Saturday, November 29, 2014

In Control

I have often heard people at the helm; in an organisation, or leaders, even parents and spouses, declare, “I’m in control, don’t worry,” or “We have it under control.” It makes those who look up to them and trust them feel assured and safe. The question is: Are we in total control of everything that transpires; everything that occurs in our lives? Even small things like, a cancelled flight, a traffic jam, the Help going AWOL or a flat tyre are out of our control. When we have this intense need to ‘control’ everything and come face to face with situations that fall out of our control, we generally react in an undesirable manner resulting in: bad attitude, anger, and frustration.

Are we ever in total control? Not everything comes under our total control. Life consists of matters within our total control, partially in our control, and totally out of our control and influence. We can control our diet. We can control our choices in who to be friends with, what social obligations to honor and which relationships to maintain. We can partially control most of our expenses, but some just come at us like a bolt from the blue. We can control our daily, monthly, annual expenditure, but medical expenses often shoot out of nowhere. We can even exercise control over our moods and feelings. We can control whether we want to be happy or not. There are many areas of control, in lesser or greater degree. However, often the things beyond our control are the ones that cause us to be vexed, grieved, or depressed beyond a normal level. Of these emotions, anger is the most destructive and dangerous one when we lose control of ourselves and allow the emotion to rule us. Extreme anger can tilt us over the edge and make us mad with rage, causing us to do things we would never even think of doing in a calm, sane state of mind.

“Do not be quick in spirit to be angry or vexed, for anger and vexation lodge in the bosom of fools.” ~Numbers 21:8

How we react in situations out of our control is what determines the quality of our life. We can get frustrated over a sudden punctured tyre or a car breakdown or a traffic jam. Our attitude could be - abuse, rant and rave and perhaps vent our anger by kicking the object of our ire, namely the car or the offending tyre, or keep calm and think of what needs to be done, under the circumstances, and take action with a good attitude. In a traffic jam, fuming does not provide enough power to lift your vehicle and make it a flying machine. There is a lot more you could do in the waiting time: relaxing is just one of many other options! Many situations and circumstances come up in life that are worse than this. How we deal with it decides whether we get “bitter or better.” I know there are many things that occur which can be irritating and frustrating. It’s alright to be annoyed, irritated or frustrated. It is also okay to have an occasional meltdown. Breaking down does not indicate weakness nor does it indicate incapability. On the contrary it helps us to bounce back with renewed energy and spirit. What is corroding is dwelling in a place of frustration and giving it more expression than it deserves. This affects our attitude in an adverse way. I have learned that the hard way.

We have our areas of control as people in positions of administration and authority. This is to maintain discipline and order. The trouble starts when we begin to rely on our own strength, knowledge, and understanding to control all things beyond the given limits of things under our control. The best way to deal with circumstances out of our control is to do our bit; give it our best shot and leave the rest to God. Not every untoward incident or situation that occurs is our responsibility. We do not have to carry that burden of guilt, regret, sorrow, and anger to a point where it breaks us, or worse ruins us. Giving it to the Lord is the best way to deal with it. It is good to say, “I’m not going to let that get to me,” and turn away. This does not mean that we become indifferent towards things. It means we make a distinction between what is in our control; how much is in our control, and having done what we could do, submit the rest to God with faith and trust.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him.....Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

When we regularly get upset over everything that’s not going our way, we suffer more. And often we allow a molehill to grow into a mountain and weigh us down. Instead “cast your cares” upon the Lord. Accept what has occurred. Move on.

God is in total control. We may not understand many things now or even later because God works in mysterious ways. I am telling you what I have learned. He uses every difficulty, every pain, for our benefit. He even turns a setback to our advantage. All we need to do is just trust Him in all things and we can make it through the ups and downs of life with a better attitude and a better quality of life, if we believe. I choose to have greater peace, love, joy, and strength rather than anger, bitterness, and frustrations.

What do you choose?


Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Midnight Watch

She stood there, about two feet away from the curb, right on the road. I stood a few inches away from the window, partially hidden behind the curtain, and watched.

It was past midnight; half an hour past the witching hour. I had dozed through the serial I had running on my laptop, waking up in fits and starts to reconnect with my long time favourite character, DCI Tom Barnaby. He's losing his hold on me it seems! I wouldn't have dozed on a Barnaby serial a couple of years back. Anyway, the murderer was found and another murder case solved in Midsomer by Barnaby, and it was time I dropped off to sleep. As usual I switched off the lights and went to draw the curtains a wee bit apart to allow some light from the street to filter in. And as usual I peeked into the street below my window. It was a weekday and I expected it to be as deserted as it always was, only this time I saw this young girl standing almost in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, trying to keep warm. It was a cold and windy night. Prostitute, I pronounced. Then I wondered why she was on this intersection. It wasn't a section of the city frequented by streetwalkers. Besides, I didn't think there was much traffic down these roads so late into the night, in the middle of the week. But then I guess she knew better, and soon I did too, as the cars whizzed past. Normally, I would have forgotten about her before I reached my bed. But for some reason this night, sleepy as I was, I continued to stand and keep watch. There was something about her face and general appearance that caught me.

