Shared Thoughts

On a flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, I browsed aimlessly through a book some one had left behind in the plane. A small poem attracted my attention and it made such an impression that I wrote it down. It runs like this:

Once riding in old Baltimore
Heart-filled, head - filled with glee
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue and called me, "Nigger"

I saw the whole of Baltmore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

Reading this poem took me back some 45 years down the memory lane, when I was a young lad in my early twenties, training with the English Electric Company in England. I recollected my own contrary experience, which nevertheless found an echo in the little boy's anguish.

As an apprentice I had to put in a 2 or 3 month stint in the Outdoors Department of the Company, which meant that I would be posted in a place where the Company was erecting and commissioning their product. I thus found myself in Liverpool on a Sunday morning in the summer of 1959, and I had to find bed-and breakfast accommodation on my own. Being new to the place, I asked someone at the railway station to suggest an affordable place, within a bus ride of my place of work, and I was told that Bootle, a suburb, had any number of places.

Bootle did boast of a number of B and B places, but despite a 'vacancy' sign on the door, my inquires at the first 5 to 6 places yielded no result, each landlady telling me that the sign was no longer valid and there was in fact no room to let. I was beginning to tire out, it being a very hot summer's day at Liverpool and I was unclear what I should do. Just as I stood outside of a house thinking of my next move, the door opened and a portly old lady addressed me:'I am Mrs. Newman. Are you looking for an address, young man? Maybe I could help.' i told her my problem and she said, why don't you come in for a bit and let me make you a cup of tea? I am sorry I do not take boarders myself, but I could check with some people I know who do take guests in. "I accepted her offer just so I could rest my weary legs, and soon Mrs. Newman brought some tea and cookies and went inside to telephone her friends.

Boy, wasn't I glad for this kindness! Soon Mrs Newman returned and said her friend Mrs. Lambert was willing to take me in as a boarder and told me the location, that I could get a direct but to my workplace, and how much it would cost me. I was very grateful for this and accepted the offer. I then asked Mrs. Nweman 'Mrs. Newman, what have I done to deserve this hospitality and consideration from you?' She said, I shouldn't be telling you this, but I think the people you contacted earlier were not comfortable having a non-white person as a boarder. They do not perhaps realize that colour of the skin is unimportant, it is the person that counts. Moreover, I have a son Mark, who is only a little older than you and he is on in Congo. For a moment I wondered if he is wandering the streets of Leopoldville just as you are doing here. Maybe the mother in me was aroused!'

I spent the next few months in Liverpool rather uneventfully and Mrs Lambert proved to be a very considerate and affectionate lady. During that period I visited Mrs. Newman several times and not only was I treated to more tea, cookies, crumpets and cakes, she gave me the liberty of addressing her as 'Mom'. She was genuinely sad when I bade her goodbye to return to my base, and I suspect I saw a film of tears in her eyes when she said 'Satya, you have been with me more closely in my thoughts than my own son Mark. I will surely miss you. Be happy wherever you are.'

Unlike the Baltimore boy, I found someone who showered me with affection and so i remember Mrs. Newman to this day. Nevertheless, the common theme in both stories is that we remember people for their attitudes towards us. So, in the little time we are given on this earth, why not live to be remembered as good people who make a difference to other peoples lives?

-SM Subba Rao, HH Volunteer

Ancient Wisdom combined with practical reality It was very touching to read these pragmatic thoughts of Buddhist Tibetan Leader

The Dalai Lama said.........

Most countries of the world today offer their children a modern education. This is very good in many ways, but too often it seems to be based on a universal acceptance of the importance of developing the brain, that is, on intellectual education. Insufficient attention is given to the development of a person as a whole in the sense of becoming a good person or developing a warm heart.

Education and knowledge are like an instrument. Whether that instrument is put to constructive or destructive way depend on each person's motivation. An education system that cultivates smart brains alone can sometimes create more problems that it solves. However, it is noticeable that if a child with a good intellectual education happens to have parents with warm heart and sense of responsibility for the both caring and discipline, than these can go together well and be very constructive. It is my hope that in future the education system will pay specific attention to the development of human warmth and love......

While returning after a night show, my husband who was driving the car, me and my friend (sitting behind) noticed a fast approaching motorcyclist. Since the road was narrow and some 2 or 3 people were walking ahead, my husband stopped the car. To the opposite side, a tractor stood rested. The motorcyclist came in the same speed, banged on the tractor, fell on the bonnet and right side of the car and then on the road with the motorcycle. Since me and my husband are both doctors, we rushed outside to see where he hurt and to help him if needed. We saw that he couldn't move his left arm properly. Probably a fracture? He was drunk and refused help saying he was all right.

Hearing the noise people walking ahead also came running to take him to the General Hospital which they all refused. He thanked us and we went our way.

34 days after this, the police came looking for my husband. We then learnt that a complaint was lodged against him for a hit and run accident case. My husband, me and my friend tried to tell everybody what had actually happened, but in vain. We then met the police who explained to us that we should have lodged a complaint with the nearest police station and since he was the first to lodge a complain, we were the guilty ones. He couldn't help us now as the legal proceedings had already been made. My husband still attends court for the uncommitted crime, only because of ignorance.

