I am a… Part 2

Okay, my previous post led quite a few readers to reach out to me and express their happiness of how well they identified and could relate to my situation. Thank you. That inspired me to delve one step further and clarify in my head what prayer means.

I think prayers are of two kinds, the standard one and the custom one. Let me explain. A standard prayer is printed somewhere or is carried forward from generation to generation, like the Lord’s prayer or Naamam as per Hindu traditions. The custom prayer of your personal outcry where the language is yours, words are yours, style and mood is what you define, an original piece of art. As a child I was never taught a standard prayer at home. I was that kid who came from Bangalore to central Kerala every summer with a suitcase and frocks in a taxi ambassador or Jeep. Cousins would gather to see what was in the suitcase, what frocks I had, and to hear about the magic of a distant land called Bangalore. Bangalore was the US of the 80s for most Keralites and I was privileged. So during one of those summer trips I found my aunt telling my cousins as the sun set to wash their hands and feet, light the lamp and pray. I followed them because as cousins you just copy each other. In my borrowed pavada-blouse (long skirt-blouse) I sat down with them. They started chanting the “Naamam” which is a prayer in praise of the Hindu Gods. I had no clue that something like this existed. I was surprised why my mother didn’t teach me these things. I just enjoyed the routine with my cousins, happy to wear the borrowed pavada-blouse and feel like a real Malayali.

My custom prayers almost always happened before the exam. My father told me to think of his deceased parents for blessings and write the exam, in the hope (he was sure) that they would help solve that crappy chemical equation or the long math theorem. Anyways I diligently obeyed prayed to them and aced my exams.

As I became more aware of the world, yonder world, souls, God, or to put it simply, as I increased my Spiritual knowledge, the magical Destiny kicked in. I started to believe that everything was destiny. If there was a supreme power that defined destiny, maybe. Until I read about and attended Dr Brian Weiss’s session. It was all about the soul. I still believe is Destiny but the soul and destiny define almost everything there is to life. So then going back to my original question, what is prayer? Are you really talking to God or the creator or the supreme?

No.

You are talking to yourself. To your inner conscience. When I “pray” asking for strength there is no magic happening where an ounce or pound of strength is invisibly pumped into you. I am telling my inner conscience to become stronger. Before all those exams I wrote, when I prayed to get good marks, nobody changed my answers on the answer sheet to make a 70, 95. What I had learnt and wrote got me the 95. Let’s take this example, you are going through a rough phase. You pray for help, strength, happiness whatever. 9 out of 10 times (unless your destiny is totally crappy) in a few hours or days or months the rough phase will pass. And you think, God made this happen, He turned things around. But really, did He? Look at it from the opposite side, good things were in store, so before that there was a low, that is how destiny plays out. Everyone can’t have good times all the time and everyone can’t have bad times all the time. So, did prayer do the magic?

So then why pray?

It is to create a layer above you. Otherwise we would simply drown in our ego. The layer you are creating above you is your conscience. It is your conscience that you should uphold at all times, irrespective of what you do. From times unknown or from religions created around the world, this layer has been called God. So we pray to God.

This is where the whole concept of custom prayer sky rockets way above my head. How can there even be a custom prayer? And that too loudly recited? Whose inner conscience are you reaching out to, your neighbors? Because the emphasis is not (most often) on feeling or meaning each word but play catch up. If you are slow you skip words to make the chorus sound right. It is funny and sad. People’s belief in custom prayers has blinded them from their inner conscience, is my personal take.

I am not an atheist. Atheist is one who does not believe in God. Do they believe in their inner conscience, maybe not is what I can guess. I am not sure. The only staunch atheist I know is my brother. Yes isn’t it a paradox that my father a staunch Brahmin and his son just the opposite.. 🙂. Having said everything I said above, I am starting to think that I am in between.. I believe in my inner conscience and I call that conscience God.

I want to teach my children to pray, so they believe in their inner conscience and can reach within for answers. That is what is important is my deduction based off what I wrote and read and spoke over the last few days. Not religion.. not practices.. what they decide to call this inner conscience and the practices they decide to adopt is upto them.

