An Indian, by heart!

I was at the Frankfurt International Airport. I had just arrived from India, taking the very first flight of my life at the age of 58.

I was to attend to the delivery of my daughter in the US. And I was to travel from India, all alone. Three flights, two connecting flight times, new countries, foreign people – it seemed no fun and I felt nervous about it ever since my daughter became pregnant.

My conversational English is just average; considering the fact that I come from a regional-language-medium school, my confidence level in speaking English is not so great. In spite of people telling me that I don’t actually need to ask anyone for assistance, I wasn’t sure if I can do it all by myself. For close to a month, I was informed of the step-by-step procedures starting with collecting the boarding pass, checking in the luggage, immigration check, security check, locating the flight terminals, liquid bottles-100 ml-zip-lock bag – I have rehearsed and re-rehearsed on my dumb brain several times before the D day 😯 Yet, I was at my most anxious state of mind at the Bengaluru International Airport the previous night.

Lufthansa
Image Credit: Flickr

I kept staring at the label tags they gave me at the boarding pass collection counter queue. Everybody else was writing something and I had no clue what I was supposed to write on it. I cursed my husband and daughters for not teaching me this step and I was afraid of what more such surprises were awaiting me. Thus, with the fright-or-flight mechanism intact in me, I managed to reach Frankfurt Airport the next morning.

And then started the second round of apprehension. I had only two hours’ time to locate the terminal for the connecting flight to Dallas. Following the other Indians, I finally reached two closed doors and felt exactly like playing the Richard O’Brien’s crystal maze show. It took something moving inside the closed doors, after a while, to realize that it was actually a train station.

After verifying multiple times that I had reached the right terminal gate, I was waiting for the announcement of the boarding; still doubtful if I was at the right place for the right flight. That’s when I spotted a young mother trying hard to manage her three children. For a second I thought she was weeping. She was, in fact, weeping! I turned around and noticed that a few more people in the airport were looking keenly at her. She had a crying infant on her lap whom she was trying to passify; she had a toddler on one side of the twin perambulators who was whining continuously and an older girl of around four years who was running hither and thither to her heart’s content. The lady seemed to be the only adult around them. I could understand her difficult situation but I couldn’t quite figure out why it should make her cry or if she was crying for something else.

sad+mother+with+child
Image Credit: Mammi Money

The more I observed her, the more I felt restless. Should I offer her help? Will she be able to understand my English? Will she look down upon me for my complexion, the saree I was wearing or at my English? What if she tries to ignore me or snap at me? Even if she responds, will I understand what she speaks? Will people of their culture even expect help? Or should I better mind my business? I was struggling between guarding my dignity at a foreign place and calming my Indian blood that twitched to comfort her. After what seemed like a long time, I pulled up all my courage, walked up to her awkwardly, conscious of how I would appear to the rest of the crowd, and gestured to her to give me the crying infant.

What followed transcended my soul from all barriers of culture, region and religion, for the rest of my life!

The lady immediately placed the baby on my arms with tears of gratefulness combined with tears of that something else she was crying about. In a few seconds of strolling on my shoulders, the baby settled down. The lady quickly tried to speak a few sentences together amidst the emotional struggle she was going through, without me having to ask her anything. I understood that her mom had passed away and that she was waiting for her flight to some country. It made much sense now though I couldn’t understand the rest of the sentences that she spoke. For the next half an hour, I kept the three children engaged while she quietly resigned to her thoughts of melancholy. When it was time for her departure, she collected the kids and spoke to me from the depth of her heart in a serene tone. Again, I understood that she felt thankful but nothing of the rest of the long sentences she spoke.

The warmth I had felt after the family disappeared from my sight was conquering. It wasn’t just a good feeling of having helped a stranger; it was a proud feeling that my Indian upbringing had made me to care for a struggling mother in spite of the breaking of my complex that it had required.

Not that people of other cultures do not care for others; but definitely Indians do it a little more than others, especially when it comes to the matters of women and children. Now that I’ve been to the US more than thrice for my daughter’s subsequent deliveries and having interacted with people of different cultures in the US, I have a fair knowledge of the way of lives in the US. On the brighter side, I like the fact that strangers smile at each other at Walmart, cars stop for a while at crossroads letting the others go and follow lane discipline which Indians can get nowhere near to. However, I’ve observed that their bonding with family is shallower. From the woman at the immigration check counter – who had asked me why I was at US for which I answered that my daughter was carrying, to which in turn she asked me what my daughter was carrying – to every other person there, were surprised, while some were even cynical, about the fact that I had travelled across the globe spending lakhs of rupees to attend to my daughter’s delivery. In India, we take it as our duty to look after our children during needy times regardless of how old they get. And our culture also makes our children to look after us when parents get older. In either way, the familial bond is kept intact and that’s something which defines the value of Indians and the Indian culture.