We being educated also did not know such simple rules. I can't say how many people know these rules. Isn't it right to be taught some basic things about rules, laws, traffic rules in high school or college? Only learning history, geography, science , maths and language is not enough.

- Dr.Mrs.Geeta Halkarnikar, Kolhapur

When I read on "International Women's Day" about the great women achievers, I set on a path of thinking about the two women who have quietly made a difference in my life, without expecting anything from me.

Velliamma (56 years old...she thinks) has been working with me for nearly 7 years now, helping take care of my daughter while I was away at work and managing the household work as well. How do I describe her? I can never forget the day she walked into our lives..... I was desperate for someone reliable to care for Anahita. She walked in with a radiant smile, a big red bindi on her forehead, and a bright colourful saree--and I just knew she was right. She had an inner peace that reflected in her calm countenance and I thought to myself"she must have been beautiful when she was young" She dosen't really have a hunkydory domestic life, with an alcoholic husband who still sometimes abuses her physically. Not once have I heard her curse him, nor has her smile ever wavered from her face. She says that she does not believe in wasting time in thinking about negative feelings about anybody and I thought that was remarkable.

She has used the right techniques to put up with my daughter's various tantrums and believe me Anahita can try the patience of a Saint! And that without reading any of the parenting books which I have. She has mastered the right mixture of firmness and patience, which I am still struggling with ! I have never heard her gossip or utter a harsh word and nothing ever disturbs her serene countenance. She has quietly stood behind us in times of adversity like a rock and I have personally derived a lot of strength from her. Her pithy proverbs in Tamil have always enlivened out home and all used for the right occasion. I have never seen the radiant smile slip from her face, whatever the circumstances. She has not studied beyond 2nd standard but the wisdom, dignity, serenity and values that she has and practises are something that I am in awe of. I have a lot of lessons to learn from her. "A true Karma Yogi" is hoe I would describe her. God bless her!

Saraswati (42 years old) came into our lives 8 years back as a cook, when career was dragging me away from the kitchen! She was not a people's person like Villiamma but she quietly wormed her way to our hearts. She can give a few tips to corporate types on time management, efficiency and commitment. She also went beyond her brief when situations demanded, without being asked. She walks in exactly 7.15a.m. (you can time your watch with her arrival), quietly does her job without any flurry, with efficient use of time and energy. She takes great pride in keeping our kitchen spic and span and God help anyone who keeps things in the wrong place! They get polite ticked off!

There was a time when I was going through a personal crisis and had forgotten to buy the monthly provisions for the house. She decided not to bother me and bought stuff using her personal resources and never once asked me for anything. I was touched by her concern. Knowing that I was very fond of puran-poli, she made it for me in her house and brought it as a gift for my birthday. I had tears in my eyes at her thoughtfulness.

I feel truly blessed to have these two remarkable women in my life who have done so much without expectations of any sort. When I told them I was writing about them on Women's Day, they just gave me an amused and non-plussed look and said, "why us?"I said that I could'nt think of anyone else who had made such significant difference in my life and it was my way of saying thank you. Thank you Valliamma and Saraswati for renewing my faith in the essential goodness of human heart!

- Sukanya

Learn from the kids

A group of 4 to 8 years olds was asked the question 'What does love mean?'. The answers were amazing, and with so much variety:

  • "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's Love."
  • "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
  • "Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
  • "Love is when you go out and eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
  • "Love is what makes you smile when you are tired."
  • "Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
  • "If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."
  • "Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."
  • "Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
  • "Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
  • "I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
  • "You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot, people forget."

Love is such an agony
When you wait for his cacophony
You anticipate his love
Like white birds of dove

Time is such a long wait
When you know he's your bait
When the matter is over
Born of a small prayer

That is surely the price you pay
For the whole day

We've been true to ourselves for long
Because now I know where you belong
Love endures all pain
When caught in its own chain

- Krupa

Aab sat on the hillock and was enjoying the view. The Hillock was definitely not Himalayas, and he was not there to meditate or seek enlightenment. Poor Aab! what does he know what is enlightenment, and how rt seek it? He was there to enjoy the view, the breeze, and the solitude.

Aab lives in the twenty first century, but he does not belong to it. He is from a different era, transplanted here like an anachronism. At times he feels like a cactus in a blooming rose garden, sometimes he realizes that he is like the last guest in a party when the hosts are waiting to wind up.

Aab also knows that there are no hosts in this world. Everyone wants to be a guest. Each one wants to be served, not to serve. Every person wants to move on when the party is over. Only Aab knows that there was no party.

Aab was looking for loneliness. Yes, what you read is true- he was looking for loneliness. Not solitude, mind you. Solitude one can get by just walking away from others, hiding in one's physical or mental cave. Aab does not like solitude, expect once in a while. In fact, people sought him out. Not like disciples seek a Guru, but more like those who crave to find themselves in and through him.