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My little one

Your eyes filled with a million dreams

Tears that roll down your little cheeks

A scary dream about me shatters you

Lying down on my lap

Is your happy moment

When you are happy you have to share it

With me

When you are disturbed

Telling me reassure you

This trust you have in me

That I am there for you

How did you learn this my little one

Was it when I held you

As you took your first steps

Or when I fed you as your little tummy growled

Was it when I held you

Each time you fell ill

Or did it form deep within

Even before I held you

This trust is the strongest of the strong

That I strive everyday

My little one

To hold onto

With my every being.

Spark Joy

If you have heard of Marie Kondo, you know what ‘spark joy’ means. She asks people to look at every object and ask the question ‘does it spark joy’ before deciding to trash it or keep it. I had never heard of Marie Kondo or her Konmari methodology. I am faaaaar from the most organized person you will find. My place is not a mess, you don’t have to tiptoe your way into the house, decently organized, but not Marie-Kondo-Organized. My sister-in-law is big about keeping things organized. It shows in her house as well, everything neat and put away and perfect. It is a joy visiting her house, I am just not made out of that cut. Anyways, she asked me to pick up Marie Kondo’s book from the library and that is the first time I ever heard about this organizing diva. No, I am not a follower, I don’t think I ever will be.

My designer friend on the other hand had another opinion. All said and done, out of curiosity, I decided to watch the Marie Kondo series on Netflix. I watched one episode (well, three fourth) on Netflix and learnt her mantra of ‘spark joy’. I liked her concept and subconsciously if an object does not spark joy in us, some of us throw it away, donate it or keep it in the corner of the garage. The ‘organizers’ promptly get rid of it. When I pick a dress to wear, if I think I will look good in it, then it sparks joy in me and I wear it, if not, it stay on the hanger for months!

Thinking deeper, doesn’t this concept apply to people. Except that the question is a little different. Do you spark joy in others? When you meet someone, it could be your children you see everyday, or your colleague at work, are they happy to see you? Isn’t that what matters? If my presence does not make the other person happy or as Marie Kondo says ‘spark joy’ then that relationship is stale. Whether you throw it away, keep it there depends on your circumstance and a lot of other things. But this concept is so easy to apply to identify positive and negative energies in your life. I read somewhere that it is important to identify the positive and negative energies in your life, it helps build self-confidence.

I would not focus on thinking about does the other person spark joy in you, because relationships always begin with you. If you are good, its good enough. When I go to work, almost all my colleagues greet me with a smile. I know the genuine ones and fake ones. To the fake ones, I know I am not sparking joy. But the genuine ones harness a positive realm around you, making you want to go to work. My kiddos, when I walk into the house after any kind of day, they come and hug me. Thats a definite sign of me sparking joy in them, like they do in me. Applicable to all mommy-baby relationships, it’s all positive there. It’s all in the moment, why wouldn’t you want to make it joyous?

Recently I was on the same median turning left into Barton Springs Rd. A homeless man stood on the median. He knocked on my window. I looked at him with conflicting thoughts of, I don’t have money to give you, I wish I could buy you food, how can I help him etc. When I looked at him, he used his hand to gesture to me and mouthed the word ‘smile’. I instantly smiled. He said, ‘thank you, that’s all I need’. I didn’t know what to make of it. I was stressed that morning, so a stranger on the street asking me to smile, was a reminder to smile and stay positive. I felt worse that I could not help him. But, who sparked joy in whom?…

Next time you meet anyone, just give it a thought, are you sparking joy in that person? If you are, good. If you are not, do you want to? If you want to, how will you do it? The sum total of these sparks is this amazing journey we are on.

To positive vibes! To sparking joys! To Marie Kondo!

The fellow..

I have written about various people in my life but I don’t think I have ever written about my sibling, my brother younger to me by five years but looks and thinks otherwise. The story of his birth is one of my favorites. When I joined Nursery at Bishop Cotton’s I am supposed to have come home and complained to my parents that every one has a brother or sister except me. And so the stork carried this light skinned baby boy to our house who was the apple of everyone’s eye.

