It’s Lohri, the punjabi harvest festival that signifies the start of a new year. While i had been meaning to plug back in to the blog at the start of this calendar year, its simply been harder to do than just think off. Procrastination has got the better half of me, unfortunately.
So when i stumbled on this post mentioning image search, it seemed like a good time to begin again. I googled for inspiration – something that i have been looking for lately. This one seemed to fit the bill. May be all that’s required is a fresh perspective with a focused approach to get back in action. Here’s to the new year!
It’s that time of the year, where most people here in India begin an extensive cleaning exercise for the big festival – Diwali. Home improvement, fixing the furniture, getting the walls done to much simpler things like throwing away unused items are on the to-do list. I decided to start a bit earlier than usual, considering its our first Diwali after getting married. As i dusted and picked up random receipts, card statements, brochures and bills i could retrace some wise and a few unwise buying decisions. While most of the stuff we had stashed away wasn’t of any utilitarian value, I had to keep some of it because of sentimental connect. Somehow there is always an emotional connect to inanimate things like books etc.
With every irrelevant and broken item i put away, i felt much better. It got me thinking to how much we accumulate over days, weeks and months without actually realizing the burden we are creating for ourselves. The burden, if that’s what we choose to call it for now – can be physical, emotional or materialistic. But no matter what, its important to pause and reflect. The cleaning bit is always a good way to let it off.
Another aspect that came to my mind about cleaning up centered on how a major cleaning of the mindset is required. In the past few weeks several stories have done the rounds on social media. First there were photo leaks due to a icloud hack, then Emma Watson got threatened after her UN speech and a powerful media house took on a popular actress. In most cases, women were objectified and blamed that they were asking for it. While the explanations defeat logic, all of this has left a lot of tongues wagging. Sure we are talking about gender equality, women empowerment and work place equality. But what would it take for us to break out of the regressive mindset? Some men would be intimidating the wife at home, getting intimidated by the female boss at work and end up going for the latest movie released to go watch some lead actress being objectified over celluloid. I cannot even begin to connect the dots and put all of it in perspective. All i know is that a major cleaning of the mindset is required. It’s not going to be easy. But given the number of decades and generations we’ve spent discussing, its most required now.
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. – Newt Gingrich
Many a times I wonder about how long can one keep going at a particular task / situation / person in life. Let’s face it when we start off with anything new in life, everything seems achievable. Doable to state the least. Think about that new project you got, the first year at college or even the first day at work. We feel really empowered to take on things and prove ourselves.
However when time passes by and the ground realities begin to show up, we need a lot more to keep going. Motivation at times will help in the short term but what is required is perseverance. It doesn’t come easy. An example that a lot of girls can relate to is dieting. We start off with a set of goals and convince ourself that we will turn this around this time. For me, a few days in to a diet I fell ill and that was my undoing. That’s a really simple example. There are more complex areas we deal with regularly. The most important being people. I’m sure we all have one person amongst family / friends who may be extremely negative or difficult to deal with. While others may have the patience, I find it really hard to push myself with someone like that. Sometimes I fail and at times a win doesn’t seem like it.
The point is I never give up. I don’t let the situation get the better part of me. At the end of the day I think that is the key that keeps me going. Self motivation works better than any other method. Somewhere the quote kind of resonated with what I feel. When I feel that the real hard work is done, that’s when the game has just begun and it’s perseverance that will keep me going!
No matter what walk of life, you will come across the square pegs being fitted in to a round hole. Or vice-verse. Reading a recent article i wondered how we try to be a part of a group through school /college and so on. At the same time we’re striving for our own individuality. Somehow, we don’t like the extremes. So loners get castaway and the extremely outgoing person is labelled the party animal. There somewhere in the middle is where everyone wants to be. Socially accepted and noted for who they are. But how can you be know for who you are unless you stand out / apart from the crowd? Contradicting isn’t it?
On that note, here is a favorite of mine from Green Day called “Walking Contradiction” that relates to the exact same feeling:
“He’s not going to make the cut” / “She’s obviously never heard of class” / “This entire thing is doomed for failure”. Quite often we come across people who are resorting to a quick judgement about people or situations. The way we have been brought up, our society has kind of baked this system in to us. From early school days, parents will be cautious about the friends you make. “Company maketh a man”. Or so they say.
As we grow older, we tend to draw out of our experiences and begin to stereotype people. Notions are widespread about the community one belongs to / experience they bring. Then you have qualitative ones. The kind of people you feel uncomfortable around for no good reason. “I have a bad feeling about this”. Many a times situations prompt the same response.
It’s quite natural for us to jump to conclusions. Some highly opinionated individuals take it upon as their birth right to have an insight on just about everything. Makes me think about how much can one know to really have a point of view about nearly everything. But, what i wonder most is that when people are drawing these judgements and passing them off unaware people, why does it mostly have to be negative? You could also come up with a real positive one. I think one needs to think ahead of themselves, in the larger perspective to really think on those lines. Just to think about it, if all of us were to just spend one entire day appreciating each other, wouldn’t the world seem like a much happier place? To me, it would sure would. Even with the judgement bit thrown in.