Our home stands at the corner of an intersection, so I had a good view of the four roads that diverged from there. And the streets are so brightly lit I could also see the girl quite clearly. She stood facing me and I noticed she was not dressed the way a woman in her profession normally does, neither was her face done up with heavy make-up; in fact she wore almost no make-up: a light pinkish lipstick, no visibly dark eye shadow, and light make-up around her eyes. Her hair wasn't curled, permed, frizzled or done up in any way. It fell softly around her face, up to her shoulders. No unusual colouring; ordinary, everyday hair. Her jewellery consisted of a pair of modest danglers. Nothing about her: clothes, footwear, or hair was loud or garish. Her clothes were those of an office executive. She looked like one of the many smart, office executives who passed beneath my window everyday. Her body language and posture did not support the stereotypical street-walker. I do not know if it is politically right to say this, but then I'm not a politically right person most times, I had felt disgust at the first fleeting sight of her. However, the initial revulsion I had felt when I first noticed her, dissipated. There was something about her that was so vulnerable. She seemed out of place in this scenario. Even when she stood and watched the cars whizzing past, and called out and waved to some who slowed down, she didn't sound like the person she obviously was. She was neither brash nor bold. She didn't look like a hooker; she didn't sound like one either. I was intrigued, because she was the antithesis of what I had read, heard, and seen of women who were streetwalkers.

Fifteen minutes passed. And then another five dragged by. I told myself I was being utterly stupid. At my age one doesn't stand at a window, well past one's bedtime, to surveil an unknown woman who certainly knew what she was about. No amount of cajoling could coax my feet to walk away from my vantage point of observation, to a decent night's sleep. I had to see more, know more. I wrapped a shawl around my shoulders, leaned against the glass pane, still hidden behind the curtains with a perfectly clear view of the girl.

I could tell that the night was getting colder. She began to stamp her feet; rub her hands to keep warm. Then she took out a packet of cigarettes from her coat pocket and lit up. She just stood in one place, almost in the pathway of oncoming traffic. If it were day time, she'd not be able to stand on the road without being either run down or then hauled away by the police. Cars whizzed by. She just stood and watched, turning to see if any stopped ahead. There were the cars with youngsters who shouted derogatory remarks and guffawed as they sped past her. She didn't react. Her expression didn't change. She maintained her emotionless demeanor. The only time I saw a flicker of a smile and her face lighting up was when some cars slowed down as they approached her, some out of curiosity I suppose, most to avoid hitting her.

Then a car drove up right under my window. It stopped at the pedestrian crossing and I guess the driver gestured for her to come to him. She was like a child who'd been promised an ice-cream or chocolates or a day at the beach. She ran across and this time she had a broad smile across her face. She was pretty, and young too. I could see her better, as she was standing directly below my window, facing me, with the street light on the opposite side lighting up her face. 

Ah! Finally she gets a customer, I thought, and didn't like the way I thought it. Don't ask me why. I had started to feel sad and sorry for her. There were many things going through my mind and it had all to do with how young and bright she appeared, and how sad that she was on the streets like this.
Anyway, I saw her talking to the person in the driving seat. Some words floated up through the quiet night. Negotiations, I announced to no one in particular. However, something wasn't quite right. Her expressions and the way she was talking didn't look like she was talking business. If I hadn't been observing her, I'd have thought she was talking to someone she knew and exchanging small talk. Then she made gestures and expressions that showed contriteness, helplessness, and if I'm not mistaken she appeared, regretful! It struck me that the man in the car was in no mood to be a customer. He seemed to be talking to her about what she was doing and why. She wrung her hands, raised her shoulders in a sign of helplessness and slumped them in resignation. And there was a lot of, "No senor. Si senor." It was a long, slow conversation of about five minutes, and she smiled a lot and nodded in agreement to whatever was being said. Then I saw her stretching out her hand to take something from the man, and I saw a small bundle of sorts. It wasn't clear, but I thought, (awful of me) that's a lot of money. "She's a great negotiator!" I whispered with something like respect. Then instead of getting into the vehicle, she slipped something which looked more like money from under the packet and put it into her pocket. As she thanked the man, she took something from the packet and popped it into her mouth. She went chomp, chomp like a squirrel with a stuffed mouth. The man drove off. He had counselled her, in my over-positive opinion, handed her some money and a tit-bit to munch on. What! Can this be happening! I was totally awestruck. What a man he was! 

The girl finished what she was eating and stood quietly for a while. Then she saw headlights approaching and sprinted right into the middle of the road, in front of the approaching car, waving both her arms wildly. What now, I thought, with bated breath. This was so unlike her...since I had been observing her for some time and it surprised me. It was like a serial unfolding before my eyes.The car slowed, swerved but didn't stop. She ran alongside a few paces, saying something to the driver. Then gave up as the driver accelerated. She stood looking after it. A few yards up, the car stopped. She ran down the road. Although I could see a bit of what was going on, I couldn't make out her expressions or words. I saw the door opening and the girl getting in. And then she was gone. "She's taking a lift home, finally," I said thankfully. I wanted a good ending. I wanted a hopeful ending. Whatever my mind said to the contrary, my heart said: she went home.

