Now
Usha
I believe in the value of moments.The right things said or done at the right moment have the magic of making the moment special. You miss it and the moment passes into the realm of banality.

Sometimes you lose your 5 seconds of attention by forgetting to say a brilliant, funny or caustic retort which comes to you,alas, 5 seconds too late. And you feel disappointed for having given away that moment. Had you said the right thing it would remain a moment of glory for you, which gets repeated on many occasions and generally gets a golden edge. The French call it the L'esprit de l'escalier (literally, staircase wit)
Once you have let it pass, you try to call them back or send them an email with the retort or remark, it is not the same. The effect is lost. The moment is gone. You had it in your grip a little while ago but now it is lost in thin air!And what we have is nothing but a regret for all that could have been.

Sometimes it is sadder when we think we have all the time in the world with people and forget to say how much they mean to us or how much we love them - parents for example. We take them for granted or wait to tell them how we feel and then it is all too late. You cant tell a departed person how much they mean to you and even if you roared your love from the top of a mountain it makes no difference when the one that needs to hear it is gone. Haven't we all lost a friendship or a love or a deal sometime or other because we did not say or do the right thing at that moment? But if we do seize the moment and do what needs to be done, the moment passes into a precious memory and gets immortalised. And the right thing said at the right moment may even transform somebody's life.

A lot of people say that they believe in living for the moment and what they mean is that Now is a time to enjoy, have fun - without worrying about the past or the future.This moment is real so go ahead and indulge fully. ("Eat, Drink and be merry for tomorrow you die!")But sadly that is precisely contrary to what being in the NOW is all about - it is about DOING NOW - giving your best NOW, being nice to people NOW and not wasting NOW because NOW is the only certainty in this very uncertain world.It is about living every moment fully and not letting it go waste.

While L'esprit de l'escalier may be true for a retort or a joke, there is always a good time for doing the nice things we want to do or say.As a chinese proverb says "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
And that is true of almost everything that you want to do, have to do and need to do.
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Usha
In the past few days I seem to have got a fair idea of what motivates a lot of human activities - it is boredom. People make friends,play, write, read, dance, sing, listen to music, get creative - all in an effort to avoid boredom. Technology has kept up with the need with innovative tools - Mp3 players, chatrooms, online games, mobile phones, cable television - super smart ways to beat boredom. A few friends admitted to staying in their jobs just to avoid boredom - they did not know what they'd do with all their time if they stopped working.And I was most amused when one couple said that they decided to have a baby as life was becoming "boring" - what a profound motivation for procreation!

Boredom is not all bad - imagine if our ancestors had not been bored with daal and rice would they have created all the delicious dishes that make our lives so worthwhile? Would they have gone about building ships and exploring other lands and cultures? While some festivals were intended as worship, several were also for overcoming collective boredom, the original versions of "party"ing and they also gave birth to other art foms like folk dance, music and folk art such as Rangoli, madhubani etc.As someone said "The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes."
It seems that those who fought boredom became artists and creators and those who learnt to accept boredom became Saints and philosophers!

According to the Wiki, boredom seems a recent phenomenon.Apparently "The first record of the word boredom is in the novel Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, written in 1852,[1] although the expression to be a bore had been used in the sense of "to be tiresome or dull" since 1768."

Does this mean that prior to 1768, people were not bored? No,I think what this means is that, prior to this time people didn't talk of or complain about boredom. If they were bored they went ahead and did something to overcome it - if they were rich and powerful, they invaded the neighbours or had gladiators thrown in the arena with lions or got some artists to perform music, dance etc or set crazy competitions to suitors of their daughters; if they were ordinary subjects they went out and hunted, danced, played or sang or spread some rumour about someone they hated.Modern day man, devoid of some of these "pleasant" diversions,seems to have problems "managing" boredom and sometimes extreme boredom can cause depression and performance related issues.

One of the important things I have understood about boredom is that it is something one has to learn to cope by oneself. There is only a certain extent upto which others can help us overcome boredom but ultimately it is for us to learn to improve our resources adequately to handle boredom. As we grow older, the ability to indulge in social activities reduces and the number of friends also gradually diminishes, the next generation is usually so busy with their life to care about spending time with older people. This is when the hours hang heavily and if we have not equipped ourselves to beat boredom, life can become a major burden.

The other day I was really really bored - so bored that I actually ventured into a chat room on books and literature. And what do I hear from Amanda_24? "Am totally bored. Can anyone do something to get me out of it?" At 24 she is so bored that she wants someone else to get her out of it - I wonder what will become of her and people like her (who are not resourceful enough to beat boredom when they are 24)n when they are 40, 50 or 60 when no one cares if she is bored or dead. It is a scary trend.
But then boredom is apparently only the second worst crime. The first is what I have just done in this post - being a bore!
But at least I am not bored any more!!!
Usha
Passerby wants me to talk about 10 things that define my style - Yes, Style, Ishtyle, stylu - you heard it right!People who know me in real life know that style and I dont belong in the same sentence, not even the same page but what the heck, I will invent one for myself now!