Fast forward few years and like almost every first born I felt my parents were partial to him. The feeling of why I don’t have a brother changed to why do I have a brother, pretty quickly. So amidst favoritism we grew up fighting for the remote, grabbing things, hitting each other, annoying each other, the usual sibling stories. Like most families it was I who took the blame. He was the younger one and I being the older one was supposed to adjust. Our mother had no two rules about who got the beating irrespective of who started the quarrel. She gave it to us equally, like she was watching a tennis match, one here, one there, repeat, with a red plastic spatula.

He didn’t want to compete with anyone in his class at academics, all he wanted was to beat my grades, which he did most times. He developed a passion for basketball just to grow taller than the rest of us at home, we are a short family otherwise.

Although we fought quite a bit my feelings for him took a complete u-turn when my son was born (my older son looks like him by the way). He felt more like a son than my brother. It’s a strange feeling and I mix up their names even. One of my personal achievements that I feel fortunate about is that I was able to support him at various stages to better opportunities. And to me that checks off a major portion of my responsibility of the relationship. At the end of the day your sibling is your pillar of support whose foundation runs deep. There could be a few cracks but those heal magically, your parents already put in pixie dust in the cement.

He is going to rofl reading this, shower me with choicest words, making mincemeat of my emotions, like he always does, I know this. My father too is probably going to read this say brother-sister too much love, wonder when you’ll start fighting.. But the bottom line is that I love him and it’s an amazing blessing from the angels above that we now live a mile apart. The last time we lived under one roof was twenty years ago. Blessed, blessed, blessed!!

Texas Book Festival

2 days to go to the Texas book festival.. find me at the Writers League of Texas booth!!

Perspective..

As I inch towards the closure of another decade I skim through the past decade to see what I have achieved in the past ten years. One thought led to the other and if you look at a life span you can divide it into 6 or 7 parts. Yes, very much like the seven ages of man, as written by William Shakespeare.

That is all it is, at a 360 degree view, 6 or 7 or 8 parts. You can condense an entire lifetime if you hold up enough fingers on your hand. And what intrigues me is how much have I progressed in each part? What does one achieve in each part? Not materialistic achievements, naaaaah! How does one grow as an individual, harnessing this gift called life?

The first part is where you are constantly learning. So pretty much ignore it. You just do what your told to either by parents or teachers. You are not even allowed to reject the food on the table, so you simply acquire basic skills, one of the greatest ones being getting to the toilet each time you need to go…

The second part is where you explore a bit. Your parents let the harness loose, just a tad bit. You can reject the food on the table and go through the consequences of that act. Wings are beginning to flutter. You want to try and fly. You learn that you have wings. So yes, that’s an achievement.

The third part is where you make all the mistakes. Some mistakes you can walk out of, some change the course of your life. You have the money, so you want to go out there and achieve something. Some are pushed into getting things done, some take flight and have their first experience of crash landing. This is the part where your parents take a step back, because you think you know everything and have seen the world enough compared to their stage of fourth or fifth part.

The fourth part is where you are done making mistakes. This is the true part where you grow into the person you were meant to be. Everything before this was prep work. By the end of this part you have set base, your foundation is strong and you are now truly flying on your own. You can recognize the mistakes you made in the earlier one or two parts and have learnt from them. This is when you achieve personal progress.

The fifth part is where you try the dives. You try to soar. You want to take yourself to the next level. This is where you want to push yourself and seek answers to your true potential. For some though, this is where you relax after four parts of hard work. You sit back on the couch of life, sip in your success and feel good about yourself. For me personally, this is where you limit your possibilities. This is where you can make the choice to optimize or give up.

The sixth part, well… If you surpassed your expectations in the previous part, maybe continue to soar or take a break. Sit down, put your feet up for a while and enjoy the cocktail of life. Take all those vacations you wanted to take, while you are healthy enough. This is the part where you truly enjoy life. You have no idea how many more parts you are left with.

The seventh part is about reflections. You reflect upon everything you have done in the previous parts and filling the gaps, to just do it. If you want to walk on the beach, do it. You want to eat that dessert, eat it..

Everyone is gifted with this beautifully crafted round cake, with icing and sprinkles. You take once slice at a time, with no inkling of how many slices are there. Savor each bite and fill your senses with the joy of knowing that your are blessed. There will be hurdles, there will be ditches, always believe in the moment and live it to the fullest!! Enjoy every bite…!