I like to think the sudden, wild burst of energy and emotion had something to do with her encounter with the previous gentleman. I also like to think that she hadn't been putting on an act for the kind man. I want to believe that one act of compassion had taken a young girl off the street for one night at least. I want to believe that goodness, kindness and compassion still roam around the streets and linger around the corner, waiting to help someone.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Have A Question

As a mother of two, I had a lot of 'why,' 'but why,' 'how,' 'when,' 'where,' 'what,' coming at me, and at work there was no respite; I was a teacher. I faced a barrage of questions on a daily basis and not all of them were related to academics. Add to those the ones I asked myself on a daily basis. My replies were mostly direct answers to the question, but there were the occasional evasive, vague answers that weren't outright lies but definitely skirted the truth. There were the silent answers, the ones that come from a piercing stare or a blank one and some were convoluted explanations. There were also the "I don't know now but I'll let you know," frank admissions.

Questions need answers and not every answer is satisfactory or enlightening. People might say: "give me an honest answer," but often an honest answer is not what they want to hear or it might be they are not quite mature to understand the truth. And then there are questions that we don't answer because to do so would be more painful for us than for the questioner.

This brings to mind some situations which occurred and raised many questions in my mind.

Way back in early 2000, I was a member of a well known NGO, and also a member on one of their boards. It dealt with urban development: the development of street kids and women and children in the slums of the city. One of the things the NGO undertook was rescuing women and girls from brothels and from domestic sexual abuse. They had a shelter where these rescued girls and women were brought to, but the longest period of an individual's stay was fourteen days. After that, if their families didn't accept them, or the NGO couldn't rehabilitate them into society through jobs and secure boarding-lodging, they were removed to government shelters where, sad to say, their fate was no better than their previous life.

One day one of the women who had been rescued from a brothel asked to meet us. She was one of those who could not get a job. One of the board members had assured the woman that she would find her a job as a domestic help. Unfortunately, the board member's efforts bore no fruit. When the woman came in, the member spoke to her and apologized profusely. 

The woman heard her out and then said: "Madam, tum mujhe kaamwali rakh lo apne ghar mein." (madam, you employ me as a domestic help in your house)

The lady was taken aback but she had to reply. We were the benevolent group who rescued women from abuse and here was one of those unfortunate ones asking one of us to employ her. And it was obvious the woman was waiting for a reply.

"Mere ghar mein already kaamwali hai, nahin toh main zaroor rakh leti." (I have a domestic help already, otherwise I would have definitely kept you)

If we thought that explained everything and closed the conversation, we were wrong. The woman wasn't in the mood to let go.

"Jo aurat tumhare ghar mein hai, usko kahin aur bhi naukari mil jayegi. Kaamwali ka bahut demand hai. Usko jaane do na. Mere ko rakh lo." (the woman working in your house will get another job. There's a big demand for help. Let her go and keep me)

The lady member was cornered. We all turned to look at her, wondering what she would say. The silence and discomfort was so heavy it was palpable. One of the ladies came to her rescue and explained to the woman that it would not be a practical thing to do.

"Mere ko wahan se nikala kya woh theek tha?" she said wagging a finger at the lady. "Mai kamati thi, khati thi. Ab mere ko naukari nahin, paisa nahi. Yahan rehene ko nahin. Yahan mai theek hun, koi khatra nahin. Par tum log yahan se bhi nikal rahi ho. Jahan bhejti ho wahan bhi mera wahi hoga jo pehle ho raha tha. Kya achha kiya tum madam log ne. Mere ko bachaya bola. Ek se bachaya, doosre ko phenk diya." (You took me out of there, was that right? I was earning, eating. Now I have no job, no money. I can't stay here. I am fine here. I have nothing to fear. But you are sending out from here. Where you are sending me my fate will be the same as before. What good did you do? You claim to have saved me. You saved me from one and throw me to another)

Then randomly she singled me out, and directing her question to me asked: "Kyun madam, tum mere ko rakhlo." (Why don't you keep me madam?) I shook my head and she let out a raucous laugh.

"Ek last sawal puchegi tum madam log se. Mere ko kyun nahin kaamwali rakhti ho apne ghar mein? Doosre log se bolti ho isko rakho, lekin apne ghar mein nahin. Kyun madam?" 
(I'll ask one last question. Why don't you keep me as a domestic help in your homes? You ask others to employ me but you won't employ me. Why madam?)

And she turned on her heel and walked out.

Immediately the members began defending and justifying their stand to each other. It didn't matter to any one in the room what the other said. The person to whom it mattered had left the room.


And more recently I was asked one of these don't-want-to-answer type of questions by the nanny (domestic help) I was watching an old Hindi movie and Helen was doing a cabaret. The conversation veered to this type of professional dancing in India and if it was a popular profession. I told her that these kind of dancers are not considered respectable by Indian society and so it wasn't a chosen profession by 'respectable' girls. She was appalled! 

"We have so many dancers here. I know a girl who is a pole dancer. These girls are just doing a job. Our society doesn't look down on them. It is their livelihood," she informed me.