As an Indian, I might not have the most pleasing complexion, I might not appear nice in my saree clad, my English language might not be the best in the world, I might not be confident enough to face a new group of people or know how to behave elegantly at a new place. However, as an Indian, I know to support a fellow mother who is in distress; I know how not to ignore a crying heart and I know how to come out of my timid-self to render help. And now I know that humanity has a special language beyond appearance and confidence, which Indians are the best in reading at. 

The very fact that the mother at the Frankfurt airport found solace from her troubling children on the event of a loved one’s death is a victory. It might not mean big in the corporate world or in the history of countries but to the evolution of humanity, it is indeed a victorious step. When, someday, the lady recollects this incident, she will remember me as ‘an Indian woman’.

There shall come a day when I will be on my death bed and my daughter will have to pass through a similar situation as that of the lady, and I hope that there will be another Indian mother to comfort my daughter, that one day.

I was reminded of this small anecdote of my life while watching the Lufthansa TV commercial for their #MoreIndianThanYouThink campaign because as you could have guessed Lufthansa was that very first flight of my life!

A Note on Suicide and Depression

‘The Story of a Suicide’ by Sriram Ayer is an open book, available online here for public reading. The book can be read via a laptop, computer, phone or tablet. It also has an audio book option available. 

The Plot

The story revolves around four youngsters who are undergoing stressful situations in their lives. Hari suffers a bad past from his abused childhood. Mani has difficulty in studying in an English medium course. Sam is frustrated with repeated rejections from the girls he loved. Charu dislikes men who try to control the lives of women. All of them come together to study in the same college. The sharing of their personal woes and interactions make the scenes of the 31 chapters of the book.

Flow and Narration

The book is perhaps a quick read if you are used to digital reading. I am not a gadget person, so it did take a few days to complete. The author’s writing style is quite a style. It isn’t like anything I’ve read before. Not that it’s sophisticated; rather it is plain, simple and well up to the point. Though I couldn’t sync in with the first two chapters, from the third I got hooked onto the plot. Yet, there’s definitely a miss in the flow of narration in between. Though not a major concern, it is apparent during the reading.

Realistic conversations make the narration interesting. The conversations exactly depict how youngsters use present day jargons and the ‘F’, ‘B’, ‘A’ words with which they express their frustrations and emotions explicitly. However, if one is not used to reading or hearing such words, the reading experience might initially be shocking or unpleasant to some. Nevertheless, as the story unwinds, the reader shall begin to accept the characters for how they speak, changing the initial shocking perspective of the language part.

Scoop of the book

This book is a platform to dive into how youngsters feel when faced with life’s difficulties. Hari’s character has been built strongly showing the underlying side of his fears because of a sexually abused childhood and the consequences that lead to his sexual orientation. His story is an eye-opener to parents, especially, to have a check on the lives of their children. Mani’s childhood where his drunkard father puts the family into trouble is equally relatable to what happens in several lower socio-economic families. At one point he attempts suicide but regrets later after he gets rescued. Mani’s story, for some reason, did not sound significant as much as the others’.

More closer were the characters of Sam and Charu. It was as though their thought processes were scrolling down on a screen. They both were the best works of the author in the entire book. Through the character of Charu, the author has brought out how women are seen and treated in our country. It is no exaggeration but an ugly reality of the time period we are living in. Yet, the fragile girl in her who becomes vulnerable to a private threat finally dictates the limitation of all women. Sam is a perfect example of what men look in and expect from a girl of their target. Perhaps, in men, lust over powers love. How the feeling of being put to shame transforms to hatred has been beautifully articulated through Sam’s psyche.

Excerpts from the Book

A few descriptions of real-time observations with profound meaning were admirable. This is one such I liked:

‘Hari was amused by two small crabs that were on a race only to be drawn back in to the waters by the oncoming wave. Hari smiled at their predicament but was surprised to find that they continued their race till the next wave destroyed their present purpose.’ (Chapter: Our Secret)

What’s after reading the book? 