I’ve always wondered how much of what we think we see is hidden. Ditto for the kind of situations we try to understand. I’m sure many a times, we think we have understood the crux of the problem. Only to discover there were more strings attached. To me, anything that’s hidden works wonders to spark my curiosity on the subject. Maybe that’s why i kept reading up on Astrophysics and quantum mechanics from middle school. While people around me were reading comics or Sidney Sheldon novels, i was deep diving in physics. My interests kept changing all along. But it was the unexplored that had me intrigued.
There are a lot of aspects that are hidden from our daily frame of things. I once read that our subconscious mind keeps eliminating thoughts to help us focus better on what’s important. Typically these thoughts manifest themselves in to dreams. In case these are unpleasant we then embark on a journey to understand the hidden messages. All of this makes me wonder how much of control we really have over stuff in our lives. While you may choose to know as much as you can, take additional degrees or courses, work in different sectors / roles and take on as much as you can within your family, there will still be things that are hidden. I don’t know what could be good given the circumstances. Maybe sometimes, we should just let it go and believe what’s not obvious is for our best interests.
Come March-April, we revel in the festivities of Navratri. Several people fast through the 9 days for the granting of their wishes or just for the well being of their families. These days of fasting are dedicated to the Goddess. Being from a punjabi household, i grew up with this phase being celebrated twice a year. The second more popular wave come in October, just before Diwali.
As for me, i skipped the fasts to indulge in the special food preparations on the day of Ashtmi. This is the 8th day of Navratri. In most punjabi homes, Puri (Fried Bread), Black Channa (Black Bengal Gram) and Halwa (Semolina Pudding) are cooked and offered to the Goddess first and then to 9 young girls and 1 boy. The 9 girls are symbolic of the different avatars of the Goddess.
Here is a photo of the meal my mother cooked back home. These always make me smile 🙂
I remember confusing the two some years back. During a recent situation i began to recollect how people tend to confuse the two. After all to empathize or sympathize for someone going through a tough time is a natural response for many of us. But there is a striking difference in the two states.
In the recent MH 370 flight case, what most of us can do is just sympathize. This is because in order to empathize one should have experienced and gone through the situation. To empathize is to understand precisely what the person is going through since you have been through the exact similar situation. I strongly believe that when we are being sold something with a promise or a warranty especially in case of a service, all the sales person is doing is sympathizing for your current state. Heading for the spa after a hard day, you are more likely to hear, ‘We understand your stress and physical strain and hence do what’s best for you”. Well do they? I have my doubts. At a weight loss clinic, the promising dietitian may not have put herself through years of bland food. All she / he is sharing could very well be textbook knowledge. But doesn’t she speak and empathize when you fall back? She is only sympathizing.
This brings me to larger issues we face in life, at work or in crucial stages. We are more likely to say that we empathize but we wouldn’t have really gone down the same road as others to do so. Hence i think more often than not we are only sympathizing. Empathy is also used in a more personal context whereas you could sympathize with anyone from your neighbors to co-workers. I leave you with this quote to mull over this for longer:
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
― Daniel Goleman
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd – Voltaire
I remember seeing this quote and wondering if its safe to doubt everything around me. We do feel a false sense of certainty at times and when routine kicks in we fear stagnation. That is a worrisome thought and hence i constantly seek out new tasks or routines to put myself through more experiences. The doubt is that little nudge that pushes me to explore more.
Certainty being absurd according to the witty french philosopher is something i completely agree with. With just six degrees of separation online how frequent it is to come across people you don’t know and connect to work on something bigger. In a city like mumbai where one could face strikes / delays / torrential rains or even more pleasant things like someone returning a lost wallet / helping you find your way back / offering directions its more often to see doubt at the base of things. Maybe we doubt more because we know and understand more. After-all, more perspectives could add to doubt, but the collective view will be of more value than a singular distorted opinion. In a democratic society like ours i must say the elections are a classic example. Individuals more certain of a win are looked at with suspicion. There is no dearth of internet memes surrounding the upcoming voting season.
In my case, i choose doubt more over certainty. Its good to know some things for certain but when you begin to think everything is for certain, then ‘Houston, we have a problem’.
“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.” – Alduos Huxley
The quote sparked a bunch of thoughts to my head. Firstly, most of us are looking for familiarity in situations we find ourselves in. We like to think back if we have done this before and wonder how can i do this task better. In short, we are looking for some kind of consistency. In life or in experiences. When faced with a situation we know little off, we begin to feel that this is not the comfort zone and wonder how soon will it be over. Seeking consistency is the mistake we make. Many would like to think of it as stability too. Or as some of us like to think of it as “settling down”.
The second line of Huxley’s quote is a very valid one. Its definitely better to be at ease with change. Rather than stagnating, getting bored and loosing focus i would surely prefer situations that intrigue me. That’s the point that the quote is also trying to make. Why seek consistency? Rather most of the world around us is chaotic and ever-changing. Maybe all we need to do is pause and revel in the present, as it passes us by.