"But there are so many other jobs they could do," I countered lamely.

"But what if they don't get any other job? What if they are single mothers? It is possible they are not educated enough, or can't do any other work. Many jobs have long hours and very low pay. How will she support herself and her child?"

I couldn't argue with that and honestly didn't want to either. Instead I spoke about social taboos, and then summed it up with the 'every society has its own values and social norms' excuse. It was good, I said, that her society believed in the dignity of labor to that extent. Ours, unfortunately, didn't even believe in the dignity of labor. She didn't quite get that and I didn't elaborate. I couldn't bring myself to tell her that as a domestic help in her country she enjoyed better pay, respect, and many liberties in her employer's home than her counterparts in India. She shook her head in disapproval. Then she said: "I have a question." I told her to go ahead and ask.

She walked over to where I was sitting and looking directly at me said, "I can understand that customs, traditions are different. But I am asking you if you too think these women are not respectable? Do you think that doing a pole dance in a bar is a bad thing?"

"Put in the situation you described, I don't think I do."

I thought it was over but I had another think coming.

 "Would you be friends with a pole dancer in your country?" She waited for an answer.

I was thinking hard; trying to choose my words; frame my sentences in a way that wouldn't hurt her sensibilities. But I guess what I was really doing was trying to find a way to wiggle out of answering that. She didn't shift her gaze and waited patiently. I knew I had to say something. So I countered with another question.

"If you treated your dancer friend the way she would be treated by society in India, how would it be?"

Her answer was prompt. She said she could never do that. I prodded her. Why couldn't she do that?

"I would be treated badly by everyone if I did. Even my children would be annoyed with me. I would be ostracized"

"Well, senora, that's exactly why I would not be able to be friends with a pole dancer in my country." I was glad she didn't ask if I would befriend one in her country!

I managed to get out of that one by making society the villain.


But Q&As can be fun too...and some on hindsight. 

The most amusing Q&As were the ones that transpired between Mummy and I. As a kid, and a rather tomboyish one who got into all kinds of scraps and fights, I faced a lot of questions. I dreaded the questions my mother would ask. Not because I was scared, but because it was tedious. I found her questions wrong; she found my answers false!  She'd see a bruise or a wound and along with the first aid the questions would start. Here's an example of one of our question-answer dialogues after I took on an older boy who was in a fight with my brother. I was not invited to the fight, I just jumped in!

"Who did you fight with?"

"No one. Someone fought with me."

"Don't lie to me, you must have hit first."

"Hmm...I did hit him first, but I didn't start the fight."

"If you struck first you started the fight."

"Why do you say that?" It was my turn to ask.

"Why else would someone fight with you? You hit a person, the person will retaliate."

It didn't make sense to me.

"Why would I hit someone just like that? There has to be a reason for me to fight."

"Why do you have to fight? You play with your brother's friends and act like a boy." I didn't get an answer to my question and the entire conversation went off-course.

"Boys also don't fight without a reason. And I didn't start the fight." I emphasized.

"Stop lying. You know what happens to children who lie?"

"Yes, they get punished by their parents and by God also."

"So say 'sorry' now."

"To whom? I am not lying."

"But you fought, yes? That is also wrong. So say 'sorry."

"Ok, sorry mummy."

"Good girl.

"Mummy, what is 'retaliate'?"

"It means to fight back. To give tit for tat."

"That's what I did," I said triumphantly.

She gave me a look and I ran off.

My conversations with mummy were always like this and even when I grew older I still couldn't get her logic. But I enjoyed sparring with her, and I'm sure she did too!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Grey Matters!

Grey is the dominant color of winter these days. I wake up to grey mornings and peek through the curtains, desperate to see a chink in the clouds and a stray, struggling ray of yellow pushing its way through. I like the grey of rainy days, but when it gets cold I'd rather have yellow, red, salmon, orange but grey! That being said, I must add I like winter rains: drizzles as well as downpours. I just can't stand the dip in temperature.

There's something about rain and me...perhaps it's not only me...I find it romantic. These days that translates to nostalgia. So here in my little room, I'm all by myself and I play old numbers, gaze at the changing shades of grey outside, hoping for the sunshine tomorrow! Gone are my days of walks in the rain. So I keep myself happy with cooking 'rainy day' foods! We have many such assorted foods for wet, cold and dull days that cheer up a sagging spirit. I guess there is a way that leads from the tummy to the heart after all, and it doesn't apply only to the male species!

I have a dream; an aspiration. I intend to pursue it, but right now I've barely taken half a step forward and I'm already intimidated. It involves so much of technical and internet work, which always bares its fangs at me and sends me scuttling into a corner. However I've decided not to give up. That sounds braver than I feel by the way, but I am going to go through with it, my physical limitations and condition notwithstanding, even if it takes me a year (or more!) At times like these I wish elves didn't just dwell in fairy tales and were available to help me at the drop of a sigh!