Do you know that "praising is a habit? You can inculcate it by making a conscious effort to notice good aspects of people, and telling it to them on their face. The more you practise it, the easier it becomes. There are two types of praise: genuine appreciation, and flattery. If you learn and develop the habit of showing genuine appreciation, you will find beautiful relationships blossoming with the most unlikely people. In fact it makes the world look nicer, and it creates inner happiness that few things can.

Do you know of anyone who does not have any points that are worth appreciating? There is no such human being in this world. If you can identify a person who you feel has no positive qualities you are being blind.

Just learn to keep your eyes and ears open. Look for the small, insignificant good qualities of each person around you. Learn to accept and acknowledge these qualities with no comparison or strings attached. And then learn the hardest part of giving warm, genuine compliments, positive strokes, acknowledgement. Criticism comes so easily to us, praise is much more difficult. Funnily enough, we find it easier to praise people behind their back, but not in front of them. But learn to praise in direct first person, and soon it will open so many doors of permanent and caring friendships.

- Ali

Where is everyone when I need them?

Q: I think I am a genuine friend who never says no to anyone. I in fact look out to see when any of my close friends need me. But strangely enough, on those rare occasions when I need just the company of a friend, when I am feeling down and out, no one seems to be available. There have been times when I have even expressed my exasperation and wanted company, only to be told by my "close" friends "Come on, you will definitely get over it. Don't take it so seriously" and they call off!

Why is the world so callous?

A: The world is not callous. It only works in a routine manner whereby each one does what he or she is used to doing. BY reaching out to go your friends is used to doing. By reaching out to your friends, most of the time, you have given them signals that you do not have emotional need. They have got so used to getting support from you that they firstly think that you are in total control of your life all the time, and secondly even if you need help, they feel inadequate whether they can provide it.

Also, look back and see when you asked for help and no one responded, did you also just give up and take on a fatalistic attitude? If yes, then you gave them the signal that you managed without them, and hence reinforced their feelings that you really don't need them. If you want your friends to rise to the occasion when you require them, you will have to prepare them over a period of time. Remind them when you had reached out and they were too busy, tell them how difficult it was to cope, and ask them whether you can rely on them the next time it happens to you. You have to actually train people to be caring, but the long term results are good.

This is a true story of a young jawan in the army:

One day the Havildar training young recruits came suddenly and threw a hand grenade into a group of young soldiers. The men all ran away and took cover away from the grenade. Then the Havildar told them that the grenade was not set to explode and he just did it to see their reaction. The next day a newly recruited soldier joined the group. The Havildar told the other soldiers not to tell the new soldier what was going to happen. As he came out and threw the grenade into the crowd of soldiers, the new soldier, not knowing it wasn't going to explode, threw himself on top of the grenade to prevent it form killing the other men. He was willing to die for his fellow soldiers.

That year the young man was awarded the only medal fro courage and bravery that had not been won during battle.

I had an indoor plant. Once it was dying -- the stalk was just a short stub and it had a small bit of green showing from the side of it. Everyone wanted to throw the plant away and get a new one. I didn't wan tot give up on it. I would nurture, water it, give it the fertilizer it needed. I would even praise it, and give positive strokes. Slowly a little green leaf showed. I would sing ti it and kiss it! I just wouldn't let up, I just kept at it. A couple of months later it had some wavy leaves but still don't stop at caring for it or praising it. It has now flourished into the healthiest and leafiest ( if there's such a word!) plant and it's outgrown its little pot. I am really proud of it. Noe it just needs the tending and love and it keeps growing happily.

The same wit children--if given the right tending loving and praise, the recognition of being individuals--they would flourish into thinking adults.

It is important to educate children in the true sense, making them aware of the various facets and opportunities in life. We educate children from lower strata of economy and don't realize that these children have tot go back to the slums at the end of the day after school, and they have to cope with the same environment and people. We have to educate them so that they have the skills to know of a better life and ability to improve their way of life at home.

Can we afford just dabble with the minds of these children and leave them to cope with life? If we do so then teaching them about a better life but not shoeing them how to achieve those opportunities, could lead them to be disillusioned and perhaps feel they have to grab from society, not earn it. This could lead to crime and disharmony--and another generation of children would be let down, misunderstood.

-Penelope D'Souza

Behind all resistance tot he new, is fear. There is but only one failure in life and that is the failure to try because of fear. As infants we are all fearless and perfect. We are still connected to the force that created the world. But as we begin to age, we adopt the fears from the world around us. We do this because we want to fit in and be like everyone else. We feel so secure and safe to be in that state that we fear to let go of them.

Freedom lives on the other side of fear. The reasonable man adopts himself to the world and the unreasonable man tries to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable. Fear not the unknown, for that is where our greatness resides. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the WILLINGNESS to talk through the fear in pursuit of your goal. To get to the pearls, the diver needs to go deep where the timid souls would never visit. Before Columbus, all adventures sailed close to the shore, within sight of land. Columbus dared to be different. He sailed perpendicular. Because he LET GO of the known and sailed into the unknown he became one of our great heroes.

Big Risks, Big Life,
Small Risks,
Small Life.

At the end of our lives, what fills our hearts with regret are not risks we took; instead what causes sadness is, thinking about the risks we did not take.

