Love you Lots!

Today is my Dad's birthday and he is spending it just like any other day - working nearly 12 hours without rest. So today, I am going to get a bit emotional about Dad - who is always my hero, my best friend, my spiritual guide and mentor. 


It's not been easy growing up as Dr. C.R.Raghunandanan's daughter because people have expectations that you will be a chip off the block - which turns out to be not the case when it comes to me. 

No, Dad isn't a celebrity. He loves to travel and has a penchant for poetry, philosophy and adventure. But I think he is more of a doctor-turned-saint because he is well-known and highly respected for the service that he does. 

If he isn't working 24x7 in hospital, you will find him going early to pitch in for medical aid camps to islands where villagers have no easy access to doctors or medicines. 

On a Sunday when he can take rest, he sets out early morning to distribute the medicines and to serve those who are ill. He will skip marriages, social outings and functions and find greater joy in doing this.

People from all walks of life come to him, unburden all their troubles on him and he has this amazing, heart warming way of consoling people. 

I can give you lots of examples of how he transforms lives and empowers people but I won't. He won't like it and also, that is his nature - to love all, to serve all. It's not up to me to judge that.

But I'd like to share some core values that my father has taught me and I believe that has helped me grow as a human being:

1. NEVER EVER treat a person with scorn or disrespect or as though the person is beneath you in social rank or status. 

2.  If some one has disclosed something personal/confidential to you, do not EVER betray or exploit that person's trust. Do not reveal it to another person.

3. Work hard and honestly. Don't take short cuts or dishonest routes to earn name, fame or money.

4.  Listen to your inner voice always. Follow your heart. Pray to God.

5. Always be grateful to those who have helped you in your time of need. Find a way to repay the debt in little ways and do it with a feeling of love, not compulsion. 

6. Time is God. Don't waste it. Do something useful or creative but don't allow yourself to be complacent or idle.  

7.  Never choose a profession because you believe it will bring you name, fame or social status.  Do what you love and do it with passion. 

8. If you can do something to help one person a day without expecting anything in return, you will make the world a happier place. 

9. The good that you do will always protect you in time of need.

Happy Birthday, Dad! Love you lots and I am constantly inspired by you!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

7th Day Movie Review: Well packaged thriller but falls flat, like cola without fizz

Shyamdhar's directorial debut '7th Day' starring Prithviraj triggered great expectations but it falls flat like cola without any fizz. While it is a well-packaged thriller movie, it does not impress.

7th Day Movie Review : THE STORY
7th Day begins with David Abraham IPS  (starring Prithviraj) who is a special investigation officer with Crime Branch but he is under suspension.  While driving a jeep, he hits a bike with two bike travelers. 



From their expressions and body language, this scene disturbs you. It is as though you can sense the conflicts between the two characters seated together and unexpectedly thrown off the bike. While the fall should have brought them in sync with each other, at least in defence of the stranger, it shows interestingly a clear rift between them.  This scene is well-shot and delivered.

The two bikers are Vinu Ramachandran (starring Anu Mohan who had acted as rapist in Theevram) and Shan (starring Vinay fort who has several good films to his credit including Theevram). 

Following the accident, Vinu has a small injury in the forehead and David persuades them to get into the jeep and takes them to a nearby hospital. From this hospital, Vinu goes missing, David drops Shan back to his home and the following day, David finds that Vinu has committed suicide. This intrigues him and he goes back to find Shan whose house has been attacked in the short span of hours after David had dropped him. He assures Shan that he will do everything to help if he would tell him what the problem is.

Now the story actually begins with the flashback of friends in their gang comprising of  - Eby Philip (starring Tovino Thomas), Jessica and Cyril Philip.  The five good friends are as close as family but they get into trouble with the mafia when crores of counterfeit money make an unexpected entry in their life. That's when they begin to run for their lives and you know what the rules are when you fight to survive - it's survival of the fittest.  

What happens to their friendship and how each of one of them begin to change and conspire  - here begins the trail that David Abraham IPS begins to piece together like a jigsaw puzzle. 

7th Day Movie Review: MEMORABLE SCENES



Prithviraj's 'salt and pepper' screen presence is impressive. The clear effort shown in terms of facial expressions, body movements, voice modulation is interesting. How he manipulates people to get the information he wants is also an interesting facet in his portrayal of the character he presents.

A memorable scene - he walks into an unauthorized lab and begins to flirt with the girl there to get the files that he wants. The suave style of flirting is delivered flawlessly and towards the end of the interaction, with a dash of light heard humor where he leaves his number saying, "Missed call adichaal mathi." That's a priceless scene and I simply LOVED the way Prithviraj does it.  

It reminded me of a serious but unforgettable scene Mohanlal delivered in 'Rajavintey Makan' where he jots down his number on Ancy's  (starring Ambika) wall calendar with a characteristic flourish that only Mohanlal can get away with. {I am a die hard Lalettan fan, you see!}

Another scene - where he interacts with the watchman of a hospital - caught my interest. You can simply sit back and enjoy the fact that Prithviraj's method of acting is getting better and better. 