It surprises me how the yearnings and wishes pile up in direct proportion to the years I notch up on my birthdays! Right now I wish I were closer to my native land and all my friends, relations and things familiar. Two decades ago, I'd not be so bothered about distances. Not for want of love but because distance would not rise as an insurmountable obstacle. There is more I don't take for granted today than I did earlier. Times, and people have changed and things are no longer as they used to be. I have learned more in the past decade. I take more trips down memory lane than I ever have, but I don't dwell there. The present may not be all that I'd dreamed of or hoped for, but what I have realized is far more than my expectations. I'd rather live in it and learn new things and move on, and while I'm on my way I might as well kick my heels and do a song and dance, even if it's only in my mind.

Among all the new things I learn, I stumble upon some newfangled words like 'pizzled.' I learned that it describes, quite aptly, a situation which leaves you puzzled and pissed off! In other words confused and annoyed. It seems that everyone has a word mint at their disposal. If the word gains currency, it will soon find its way into a dictionary. That's language, dynamic. But I'd rather form a new word like 'confoyed' to describe my state in a similar situation! I would like to hear of some more of these new generation compound words from you if you are reading this. Let's share.
Fill in the blank in the comment box: "I was ..................when/with/at what...........!

This has been an accomplishment for me! It has taken me a long time to type this small piece, (some disc probs compounded with other muscular probs have escalated) but I've finally done what I set out to do and now for the final review. Yoohoo!

"You just can't beat a person who never gives up."


Saturday, May 10, 2014

When Mummy Sang A Song

I heard a song by Bill Anderson: Mama Sang A Song, and it struck a chord with me. My mama sang hymns too, all the day. And as the song says, I think a lot about the time back when I was a girl.

Mummy was a SAHM. Of course back then the term was not in use because in my country, in those days, most mothers stayed at home. So it was no big deal. But unlike most mothers, mine had been a working girl before she married. She was a WRIN. That's what the women working for the Women's Royal Indian Navy service were called! Since Daddy didn't want her to continue working she resigned herself to being a housewife. The term 'home-maker' was not in use then. Mummy didn't seem to resent that. But life did not prove to be what she had dreamed it would be. 

She grew up in a well-to-do family. Although she was an orphan, she was the child of rich parents. Her foster parents were affluent too. My father on the other hand grew up in a respectable family, but 'rich' or 'well-to-do' were not tags ascribed to it. His father was a school teacher with ten kids, though respectable and certainly not in a hand-to-mouth situation, the family was just getting by comfortably. She grew up in a different society and their cultures and traditions were poles apart. But I guess it was a case of opposites attract. That didn't matter all that much either, what did make it difficult was the absence of the luxuries she had been used to and the extravagance. She used to go for breakfast to the Taj Hotel in Mumbai before she got married and took friends with her many times! Daddy gave her the best he could. There was no lack of domestic help; people to help around the house and kitchen and at most times, two people on twenty-four hour call. But that compensated for little. Her expectations went beyond the domestic arena. So life was difficult for her. There was a lot of adjustment involved at every step. But Mummy sang; she sang to build up courage; she sang to console herself; she sang to rekindle joy; she sang to calm her soul; she sang to cheer up her sagging spirits; she sang to fill the home with melody; she sang because she loved to sing.

When she was at a crossroad and didn't know where to turn, she sang "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer."

I remember her stirring and baking and cooking her way through delicious meals for the family as she filled the kitchen with tempting aromas and heavenly tunes: "The chimes of time ring out the news another day is through, someone slipped and fell was that someone you? You may have longed for added strength your courage to renew, do not be disheartened for I have news for you: it is no secret what God can do, what He's done for others He'll do for you...."

When Daddy put in for a premature retirement from the Navy, and moved the family to his home town in Punjab, she was devastated. Did she crack? No. She took it in her stride. And as she took to rural life, pumping water from a hand pump, washing, cleaning, and cooking with no domestic help she sang: "Tempted and tried we're oft made to wonder, why it should be thus all the day long while there are others living around us, never molested though in the wrong. Further along we'll know all about it. Further along we'll understand why, cheer up my sister live in the sunshine, we'll understand it all by and by."

When she was lonely with no one she could befriend in this Punjab town, she went through the day happily humming: "I've found a friend in Jesus, He's everything to me, He tells me every care on Him to roll, He's the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star, He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul."

And when she lay down tired, at the end of the day, she'd fall asleep singing: "Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe from corroding care, there by His love o'er shaded sweetly my soul shall rest."

Mummy sang some other songs too, but her favorite and most sung songs were hymns. Although I have mentioned situations and some hymns she'd sing, it was not the only reason she sang. Mummy loved to sing. She sang alto in the church choir. Mummy actually taught us faith. Not in sermons; not in speech, but through her songs. She turned to God every time to replenish hope, love and joy not only when things became difficult for her but all the day long. And in doing so taught me a valuable lesson.

Mummy's singing brought peace and calm then, and today the legacy she left carries forward in my home and life.

I sing too. I sing a lot of songs of different genres, unlike my mother, but like her I sing a lot of hymns too. Like our home when I was a girl, my home is also filled with songs. I am so grateful for her singing. It made me happy when I was a girl and it makes for such precious memories now.