Break open all the walls of Fear and the Rest is just waiting. Live a Big Life.

- Subhashree

I'm little past middle aged and I've been myopic since I was in std 8. My glasses are so much a part of me (they've off only when I'm asleep) that at times even when I'm not wearing them, I keep trying to take them off!

Years have gone by with minor changes of spectacle frames and lenses. One I lost them in the waters of Goa while on a trip with mu fellow teachers. Much later another pair just fell off my face on to a stony surface as the screws had become loose.

Until now I used to have my glasses on both my for long and short distances. Now I've reached a stage when the words on a page get blurred if viewed through my beloved glasses. So I'm forced to remove them whenever I'm reading and put them on. And if I'm writing something, the same procedure follows. This becomes all the more difficult when I'm watched by some 40 pairs of young eyes so often that it can be quiet a unnerving spectator. I must be making quite a spectacle of myself.

So what follows is obvious I tend to leave my glasses in all kinds of places such as the kitchen shelf, on the terrace or even inside the fridge, to give a few examples. As you've by now by now guessed, I instantly forget where I have put my glasses. Compounded with this problem is a habit of mine to start several activities one after the other and complete them in phases. Fir instance, I start dusting furniture, I notice a stain on the floor, leaving the dusting half done, I go about removing the stain. As I fetch the cloth to do so, I put the dirty cloths to be washed in a bucket. In the meanwhile there's phone call. I start taking a message for my husband. My eyes fall on an incomplete letter to an ex-student. I decide to finish it right then. When I'm done with it, I start looking for my glasses. For this I need to retrace my steps. I wrack my brains to recollect what I was doing before I wrote the letter. Ah yes, the phone call. But my spectacles are not there.

Where else could they be? The clothes bucket? They're not there but I remember to soak the clothes and start the machine. Where could my specs be? I realize I've left the ducting cloth on the table. By now I start getting worried. Do I have to wait for expert help? (My husband has bu now mastered the art of looking for my glasses in the most unlikely places and with each discovery the list grows) What prompted me to leave the dusting half finished? The stain on the floor, of course! There lay my glasses so obviously placed on the floor where the stain was; any fool could see them.

I triumphantly wear them reminding myself for the umpteenth time I must get myself bifocals of different kind the top half of the lens for short sight and the lower half with the plain glass for viewing things such as these words that I'm writing.

- Shobha Rani

Some days back, one of my friends from school invited me to attend one of her dance classes. She knew that I was as crazy and mad as anyone could be. It was one of those classes where you could call a friend to join you in their class for a day. Now in her dance class there was this special boy about whom I shall tell you.

Shruthi (my friend) and the other students were normal people with normal abilities but Karthik (the special boy) was indeed special. He, I would say, is an amazing person. A person with so much to say and share with, but no one to listen. He spoke non-stop to me.

Karthik had a few flaws (let us put it that way) as compared to the other 'normal' people with 'normal' abilities. He was a slow learner he had a slight problem in the coordination of his limbs. He spoke too fast to follow and had a slight lost expression on his face all the time. Karthik 'craved' for the attention of the people around him. It always looked like he has something to say but nobody to listen. The others were just too busy and lost in their own worlds - they found him to be a 'nuisance.'

Before I met Karthik I had a considerable information about him from my friend. She had described him to me and told me about his mannerism and how they found him to be a little 'crack'. My friend and the other students at the dance class somehow seemed to lack empathy for this boy. They could not understand the situation! She described to me how the group ignored Karthik and how they would rum away from him, to be left in peace as she put it; for she said he spoke too much.

I have a question at this point for everyone - when your friend talks to you about what he or she did and wore at a friend's party (frivolous talk) do you get irritated with them? Oh! I am sorry, I forgot it is very important it it not, to gossip, so interesting? What about Karthik? Someone who wanted to speak to you about something knowledgeable, about politics, history, sports, science anything name it, and he knew something about it. How come such talk irritates you? How come you call such talk irritates you? How come you call such talk 'nuisance'?

It amazes me how people (including myself) do things that they know is wrong and stupid. (I guess it runs in the blood right down from Adam and Eve) The people, or rather the youngsters attending the class were all educated in the best of schools, they were people with some understanding in life. Why then did they still behave in this manner? Rather than helping Karthik and making him comfortable they made him an outcast! Why? Because he was just a little different from them? A little awkward in his mannerisms and talk.

They laughed and ignored Karthik. Fine they did it, but why laugh at some one who gives a helping hand to Karthik. Why laugh when someone wants to listen to what he had to say? When I met Karthik (which I was eager to do ) I was really interested in speaking to him and listening to what he had to say. I wanted to see and understand why he was such a 'nuisance' to these people. When I started to speak to him, I realized that all he wanted was a little attention, which we all ask for but in a different way. He exhibited the same want of attention we all exhibit but in a different manner. A very direct manner, a manner pure to nature, not covered by all this layer of 'refinement' I should say that they found it awkward and a 'nuisance'.

Well int he case all of us have our little drawbacks, some of us are good at covering this up and others are not. So let us accept that and move on. Anyway, when U had finished talking to Karthik, he was quiet for the rest of the class that my friend came up to me asked me what I had done to Karthik that he was so quiet. I had nothing to say but that I had listened to him and made him feel like a human being, and not an alien.