This book has come to us at the right time and most importantly, in the right form (free reading). Several scenes in the book helped me contemplate on these subjects. It reminded me of people I’ve known who have faced similar struggles. Most often, I could only listen to them but wasn’t able to help them in a big way. Now that the book has planted the seed in me to bring change in others’ lives, I begin here, with a little piece of my thoughts.

Teenage is an age to pep up in life, to hope for a brighter future and step onto the ladder of growth and development. However, if mental health during this phase of life is disturbed, it can take a toll of the rest of the life. With child abuse and other unpleasant social atrocities, youngsters aren’t let to survive in a warm society. They are surrounded by potentially harmful technology and judgmental people all around them. When even not life half-lived, youngsters might not be strong to face challenges while in fact they are undergoing the strengthening process. Well, what can we do about it?

If you are facing a serious difficulty, be it a break-up or sexual abuse or anything undefined, help yourself to come out of the victimization. You may or may not be in the state of self-help, Yet, check if you can do any of the following:

Speak up: It might not be as easy as written here. However, choose a trustworthy person. If you are not willing to disclose your feelings to any known person, seek professional help such as a NGO or a mental health counselor. But speak up! Speaking your heart out is half burden taken down.

Prepare for rejection: Well, speaking out may make you feel rejected, sometimes. Expect this even before you speak up. Others might not empathize or sympathize with you the way you expect them to. Expect this too. Prepare your mind for the worst reaction. You might be chided. You might be laughed at. You might be ignored. Yet, feel good that you did a first aid to yourself in speaking up.

Seek help: Depending upon the level of your problem, seek outside help like a police complaint or a psychiatric appointment or with a mental health organization. The message is don’t give up seeking help.

Identify the source of your inspiration: You may not be in the best of state to think about inspirations. However, try harder to identify what inspires you the most. It could be a book reading or painting or writing or movies or food or yoga or social service. Force yourself into it. It may take sometime before you can breathe out in ease.

How Do I?: Try reading the ‘How Do I?’ answers from the book, ‘The Story of a Suicide’.

Help Yourself: We all are alone in our individual lives. That’s the bottom truth. Help yourself the best you can without indulging in alcohol, tobacco, drugs and anything illegal and detrimental.

Irrespective of what happens in our lives, we all move on; we must all move on. At the end of life, we must feel victorious of having passed through the best and the worst rather than ending it halfway because of fear and depression.

 

How I navigated through Internet in my early days?!

As a person of the older generation, it wasn’t easy to navigate through the myriads of terms and usage of the internet during my beginner days. As a matter of fact, I was new to computers as well. Hear how my early goof-ups led to my mastering of the art of browsing.

The Art of Double-clicking

Seems funny today, but it took me a while for my fingers to get adapted to click twice without a pause. My fingers wouldn’t work that quick in the beginning. No matter how fast I tried, there would always be a time gap between the clicks. And when I could finally learn, the Internet Explorer icon gave way to a blank screen.

Learning to reach Google

  1. Identifying the address bar

As with anybody, my first lesson was Google. I couldn’t locate the address bar easily at one go. I always had a confusion of where to begin typing. An important key point to note here is that unless I do a click on the address bar, the blinking cursor wouldn’t appear on the address bar. Most often I would begin typing Google, without moving the cursor on the address bar and I would wonder where all that I type disappears to. Again, in a while, I understood that I need to follow the blinking cursor every time when I want to type.

     2. Learning to type

It wasn’t as easy as I imagined it to be. For the alphabets, I could somehow manage to find each of it slowly. However, when I did a mistake and had to go back, it took sometime to locate the backspace button on my keyboard. And the space bar too!

     3. Reaching Google finally

So I did type Google! The easiest was to hit ‘search’. Yay! There was Google in front of me. I entered my first-ever key words for search and in seconds there was a list of so many stuff about what I searched for.

Operating Email

I have no clue of how it was done because my email account was created by my daughter. For some reason navigating through the email functions was relatively easier than operating the address bar. The most happening realization about my username and password came to me after a few days of opening the account. When an acquaintance had asked me for my email address, I gave her both my username and password, assuming she would require my password to read the emails I send it. Yes, ironically funny! But I was once like that 😉

However, technology isn’t difficult to master. As I type this post, I have several tabs open at the same time, whee I do multi-tasking of managing my email, Facebook updates and blogging. Sounds great for someone who didn’t know typing, isn’t it?