These lines from the song sum it up:

"God put a song in the heart of an angel, and softly she sang it to me.....
I get to thinking lots of times.....of the old home place where I grew up,
of the days both good and bad....
our home fire never flickered once, 'cause when things went wrong.....
mama sang a song...... 
And those were the greatest days of all, When mama sang a song....
No voice is left to fill those halls, And no steps to grace the floor,
For you see my mother sings in heaven now, around God's golden throne.
But I'll always believe this world is a better place (for me)
because one time my mama sang a song.

I am a grandmother now but the memories of Mummy's singing, as she carried on faithfully with her chores and duties, still motivate and inspire me.

Thank you for the songs Mum. Thank you for the faith.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Dinner for One starring Freddie Frinton and May Wa...

A bad shoulder which hindered movement in my right arm, kept me away from blogging for a long time. I tried to keep up with my Fb page D Stepladder2hope using my left hand to type whenever possible. Today I am able to type with my right hand, even though the pain is not gone completely. But it is very slight and can be managed without the suffering!

The days of a right-handed person who has nothing much to do in a foreign land except indulge in her favourite hobbies: cooking, blogging, and reading can be downright boring and awful if she can do none of these things. I read and read like a maniac initially until even holding the kindle was painful. The only relief was my daily walk. There's always a way to be happy. I believe that. So I renewed my love of movies and found a pleasant way to pass the hours. Old movies never were so great! I enjoyed each and every one. I laughed heartily during comedies, sang lustily with the musicals and played movie critic if any threatened to be boring. But I am so glad to be back at the keyboard. However I mustn't let the elation get the better of good sense. My newly developed ambidexterity enables me to rest my arm. Still, I'm not going to take undue advantage of this phase. Coming to the blog has done me a world of good. I enjoyed reading other blogs and even found a great skit which set my day right.

I laughed more than I expected to while watching this short comedy classic. I'm sure you will enjoy it too. The butler is really good and the tiger does a great job as a dead tiger rug! Trust me, slapstick in this case is funny. I'm sharing this from one of the blogs on my blog list. All you have to do is click on the link and enjoy the next seventeen minutes.
mugofstrongtea: Dinner for One starring Freddie Frinton and May Wa...: This seventeen minute comedy classic is presented by North German Television and is all in English with a short introduction in German. It...

I was glad for the seventeen hilarious minutes which helped to banish the depressing thoughts that came to me, willy nilly, when I looked out the window of my third floor bedroom, at the apartment block across the road. I have been thinking a lot about two strangers, two elderly sisters, who lived there on the nineteenth floor, a fortnight ago. I have no idea of their exact age but they were definitely not doddering oldies. Two sisters who lived in this beautiful apartment and as appearances go seemed quite fine as "I'm fine, thank you" goes. Then one beautiful sunny day while one of the them was out, the one at home decided to jump nineteen floors down and end a life that had appeared to be generally normal. By the time her sister got back, the police had arrived and residents and workers from the building stood around the body. She knew something dreadful had happened when the concierge looked at her as she entered through the gate.

She stood shocked and blankly stared at her sister lying there. She had been alive a little while ago. She answered a few questions she was asked by the police. Then she asked if she could go to the apartment for a while. She told them she would come back soon. The police officers were kind and let her go. They needed to ask more questions, but it could wait for a few more minutes. After all she wasn't leaving the premises. They didn't have to wait long. As promised she did come down; hurtling nineteen floors down and landed quite close to where her sister lay. The sudden 'thud' as the body landed right where they stood, sent a shudder down each one's spine. The two sisters had gone. The police was left with unanswered questions.

It seems that I too was left with some of my own queries. None of which had anything to do with the women per se, but about the loneliness, and often times resulting depression that arises in the lives of old people who have no support system. True these two had each other, but that's all they had, each other. When one went the other would be left alone and bereft. Was it some such thought that pushed the first one who jumped to take the plunge? Or was it something else? It is ironic how money and the comforts and security it can buy can't do much if one doesn't have a loving, caring family around. Especially for those to whom family, relationships matter a lot and form their support system. Ah! The tragedies of life. But life goes on and I too have got over the sadness. 

There's a weekend getaway coming up and I'm excited about it. It's a place I wished to go to way back in 2010, but never got to travelling there because I left Chile too soon. This time round god willing we're going to have a great road trip and a break at San Alfonso Del Mar.

The twins are going to be three months tomorrow! How time flies. So much of joy for this granny. My cup runs over and I'm drinking from the saucer.


mugofstrongtea: Dinner for One starring Freddie Frinton and May Wa...

mugofstrongtea: Dinner for One starring Freddie Frinton and May Wa...: This seventeen minute comedy classic is presented by North German Television and is all in English with a short introduction in German. It...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Some Say this and some say that...Perspectives

We all have opinions and views about everything. What one sees and what one thinks about it, depends on how one sees something and how one feels towards the subject. Different perspectives throw different shades on the same subject and present it in a different light.  Two people may look at the same thing and describe it differently. It is like seeing a glass with water mid-way to the top. Some would see it as half full and some as half empty. It's all about attitude and perspective. George Carlin says: "Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be."