I have one last thing to say-- don't make these special people feel out of place by treating them like babies or by ignoring them, but make them feel like one among you and they will be a being as human as possible/ as you and me.

- Shobitha Yeluri

C-Compassion : Be kind and considerate to yourself and to those you meet every day.
O-Objectivity : whatever you do, have other's interest, just for today
P-Positive attitude : Always look at the brighter side of things
I-Immunity : make yourself impervious to people who fail to understand you.
N-Nourishment : to your soul, learn or do something new everyday that you enjoy.
G-Gaiety and giving - come whatever may don't lose your sense of humour. Lastly learn to give first, rather then expect to receive.

- Achala

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, NOT YOUR WORRIES. I found this on a little pray card. It doesn't mean that worries won't come, but then they do, just don't count them. Focus on blessings instead. Choose to see a glass half full, not half empty.

EXPRESS YOUR BLESSINGS HONESTLY. Difficulties and setbacks evoke varied emotional reactions. Respect whatever they are honestly. Above all, stay real, concentrating on what's best for you. Don't try to please others by hiding authentic feelings in order to make other feel better.

INVEST IN YOUR INNER RESOURCES: COURAGE, EFFORT, DETERMINATION, FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE. All of these nurture the will to live and flourish. Surprise yourself by opting to maximize who you are by practising these virtuous behaviours.

FIND THE FUTURE IN YOUR NOW. Maybe you've wondered if you'd make it today you're here! Select short-term goals as your ongoing link to life. Meditate on the proverb that says, "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it is called the present" Sink your heart into that one.

EMERGE AS A WINNER NOT A VICTIM OR MERE SURVIVOR, BUT TRULY A THRIVER! There is nothing that will happen to you that can be so bad that you cannot go through it. Remember the proverb "This too shall pass...? Need I say more? Onward and upward!

When we complain about the corrupt politicians in our country, let us not forget that we now have a Prime Minister with the following track record: He started life in a small village where there was no electricity. He was probably the first in his village to attend college. He was so brilliant in his studies that he was given an all-expense paid scholarship to pursue economics in Great Britain.

In his thirty years of active life he held eminent positions both in India as well as abroad. He taught in leading institutions of global reputation. He headed Reserve Bank of India as its Governor. And yet he led a life of simplicity, humility and contentment. When he thought he was ready for retirement, he was appointed Union Finance Minister. He took up the challenge. What few people know is that he took a salary the equivalent of two rupees per day during his tenure as Finance Minister of the country. He did a wonderful job, and went back into semi-retirement. It was unbelievable that subsequently he was requested by the ruling party to take over as the Prime Minister of the country. How many countries can boast of a person with such credentials as head of the government?

I CAN'T TAKE A HEART BREAK. NO! NO!

I can't take a heart break. No! No!
I can't take a heart break. No! No!

I've gone so far
That there's no open door
For me to take refuge
Everybody does me refuse
All the things I want
All colours I want to paint
Now in black and white
.... But, I should fight

I can't take a heart break. No! No!
I can't take a heart break. No! No!

I sold my soul
My life I did bowl
Thought I'd won
But turned out I'd outdone
Myself that is
Fine story this

I can't take a heart break. No! No!
I can't take a heart break. No! No!

Thought I knew myself
of which I wish to be in pelf
No.I can't take a heart break. No! No!
I Definitely can't take a heart break. No! No!

-Krupa

Listen carefully to your feelings, for they have the capacity to reveal a lot of truths to us, they bring in the most honest waves. They are our mirror. "The being in touch with myself"

Our feelings and our management of these feelings is surely and index of our relationships with others, our experiences, our values and thus the baggage we tend to carry further in our life. And yet, though they are such honest messengers, we are not always comfortable with what they reveal about us. Many a time we don't admit, even to ourselves, certain true feelings like a burn of jealously, anger, hurt, dejection. At time we mask feelings "Smiling?".... Or if we make our dislike manifest, we manipulate to justify it. look for reasons to crucify and succeed in influencing others too.

The personality we have is a mixture of our past, our upbringing, society norms etc. But this is not the real 'We'. We have to work at our feelings. Be aware and accept whatever our feelings convey to us. BY accepting our feelings and situations; we are free to think, do something about our words and action.

The beautiful aspect is being present with our feelings. We become their masters. They are our friends, conveying no, whispering our inner secrets.

- Lalitha.V

WORD'S WORTH

I want to write something about the virtue of keeping one's word, or the value of our word, So I chose this title. Of the many different traits and qualities which go to build a man's character, keeping one's word is one of the most important ones. Trustworthiness, dependability and reliability are the results of our willingness and ability to keep coined. "Keeping the word" Not fulfilling the word or redeeming the word or any other expression. Sometimes we also use another phase: honoring one's word. A man who keeps his word is called. 'A man of his word'

Our scriptures, puranas and literature are full of examples of people who kept their word and earned praise and appreciation.