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

My Impactful First Memory of Life

First remembrance always marks a memorable moment in one’s life. Out of the umpty number of life moments, regardless of whether it might be happy or sad, only those incidents or the events, that has had a great impact on our psyche finds a permanent place in the brain. Scientists have found that there are three types of memory – sensory memory, which lasts for a few seconds, short term memory which lasts for less than an hour and long term memory which can be recollected at any time during one’s life time.

Memory is an intriguing component of our lives. Conscious memory like adventures and experiences and unconscious memory like intelligence and competence make an integral circuit of our remembrances. Saints and yogis say memories can be tapped from our brain’s storehouse. Even one’s past and future life memories can be recollected through sincere and long practices of some yoga techniques. It is said that according to one’s karmic effect, a soul is born on earth to fulfil its balance karma. If it is so, then the soul is carrying its past life memories as well. Our brains begin to form memory in the mother’s womb from the second gestational month. And only after the soul enters into a body or an embryo, it transfers the past data to the brain.

Now, I am past 60 years,. I can recollect my memory from as young as I was four years old, when my parents joined me in baby class. In those days, there were no Pre Kg or Kindergarten classes like now. From Baby class, we would advance straight to the 1st grade. My school was located just 200 meters from the back gate of our house, hardly a five minute walk.

Wearing white half trousers and tucked white shirt with baby black shoes, I would hold my sister’s hand, everyday to school. That is my very first remembrance; the very first impact my brain chose to store! I still remember the seven cemented steps that led to the entrance of my school. At the entrance, on either side, one Lion statue would welcome us. I remember happy playtimes, sitting on the Lions and imagining them to roar while I ride on them. The huge Gulmohar tree with its bright red flowers is still fresh in my memory. Apart from my mother’s musical songs, I remember those musical rhymes my teacher used to sing to us.

Though there are several unforgettable experiences and incidents in my life, my first remembrance has made a unique impact on me that even after years, I can recollect it with great detail. It makes me feel awed at the powerful impact that a particular scene in an early life should have made to a young brain that it gets to the place of a long-term memory.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

A Fantastico Tale on Charity!

Thanks to the Tax exemption rules, we have people who come forward to give donations to the needy at least for the sake of tax exemption. No matter how much we earn, be it in thousands or in crores, we will always have desires and commitments more than our earnings. That’s how our way of lives have become today. However, devoting a little percentage of our monthly salary towards charity can make a huge difference in somebody’s life.

Charity reminds of a fantastic tale I read recently from the book, ‘Mejda’ which is about the early life of Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda by his brother Sri Sananda Lal Ghosh. His mother is known for her tenderness towards less fortunate people. However, most often when she approaches their father for a big sum for charity, he would rebuke her saying that she must keep her charity within the limits of the family budget. their difference of opinion even made her once to board a horse carriage to go to her maternal home. Her brother who appeared there coincidentally finally managed to convince them.

This incident happens at Lahore where the family has been recently transferred from Gorakhpur. One day, a poor little girl comes to her asking for alms. Sensing the sadness in that small child, she makes her sit in the living room while personally goes to request her husband for ten rupees which is a huge amount for charity, considering the economical situation of the then India. Her husband refuses and offers only Re.1, narrating how he has suffered in his childhood without money and how he had remained hungry and had to walk bare feet so many miles to school. She immediately reminds him if he wants this little girl too suffer a similar pennyless childhood because he cannot forget his past. This single question from her moves him so much that without an answer he gives her demand, ten rupees, with blessings.

Though a simple story, it made an unforgettable impact on me. How true it is that we often remember our stories of struggle when it comes to helping others. And ironically instead of helping others, we restrict ourselves to the confinement of self-centered thoughts.

There are a number of NGOs, charitable trusts, orphanages, old age homes, hospital trusts and needy people around us. It takes only a few minutes to offer a donation online. To all of you reading this post, I request you to make at least Rs. 250 donation to any organization of your choice. It is not a matter to analyze and decide upon. It’s just a matter of willingness.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Inspiring songs from Paramahansa Yogananda’s Collection

It was only years after I became a kriyaban that I came to listen to Paramahansa Yogananda’s voice and songs. The narration about music in his Autobiography of a Yogi has stunned me that someone who had never had a formal education in music could write with so much clarity on the subject.

When I began to visit YSS satsangs, I cherished listening to and singing Paramahansa Yogananda’s bhajan songs. The light harmonium background and melody in the songs have always touched my soul. To those of you who are looking to listen to songs of Paramahansa Yogananda, here are five of my most favourite songs from the collection.