I typed perspectives into the Google bar and got a whole lot of quotes on 'perspective.' I enjoyed going through them and picked a few which I want to share with you. Some are funny, some witty and some mundane but all are debatable if you're inclined to debate! I'm not in that mood!


*It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say, 'It's as plain as the nose on your face.' But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you? (Isaac Asimov)

*The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole. (Oscar wilde)

*When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity. (George Bernard Shaw)

*We see the moon as full, half or quarter. As far as the moon is concerned, he is always full. (Terri Guillemets)

*Flowers often grow more beautifully on dung-hills than in gardens beautifully kept. (saint Francis De Salles)

*It is seldom indeed that one parts on good terms, because if one were on good terms one would not part. (Marcel Proust)

*My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure. (Ashleigh Brilliant)

*Expectant of greater things we climb higher and higher - an effort that costs us much, leaving us short of breath to find only the ground below is much prettier. (Phillip Pulfrey)

*A boil is no big deal......on someone else's neck. (Jewish saying)

*The bat hanging upside down laughs at the topsy-turvy world. (Japanese proverb)

*In the ideal sense nothing is uninteresting; there are only uninterested people. (Brooks Atlinson)

*Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision. (Stevie Wonder)

*Retreat! Hell! We're just advancing in another direction. (Oliver Prince Smith)

*Not everything that is more difficult is more meritorious. (Saint Thomas Aquinas)

*An abridgement may be a bridge: it may help us over the water, but it keeps us from drinking. (Augustus William Hare, Julius Charles Hare)

*No one knows what they'll do in a crisis and hypothetical questions get hypothetical answers. (Joan Baez)

*What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight. (Joseph Joubert)

*Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is the lightning that does the work. (Mark twain)

*It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem. (G K Chesterton)

*I'm right-handed, whereas the fellow in my mirror is left-handed. I start shaving from the left; he starts from the right. Differences only in perceptions, but religious wars have been fought over such. (Robert Brault)

*People can tell you to keep your mouth shut but that doesn't stop you from having your own opinion. (Anne Frank)

*If you are going to say what you want to say, you are going to hear what you don't want to hear. (Roberto Bolano)

*At first, they'll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they'll dislike you. (Criss Jami)

*Don't judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him. (Georg Cristoph Lichtenberg)

*If you have to say or do something controversial, aim so that people will hate that they love it and not love that they hate it. (Criss Jami)

*One day you'll discover that the opinions of worthless people are worthless. (Piers Anthony)

*We don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note. Only notes that are different harmonize. The same is true of people. (Steve Goodier)

*We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. (Abraham Lincoln)

*If it's true our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little. (George Carlin)

*What people in the world think of you is really none of your business. (Martha Graham)

*Fairy tales always have a happy ending.That depends......on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen. (Jane Yolan)

*Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world. (Wayne W. Dyer)

*Sleep is the best meditation. (Dalai Lama)

On that note I say ciao.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Your Word

Recently, I came across a quote on commitment which reminded me of another one I had read, many, many years ago, that impacted my life. The recent one was:
"Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you."
It sounds great, very strong, however it left me with a feeling of ambiguity. It does not convey the whole message.  The stress on caution was missing. In the spur of a moment, caught up by a wave of emotion, we may commit to something without even giving it a thought. What are we committing to? The reference to "the mood" is ambiguous. The mood could have been anything: frivolous, drunken, even just a dare or vicious, or bitter, or vengeful. What message is it conveying exactly? To a narrow mind, a narrow perception this message could be misleading. Before we make a commitment; a promise, we must be careful before we give our word. The message above seems to justify any commitment, made in any "mood." While commitments must be kept, it is important to know what we are committing to. Is it violating our value system? Is it going against the law of the land? Is it the right thing?   

The value of commitment was written on my heart when I was a ten year old. It was the year my father decided to put in his papers and take an early retirement from the Navy, to devote his time wholly to the Lord's service. After the formal send off by his department, daddy was invited by the Chief of Staff, Admiral B S Soman, to a private dinner at his home. My elder sister promptly gave daddy her autograph book for the Chief's autograph. The Chief obliged with these wonderful words of caution and wisdom:
"There is nothing more valuable than your word, so be careful."
I read it. I re-read it. I liked it. It sounded profound. I didn't get it. 

It was too profound for my limited intelligence in this area. So, as always, I had to ask daddy. And, as always, he sat me down and explained it to me, supporting it with biblical reference too. I nodded, it made sense but I still needed to think more about it. I mulled over it and then so many other matters of change occurred in my life, I had no time to ponder over such things as my word. But, neither the words nor the lesson was lost on me. I remembered. It was embedded on my heart. This small sentence with a huge message has stayed with me ever since; has nudged me, poked me, stabbed me so many times during the years of growing. If I thought I had learned it good I had another thought coming. Some lessons have to be learned and re-learned as long as it takes to get it. Even today, it kicks me hard, especially when I find myself caught in a maddening situation of honoring a commitment foolishly made.

It is better, any day, to say an emphatic 'no' (or a mild one) but a definite NO, rather than lie outright, or make lame excuses, or give outrageous, ridiculous reasons to wiggle out of keeping your word. 