Goswami Tuladidas wrote,

Raghu kula reeti sada chali aayee
Pran jaaye par vachan na jaaye

This refers to LOrd Rama's determination to keep his word and got to vanavas. The couple means: The noble custom of the Sun dynasty will continue forever, life may be lost but the word will not be broken.

Raja Harishchandra is yet another example which shows to what extent a man can go in fulfilling this word.

We have another story of the noble cow Punyakoti. When attacked by a ferocious tiger, she begged him to permit her to go and her calf and promised to get back soon after and offer herself to the tiger as his food. The tiger allowed her to go in a weak moment hardly believing that she would return, but when she did come back he was so moved that he jumped over a cliff and ended his life!

In spite of all these examples we inevitably get the impression that the noble practise of keeping the word is a thing of the past. In the early days giving your word was a bond. Often we would hear the phrase, 'He was a man of his word' We used to read stories and see movies in which the theme of keeping one's word was praised. The Hindi writer Premchand wrote novels about the rural people who claimed that though they were poor in terms of money and material wealth, they were rich in the matter of keeping their word. 'Hum paise ke dhani na sahi, baat ke dhani hain' they said.

But nowadays we find a word is given but seldom kept. Whether it is in business, office, home or personal and family relationships, we often find occasions to lament the fact that those who keep their word have become a rare species.

One suggestion to help ourselves develop the ability to keep our word is to be that we give our word very carefully so that keeping the word does not become a burden. Napolean is said to have declared, 'the best way to keep your word is not to give it'. Of course what Napolean must have meant was 'Do not give your word easily'

- Clifford Martis

FEAR

Hearts beat faster, a sinking feeling,
A feeling that you're lost.
Panic, Fear of making a fool of yourself.
A softie, in front of people.
Fear that you didn't say it right or didn't say the right word
Fear that you didn't make the right impression
on the people's minds.

Fear that one did not keep up
with the standards of the time.
Mind churning--thoughts churning.
NO presence of mind or alertness.
The freedom is gone.
You're a slave to your negative thoughts.

-Krupa

Some of us actually travel physically, some of us don't. But all of us are travelers in this journey of life. Sometimes out journey take us through deserts and sometimes we reach oases. Most of us are pursuing our dreams. This pursuit takes us through many treacherous paths, on the shifting sands of time. We continue with the journey, because we have hopes, because there is a goal in our mine, whether it exists in reality or not.

Not all of us are seekers. Some do not have goals, For these nomads, one sand dune is the same as the next. The moon is just a passing phase of beauty, the stars are a scattered lot of adornments for the sky. The alternation of the day and night bring no change, bring us nowhere nearer to any goal for there is no goal.

Often I have asked people to define their purpose of life. The answers I get are as varied as human beings are. Right from the mundane pursuit of wealth or power, to highly spiritual utterances, I have heard them all. I could not identify with any of them.

The revolutionary leader of African- Americans (Negro is no longer politically correct) Martin Luther King immortalised the four words with which every speech of his began and ended:"I have a dream..." Closer home, our beloved President Dr.Abdul Kalam exhorts the youth of the nation to "dream, dream, dream" Yet some of our waking dreams are as unrealistic as those in sleep. Some of them take us so far away from our oath that we actually "wake up" with a jolt when life seems to have passed us by.

I would also like to pursue a goal (is it a dream?) I would like to conquer. I would like to win. I would like to gain control. Over what or who, you may ask. I would like to gain control....over myself.

- Ali

Just heard that your friend had lost a dear one? If you are in the same city, unless it is impossible cancel all your plans for the day. Inform your family and workplace and rush to your friend. Even if you are in a different city, try to get to her at the earliest possible. Don't offer any condolence on the telephone. If at all, call her only to tell her you are on your way to either to be with her. And rush.

Once you are there DO NOT SAY 'SORRY'. 'Sorry doesn't make the dead man alive' goes the saying remember? I know, because I have been through it all. Please do not ask an questions. You need not even utter a word. Let your eyes do the talking. Show with your body language--how sad you feel for her. Let the empathy and compassion flow through your eyes. Silence speaks best.

The moment she sees you, she may collapse on your shoulder to cry on. Just let her be, hold her, offer her your shoulder to cry on. But for heavens sake, don't ask her not to cry. Just let her tear flow uninhibited. Once she feels better, she will be more in control of herself. You try to understand her, feel for her. Believe me--that's her pillar of support her knowing that you are there for her.

Don't ask any question--how, when, where, why it all happened. No post-mortem, please. Your asking will put her into flash back mode, make her relive all the sequences frame by frame, and that will refresh all her emotional wounds, make them raw, hurt her afresh, add to her misery and grief. Never probe.

If other visitors are busy asking curious or probing questions, try to steer the conversation to some other current topics, so that the bereaved can take their mind off the tragedy, the suffering, the loss, at least for a few moments.

Be practical, don't ever philosophize or sermonize. Think of the "here and now" rather than the past or the future. If your friend desires to talk, just allow her to. Go on listening, support her unconditionally, no questions.