  1. I will sing Thy Name
  2. Listen Listen Listen
  3. Spirit and Nature Dancing Together
  4. So Do Thou My Lord
  5. Who is in my Temple

Each of these songs have filled my heart during several cherished moments. Most often, I begin the day by listening to this song collection. As reiterated by Paramahansa Yogananda, chanting is an important step in spirituality. His songs have been inspirational to me, for several years now, in yearning for the love of the divinity. Through his voice, he speaks to each one of us, who seek God with faith. The one who had remained a mental image got manifested with life through his devotional songs. During times when the forces of delusion, pull me away from spirituality, all it needs to get back to the path of light is listen to the songs just once.

As said often, music is a form of expression that can open the blocked energies from our nadis. Especially, while singing with true love and devotion to God, I’ve felt that the heart and throat chakras shed off their blockages and pave way for our souls to connect to higher centres.

In 1926, Paramahansa Yogananda writes about his experience of chanting together “O God Beautiful” with his devotees in New York,

“For one hour and twenty-five minutes, the thousands of voices of the entire audience chanted…in a divine atmosphere of joyous praise….The next day many men and women testified to the God-perception and the healing of body, mind, and soul that had taken place during the sacred chanting, and numerous requests came in to repeat the song at other services.”

Source: http://yssofindia.org/

One can buy the CDs from any of the YSS centres or through the online website of YSS or SRF. Though listening to his voice directly from a CD is a soul-lifting experience, I also recommend you to attend a near-by weekly satsang where devotees sing the devotional songs in chorus.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

A Little Pep up in Life!

Life can never be the same after children grow big and leave you in search of their future and destiny. Every time my daughters leave home after a few days of vacation, I wish they stayed with me a little longer. It has been fifteen years since the first one left for college and now I am used to the ups and downs that my heart feels during their visits. For an ordinary house wife whose life surrounded only her home, husband and bringing up children, time is the biggest curse. No matter how much of household work I do now, time doesn’t seem to entertain me. An unexplainable gloom continues to fill my being and I know it’s mostly because I miss being with my children.

However, the new entries to our family has spiced up my otherwise gloomy life. Yeah, my grandchildren. When they are here, I absolutely cherish the little sweet talks and plays they do non-stop. Children of today are far peppy then their parental generation. Their energies and brilliancy often stuns me.

Yesterday, my grandson and I went to the terrace garden to water the plants. This is one of his favourite activities because he loves plants, water, sunlight and the jet planes that constantly fly over our heads. For a change, he carried his toy aeroplane to the terrace. There’s a flight training centre close-by, so it offers all the delight that my grandson needs. Here’s the peppy little conversation we had in the terrace:

Hrish: Grandma, how do these planes fly?

Me: They have wings to fly.

Hrish: Hmmmm……what are their wheels for then?

Me: For landing and take off from the ground.

He drove his toy aeroplane a couple of times and turned back to me.

Hrish: Do you think I can drive a plane?

Me: Why not? Of course, when you grow big.

Hrish: What do you mean by grow big?

Me: When you become old enough to join pilot training.

Hrish: Tomorrow?

After I finished my heart-felt laughter, I replied, “No. It will take many years.”

Hrish: I can’t wait. Now c’mmon, get behind me quick.

He gestured to sit behind him like we would do on a bike. To encourage hs amusement, I did.

Hrish: Lock your seat belts. Hold me tight. We are going to take off now. zzzzzzzzzzz…zz.z.z.z.z.z.zzz.z.z.z………Don’t feel scared. We are flying up above the world so high now. Hah…..do you see our terrace now? Your roses all looking up at us! Next time I shall take you dear roses. That’s grandpa’s car. It looks smaller than my toy car. Heee..hehheee……There we go near those jet planes. Grandma, did you see the pilot? He was only a little taller than me. That means I can soon learn to fly. Here, look at the birds!!! Move, move, move…….watch your fly, dudes! I think we are running out of petrol. Let’s do the landing now. It might be scary, but hold me tight. I will take care. zzzz…zzzzzz..zzz……thud! Wait until I switch off the engine. Here, we’ve landed down safely. How was the ride grandma?”

All of the peppy narration with standing still at one place 😆

All you need to pep up your life a little is little children. They can make the impossible possible with their fantasy and imagination. And most of all, they can transfer a little of their peppy-ness to you, definitely.

Now, during times, when life pulls me back to the gloom, I know whom to speak to!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.