Would you like to be known by the commitments you never kept? I guess not. So be careful who or what you are committing to.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Throw Away My Journals?

"She always threw away her journals after filling up the last page. It was an act of acceptance, a way of releasing the past and finding peace." ~Moments of Joy and Pain, a Journal

Eleven months back, I did just that...threw away my journals. It wasn't easy to make that decision. I was loath to part with them. It was as if by destroying them I would lose a part of myself; my memories would fade and so a part of me too.

This wasn't the first time I had thrown away journals, oh no, I had shredded a few without any remorse or regret five years back and purged myself completely of memories of bitterness, resentment, and anger. At that point in time I had just come to a place of acceptance and forgiveness and it hadn't been easy getting there. Once in a while I'd come across these journals while looking for something in drawers and cupboards and I'd casually flip through the pages, more from curiosity as I didn't remember what was recorded in which one. As I scanned the pages something horrible would show up and I'd be compelled to read the whole account of incidents which although I hadn't forgotten, were no longer the subject of focus or attention. They were simply accounts of incidents like a news report or story that I was impervious to and as such they had no affect on me. I believed that. How wrong I was! As I read, the picture would emerge bearing all the anguish, sadness, pain, hurt, rejection, anger, resentment, and injustice that I had felt at the time of each incident or situation, and what I thought I had overcome, accepted and forgiven was actually not gone, but lying dormant like a reptile in hibernation. Just waiting to be revived and spring back with renewed vigour. I would relive the moments, and feel the emotions taking over and destroying my newfound peace and calm. Truth dawned: I had not really forgiven. To forgive and forget meant to forgive and forget the bitterness, the pain, the hurt; to shake off the negative feelings and move on. To say it was tough would be an understatement. I was battling myself. Finally faith, trust and spirit won and I was able to read each word and not feel the stirring of any unwanted and unwelcome feelings.

That's when the strings were broken and I was free. The journals went the way they should have gone a long time back. But as they say, "Better late than never."

To come back to the beginning again. Why was it difficult to discard some more scribblings collected, post the detoxing, over the years? These were not the 'Unhappy Diaries' kind of journals. So now it became a question of being cut off from my happy memories. Many questions, silly, absurd, and valid, cropped up. To my mind, of course, every question was valid and reasonable and every reasonable, valid and justifiable answer was out of the question! What if those wonderful, happy memories got wiped out...erased due to any reason, possibly amnesia or Alzeihmer's? It's so funny how even the lamest question seems so important when one wants to hold on to a crutch. So, an unnecessary battle ensued once again. I wonder at my proclivity for going to war with myself so many times. Long story short, 'joy' won! After all joy was in me, deep-seated, deep-rooted. I have a propensity to find joy in little things, in down times too. Tying my happiness to a few journals could not ensure recall if the thing that worried me most -  forgetting -  occurred! I carried those moments with me. As long as memory served me well, I would remember. So those went too. Am I happy? Can I remember and relive the joy? To both I say a definite yes, but to be honest photographs and videos do contribute in a major way! 

Have I done away with journaling? No, I haven't and I guess I never will. But things are different now. The purpose of writing is no longer what it was and that has made all the difference.

"Don't use your mind for a filing cabinet. Use your mind to work out problems and find answers; file away good ideas in your journal." ~Jim Rohn

Excerpt from Paulo Coelho's blog: On Writing.

"All creative processes, be they in literature, engineering, computing - and even love - always respect the same rules: the cycle of nature....Ploughing the field: The moment the soil is turned, oxygen penetrates places it was unable to previously....The process of interior revolution is very important - because, just as the field's new look will see sunlight for the first time, and be dazzled by it, a new assessment of our values will allow us to see life innocently, without ingenuity. Thus we will be prepared for the miracle of inspiration. A good creator must know how to continually turn over his values, and never be content with that which he believes he understands...Sowing: All work is the fruit of contact with life. A creative man cannot lock himself in an ivory tower; he must be in contact with his fellow men...He never knows, at the outset, which things will be important to him in the future, so the more intense his life is, the more possibilities he will create for an original language. Le Corbusier said that: as long as man tried to fly by imitating birds, he couldn't succeed. The same applies to the artist...Growth: there is a time in which the work writes itself, freely, at the bottom of the writer's soul - before it dares show itself.....It is this moment which the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade refers to, when he states that we should never try to recover lost verses, for they never deserved to see the light of day. I know people who during a growth period, spend their whole time furiously taking notes on everything which comes into their head, without respecting that which is being written in the unconscious. The result is that the notes, which are the fruit of memory, end up disturbing the fruit of inspiration. The creator must respect the time of gestation, although he knows - just like the farmer - that he is only partially in control of his field; it is subject to drought and floods. But if he knows how to wait, the stronger plants, which can resist bad weather, will come to light with great force.Harvest: The moment when man manifests on a conscious plane that which he sowed and allowed to grow. If he harvests early, the fruit is green, if he harvests late, the fruit is rotten. Every artist recognizes the arrival of this moment; although some aspects may not have matured fully....he understands that he must work from dawn to dusk, until the work is finished."

With that I sign off.