- Achala .V.Rao

God created the donkey and said to him:"You will be a donkey. You will work untiringly from sunrise to sunset carrying burdens on your back. You will eat grass, you will have no intelligence and you will live 50 years". The donkey answered--"I will be a donkey, but to live 50 years is too much. Give me only 20 years" God granted his wish.

God created the dog and said to him:"You will guard the house of man. You will eat the scarp that he gives you and you will live 30 years. You will be the dog". The dog answered:"Sir, to live 30 years is too much, give me only 15 years". God granted his wish.

God created the monkey an said to him:"You will be a monkey. You will swing from branch to branch doing tricks. You will be amusing and you will live 20 years" The monkey answered:"To live 20 years is too much; give me only 10 years". God granted his wish.

Finally God created a man and said him:"You will be man, the only rational creature on earth. You will use your intelligence to become master over all animals. You will dominate the world and you will live 20 years ".

Man responded:"Sir, I will be a man to live only 20 years is very little" Give me the 30 years that the donkey refused, the 15 years that the dog did not want and the 10 years the monkey refused". God granted man's wish.

Ans since the, man lives 20 years as a man, marries and spends 30 years like a donkey working and carrying all the burdens on his back. The when his children are grown up, he lives 15 years like a dog taking care of the house and eating whatever is given to him. When he is old he retires and lives 10 years like a monkey, going from one house to house and from one son or daughter to another, doing tricks to amuse his grand children.

That's man's life.

- Jayalakshmi.M.J

Once upon a time there was a king. He had everything one could wish to have.

But there was a big problem. He was ill, always ill. Doctors from far off places were called to treat him but nothing and nobody could heal him. He was very, very unhappy. One day an old Sadhu came, looked at him and told him, if he could get an old shirt of a completely happy man and wear it just for a while, he will be healed.

Soldiers and messengers were sent in all directions to look for a happy man. They asked hundreds of people who were rich, handsome, healthy.... and asked " Are you absolutely happy?" Everyone said, "Oh on!" I have everything but...." There was always something which stopped them from declaring themselves to be happy.

The soldiers were tired of the extensive search for a happy man and were resting in a forest, giving up all the hopes. Suddenly they heard the words, "Oh God, I am such a happy man!" They were taken aback. Behind some shurbs, there was a small pond and a poor, weak man, wearing a dhoti was sitting on a stone near the water. The soldiers asked, "Did you say just now, that you are a very happy man?" "Yes I did", the man said. The soldiers told him about the king and his illness etc. The man gave a hearty laugh and said "But I do not even possess a shirt!"

This story was titled as "A happy shirt" and I had read it as a child in a story book. It is still in my memory so very vividly, because my father was known as "a happy man" in the neighbourhood and we used to call his shirt jokingly "a happy man's shirt!!"

- Dr. Sulochana

To be normal

A very dear friend of mine was seriously ill. In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hi-tech hospital, he was hooked on to all possible wires and tubes. The pain was excruciating and seemed endless. Doctors were struggling to give him relief, but actually increasing his agony in the process. He lay exposed to the gaze of the antiseptic environment filled with doctors and nurses who were giving him everything except empathy. Visitors were not allowed, except for a brief five minutes in the evening. He could not read, could not move. His body lay motionless, but his mind was fully active. He had no choice but to bear the agony, without even seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, as to when relief will come.

He was a popular person. Dozens of friends and well-wishers would throng outside the ICU every evening just to have a two minute "darshan" of his helpless self. Each of them came with love and admiration. But none of them could offer solace. One evening, one of his good friends came up to him, held his hand, and said "We are all so proud of you. You are so strong and you are facing pain and difficulty with such courage".

After the others went away and the visiting hours drew to a close, I saw tears in his eyes. It was one of the rare occasions when he broke down. "I don't want to be brave" he said, "I don't want to be courageous.  I want to be like everyone else. I want to go out with those friends and share a samosa in the canteen." Simple words, but how insightful. I realized that even I had taken his courage and his strength for granted. Maybe instead of admiring these qualities, I should have told him more about how I will use my strength and courage to supplement his, maybe I should have given him more hugs....Maybe...

Silver hair and age of gold,
That shows their pain untold.
Wrinkled faced and glasses to eyes,
You'll ask me what about it is nice?
The agony that they cannot bear,
And nobody around them to care.

They have a lot of experience,
Often accompanied by loneliness.
All the stories and tales hidden,
As there are no children to listen.
When the mind lingers down the memory lane,

Their eyes are moist by the joy and pain.
They cook and eat all alone,
Their friends are the sun and the moon.
Who never miss the visit a day,
Except the moon who hide and play
During the night they mumble and tremble,
In the dark they often triple
Remembering their children who are away
And speak about them in gay
They have been pushed aside as "seniors"
BY the young, arrogant "juniors"

With little time and adequate patience
We can be the friends of these old ones.
Then the young and the old can be a family
That cares for one and another and lives happily.

-Deepthi Kashyap.P

She lived her life to the fullest. She ruled over her house and family with an iron hand. After eight decades of being in-charge, her body started to give way. She lost out on health, on control over her children and grandchildren. She was in and out of hospital, every time bouncing back when doctors had given up hope.