7th Day Movie Review: PERFORMANCES 
The young group of actors in their supportive roles are very good. Tovino Thomas (as Eby) has a great screen presence but needs to work harder with his dialogue delivery. Vinay Fort is fantastic and seems to be getting better and better with every film that he has been doing. I see a great range for him in terms of acting. His expressions, voice modulation, sense of timing and ability to fit the character makes him stand out. 

The character 'Cycle' is noteworthy starring Praveen Prem whose body language is excellent. The female lead (starring Janani Iyer) has no memorable performance to deliver but remains critical to the story's progress.  

After portraying the pervert rapist in Theevram, it feels good to see Anu Mohan as a regular guy with dreams, aspirations and values. Personally, I hated Anu Mohan after watching Theevram. That also means he is a good actor at the end of the day.

7th Day Movie Review: VERDICT
7th Day is over hyped and it is not Prithviraj's best movie. It is a well-made thriller with some interesting performances to watch. There are some unexpected twists and turns but those are fleeting moments. There are no high suspense elements though several movie reviews that I had indicate so. The way the movie ended seemed equivalent to drinking nicely packaged cola without fizz. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Zen Garden: Conversations with Path Makers by Subroto Bagchi

If you choose to walk on your path rather than follow that of others, you are a path maker. It means you are evolving rapidly into some one who can empower others. That’s exactly why Subroto Bagchi’s Zen Garden is a book you have to experience. 

Published by Penguin Books India, Zen Garden is an inspiring compilation of real life conversations and stories that explore how these game changers CHOSE to overcome their pain by creating something meaningful out of it.

You will look closely into the lives of path makers such as  Nandan Nilekani, Captain Gopinath, Dr Devi Shetty, Dr Sharan Patel, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw,  Kris Gopalakrishnan, Aamir Khan among others. 


Path Makers from Subroto Bagchi's Zen Garden 
Take the example of Dr. Devi Shetty, founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya, who was the eighth child among a brood of nine and came from difficult circumstances. He talks about how children from adversity and difficult circumstances prove to excel in any field of life as compared to those children who have everything on a platter.

In his own words from Zen Garden by Subroto Bagchi, “The rules of the game are written, will be rewritten, by children with a deprived background. They need an opportunity. You just have to give them the language of communication with the society outside and they will change the way.” Yes, this strikes a personal chord because I hear my father say this all the time.

Dr Devi Shetty, in Zen Garden, also cites Christiaan Barnard, a celebrated surgeon from  South Africa. He is credited with conducting the world’s first heart transplant.  He had rheumatoid arthritis in his young age and therefore, he had very crooked fingers. But he went forward in the field of surgery and created life-changing milestones in his life for the well being of others. Simply put, he didn't sit back and crib about his life or his crooked fingers. Instead, he SAVED lives.

Pranav Parikh’s chapter is one that I can relate to, especially when he is asked the question, “Can one be spiritual and yet swim with sharks?” and “You alluded to angels in your life. How does one create the ability to receive them?” 

For a highly successful business man, his answers were mindblowing – because he says exactly the spiritual truths that the Rishis and spiritual masters have been repeating. Yet he isn’t simply repeating it. He believes in it and has had spiritual experiences that paved the way for him to emerge as a path maker in business too.

Another inspiring chapter is the one pertaining to Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO and MD of Infosys. When asked to say something for posterity, he strikes the iron hot by saying, “The position will automatically come. Do something useful.”  Again, this is something that resonates deeply with me. I have heard my father say this and that has always inspired me.
  
Aamir Khan’s tip on ‘inner healing’ is very significant at a personal level but you’ve got to read Zen Garden to appreciate and reflect on it. It would not be fair for me to reveal that here.

The only segment in this book that disappointed me was one showcasing spiritual "leaders." The very expression 'spiritual leader' fills me with disappointment for one simple truth - there is nothing like that. It is incorrect. In the world of spirituality, I am a toddler still struggling to find my steps but the one thing I know for sure is that there are no leaders there. It's not a business hierarchy or a game. It is far more serious and one with 'spiritual' as well as karmic energies than one assumes.

There are only MASTERS. They are MASTERS of the Highest Order. But then a business perspective of a CEO need not match mine, right? 

Yet a part of me wishes that the author, whose touch of perfection is most apparent when he writes, had got that simple but very important detail intact. 

About Subroto Bagchi, author of Zen Garden:
Hats off to Subroto Bagchi, the best selling author of The Professional and many other books, for writing Zen Garden. He is co-founder and chairman of Mindtree Ltd, a global IT solutions company. I had read his book The Professional several years ago and it had deeply influenced my work ethics. I lent it to team members I worked with. It's a different story that I never got the book back again because it went into a state of 'circulation' among team members. Needless to say, they were deeply inspired by his thoughts.