She suffered quite a bit in the end so many people do. She had resilience, a fight spirit. She refused to let go, otherwise she would have gone months ago when she had volatile downswings in health and had to be hospitalized in intensive care a number of times. She hung on to life till the last day. Why do we all do that? Why is life so precious even when its quality deteriorates to unimaginable misery, and when there is no hope of recovery or improvement? It could be partly because religious teaching says that we should value life, suicide is a sin. It could also be because we are scared of death and what it may bring. The fear of the unknown. "Where do I go when I die?" I am a sinner, so will I got to hell, or be born as a miserable cockroach?" Maybe these are the unanswered questions that prevent us from gracefully accepting the inevitable, and willfully moving on to the next phase.

We cry when someone near and dear dies. We cry, not for the deceased person (I would hate to use the word "soul", it sounds so melodramatic that the moment a person dies, we refer to him with reverence) We cry for our own mortality. We cry because we are left alone, we are confused, we don't know where we are headed, and we are scared because it is another reminder of our own death. Shakespeare said in "Julius Caesar" : Cowards die many times before death. The brave taste of death but once. Are we not cowards?

I have always thought of myself as being un-materialistic, not unduly attached to money or material. A small incident occurred recently that made me think deeply about this.

Having unsuccessfully tried to get rid of a fever that left me weak, cold and irritable, I decided to give my doctor a chance. I came home and faithfully swallowed the tablets he had given me.

The next day I needed my purse--a small black, old leather one bulging with folded notes and many papers--and it was missing! Reluctant to tell my husband about it I surreptitiously looked for it everywhere. Finally I told him what had happened. His immediate question was the obvious one "how much money was in it?" I was well prepared for that one (being married to the same spouse for a long period of time does educate you) "About Rs.225/- and some change" I said without batting an eyelid. "But there were some papers..." I trailed of vaguely. I had absolutely no idea how much money there was in it. It could very well have been much more as I usually do not lose things. I was slightly upset and annoyed at my carelessness (sign of ageing?)

When I sat down for prayer, these questions popped up in my mind! Was the money such a big amount that you cannot carry on? Will it make a big difference in your life? Were there such important papers that you will be greatly troubled without them? Was the purse by itself so precious or special? To my surprise my candid answer to each and every question was a firm "No" So why was my mind not able to let go of the 'purse thought?"

If I was attached to something so insignificant and materialistic as this, what about others of greater significance? What about relationships? Why when someone I thought was a good friend just cuts off completely and suddenly for no reason? Possibly it might have been a need based relationship and I had failed to recognize it as such. What when someone close passes away? I realized the need someone close passed away? I realized the need to practise a detached attitude in my dealings with the world.

I was reminded of Swami Chinmayananda's notes on a verse of the Bhagavad Geetha (chapter iv, verse20) "We are not asked here to renounce the fruits of action or such to ignore them, but we are only warned to renounce our mental slavery and intellectual clinging to expected fruits."

Was the purse mine before it came to be in my possession? No, is it mine now? No. So how can I grieve for something that never was mine except very temporarily?

One taxi driver pick ups a fare that changes his life

There was a time in my life twenty years ago when I was driving a taxi for a living. What I didn't count on when I started was that it would also become a mobile counselling centre. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a rolling confessional. Passengers would climb in, sir behind me in total anonymity, and tell me of their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and made me weep. And none of those lives touched me more than that of a woman I picked up late on a warm August night.

I was responding to a call from a quiet part of the city. When I arrived at the address, the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances many drivers would honk once or twice, wait for a short minute, and then drive away. Too many bad possibilities awaited a driver that went up to a darkened building at 2.30 in the morning.

But I had seen too many people trapped in a life of poverty who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation had a real whiff of danger, I always went to the door to find the passenger. It might, I reasoned, be someone who needs my assistance. Would I not want a driver to do the same if my mother or father has called for a taxi? So I walked to the door and knocked.

"Just a minute", answered a frail and elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.After a long pause, the door opened. A small women somewhere in her 80's stood before me. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The sound had been her dragging it across the floor.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car? "she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm, and we walked slowly towards the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

"It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated." "Oh, you're such a good boy" she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked "Could you drive through the main road?"

"It's not the shortest was", I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind", she said "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to hospice" I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left" she continued "The doctor says I don't have very long.

I quietly reached over the shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to go?" I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked. We drove through the neighbourhood where and her husband had lived when they had first been married. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she would have me slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

At the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now" We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the vehicle as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing", I said. " You have to make a living", she answered. "There are other passengers" I responded. Almost without thinking I bent and gave her a hug. She held me tightly. "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy", she said :Thank you".

There was nothing more to say. I squeezed her hand once, then walked out into the dim morning light. Behind me. I could hear the door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the remainder of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What is I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? How many other moments like that had I missed or failed to grasp? What if I has been in a foul mood and has refused to engage the woman in conversation?

We are so conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unawares. When that woman hugged me and said that I had brought her a moment of joy, it was possible to believe that I had been placed on earth for the sole purpose of providing her with that last ride.

I do not think that I have ever done anything in my life that way any more important.

(Contributed by S.Ram)

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