SUMMING UP Zen Garden

When love is your signature and you are able to look beyond your pain in a constructive manner, the Universe finds ways to reward you manifold. Your actual awakening begins from there. The rest, as they say, becomes history. 

In fact, YOU create history. YOU CAN become the path maker.

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all individuals who are pursuing their potential to become path makers, by making the bold choices that they do for delivering a better model of work and empowerment to others. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who are in various phases of finding their own paths. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Sun is my Light

Time rolls by. Hard to believe that the tiny baby I held within me and got relentlessly kicked by through nights during the last trimester of my pregnancy - he is now 8 years old. The only thing that hasn't changed is my constant worries hovering around him and his constant kicking - it doesn't end:)  


When I think of that beautiful morning when he was born, two little things leap to my mind. One, the fragrance of Shiva Ranjani (associated with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) filled the room next to the Labour Room where I lay. I was holding my father's hand (he is a doctor in the same hospital and that allowed him to be with me till I was taken in) and both of us inhaled the fragrance. 


My father asked the nurses where the fragrance was coming from and they said it is odd because the hospital does not allow incense sticks to be lit because it causes allergies in many pregnant women. She and a couple of other nurses searched nearby rooms to check if anyone had lit incense sticks and they came back saying they couldn't find anything. I felt that it was my Guru's love coming my way, divinely protecting me as His promise to me is this "You are my Daughter. I shall protect you always as the eyelids protect the eyes.


The second thing that I remember most is when I saw Adi's face looming close to mine, within minutes after the umblical cord was cut. I looked into his eyes and I felt an explosion of vast, ocean-like love that I have never felt towards anything or anyone before. That love is difficult to describe. It felt like light, golden, beautiful dappled light that had lit me from within. It felt like the Sun's glorious touch.

And then the doctor said, "Little Prince, give your mom a kiss." I felt the kiss and the tears that were flowing from my eyes. Thereafter I slipped into a void for nearly 12 hours and remembered nothing except a rosy cheeked baby looking sleepily into my eyes. It felt as though I was looking into myself. A strange feeling that still leaves me awe struck.

Now coming back to this March 14th, we placed this cake in our puja room in the morning and the birthday boy cut the cake, offered the first slice to God and then to parents. Within minutes, the school bus had come and he trotted off to school in excitement. The reason for excitement is the box of chocolates he intended to distribute in his class. 




The next evening, Adi had a small cake cutting party with a bunch of friends. He had a themed cars cake and it was as delicious as the first cake shown above.  The only difference is that the first cake had butterscotch and vanilla flavor whereas the car cake had strawberry and vanilla flavor. Everyone seemed to love the cake. There was lots of fun, laughter, cake smearing and it was just beautiful to watch my little boy bask in so much love.








Adi had wanted my parents to be there for his 8th birthday but they had been with us in the month of February and had to go back before his birthday. A couple of times, Adi asked me, "Can't Appa (that's what he calls my dad) stay for my birthday? I wish he and Mummy (my mom) are there for my birthday." 


I told him, "Talk to Appa directly about how you feel." 


Adi's response surprised me a lot. He said, "Appa has booked his return tickets a month ago. If I say this to him, he will feel forced to change his tickets and that will cost him more money. I don't want Appa to waste money because of me. So, we won't tell Appa that I want him to stay." 


This touched me a lot for two selfish reasons. One, he understands the value of money and how hard my father works even at this age to earn it. Second, he isn't thinking about his pain, he is prioritizing his grandfather's convenience first. To me, it was an eye-opener. My little boy, whom I sing songs to and gently rock to sleep and hold close in a perpetual half-embrace even in deep sleep, he is growing into a fine human being who cares genuinely about people. 


A smart mother would probably not let this happen - may teach him to be more practical with a trick or two to place his needs first and that of others second. After all, it is all about survival of the fittest in hard, competitive world. 


But then, I am not a smart mother. I am happy to see my son imbibing the same values that I hold close to my heart. So yes, we celebrated alone. 


The special touch of love came from a surprise gift box. This thrilled Adi when he received it on his birthday - it was a lovely box of knick knacks, games and gifts for him including a little tub of strawberry shaped erasers that smelled delicious enough to eat. Adi LOVED it.  


Then, while using the first eraser, he said another thing that deeply touched my heart, "Appa has a thinking mind. When he buys anything for me, he thinks about how I can use it. Everything Appa buys for me is with a thinking mind." 


Sometimes I find it so hard to believe how fast he's growing up. He is all I have, closer than my heartbeat, and yet so difficult to fathom. It's a matter of time before he breaks free of my embrace and finds a way to soar from home.  And when that happens, my heart says that my home will cease to be what it is. Nope, I don't even want to think about it. As I read recently in Nadeem Aslam's brilliant novel The Blind Man's Garden, "Love is not consolation, it is Light.


And no matter where he is, my Sun is my Light. 

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