Folk music is what I closely identify with - simple, no artifice, demands no skills - anyone who knows it can join in or you can learn as you go and it gets better as more people join in. And the things it talks about are quotidien stuff - the simple joys and sorrows that we all experience and can talk about. There is no difference or distance between the artist and the audience - everyone sings, everyone listens. That is my style of blogging.

Hibiscus - a flower that is always there unlike those other flowers which are prettier and fragrant but seasonal. You can always count on it to be available anytime you need it. Doesn't mind when you reach for it only when a jasmine or rose isn't available. No one who comes looking goes away disappointed. That is my style with people.

Mirror - neither flattering nor unfairly critical. Just say it like it is. That is my style with friends - no wonder I have so few friends! (In truth,most of my friends and even people who I am not so intimate with, who confide in me and actually seek my advice!)

Fish out of water - that is my style in parties and places where there are more than 4 adults I don't know but am forced to hold a conversation with. It is a matter of life and death and many times I prefer death to making the effort to be charming to strangers.

Holi- unrestrained, colourful, happy and noisy - that is my style with kids. I am such a willing victim to their charms that a four year old knows how to make me cry and get away with whatever he/she wants!!

Shahrukh khan's performance - usually boring but occasional flashes of inspired brilliance - that's my style of cooking.

Himesh Reshammayya's voice - Keep off and best avoided!! Or be prepared to face consequences - That is my style when I am upset or when you have done something to offend me.

Water - Take the shape and colour of the container, blend with the dish without standing out - that's my style in a team. The result is more important than my personal identity.

Government departments - That is my style of managing my time. Everything known well in advance, no changes ordinarily permissible, stick to rules, totally routine and boring!

Wine - my style of growing old (I hope!!)- getting better with age and time, thankful for passing through the press and ageing in the oak.When I am 80, I hope I will have a wonderful story to tell that I am proud of and which everyone wants to have a taste of!

I guess it is time now to sign off in style:
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
-Gore Vidal.
NOw, THAT is EXACTLY MY STYLE!
Usha
"50,000 years ago, there are not even a million people on the planet. 10,000 years ago, there's, like, two million people on the planet. Now there's between five and six billion people on the planet, right? Now, if we all have our own, like, individual, unique soul, right, where do they all come from? You know, are modern souls only a fraction of the original souls? 'Cause if they are, that represents a 5,000 to 1 split of each soul in the last 50,000 years, which is, like, a blip in the Earth's time. You know, so at best we're like these tiny fractions of people, you know, walking…I mean, is that why we're so scattered? You know, is that why we're all so specialized?:

Jesse (played by Ethan hawke) in the film Before Sunrise.

Interesting thought.What do you think?
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Usha
I just received a mail from a friend wherein she wonders what I mean by "Practise random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty." This is a statement I picked up while browsing randomly for something and it made so much sense to me that I add it to my signature in my mails.

If you had ever been at the receiving end of a random act of kindness you would readily appreciate its significance, how it touches you so deeply that you want to be kind to someone else in return just to unburden the gratitude. One such instance happened when we were travelling in England and had gone to spend a few days at the Brockwood park School where some of our friends were teaching.That saturday afternoon we had heard that there was a house about 6 kms away with a few hundred year old thatched roof which was open for visitors. We caught a bus to the place and spent the afternoon there, enjoying the tea and cakes that were served but on our return there was no bus. Since the weather was fine and we did not have much choice, we decided to walk back hoping we may see a bus on the way. After about 1/2 km of walking, a car stopped near us. There were two ladies, in their 50s who asked us if they could drop us somewhere. When we mentioned Brockwood park, they said it was just a little deviation from their way. Since it was a small car, it was decided that the two ladies and the 2 boys would take the ride while the men would walk until they found a bus. So we got in, the ladies were very warm and kind and insisted that they drop us upto the school, never mind the extra mile.We loved the ride and the conversation and got off thanking them profusely. We were not expecting the men for a few hours yet but within about 30 mins there they were - apparently the ladies went back for them all the way after dropping us as they were pretty certain that there was going to be no bus that afternoon that way and dropped them to the school too - now That is really going "out of the way" to be nice to people whom you may never see again in your life. I cant explain how touched we were!
Just try doing something for someone when you are not expected or obliged to do and see how much happier you are doing it and how fulfilling it is spiritually.

As for senseless acts of beauty I remember a colleague of mine who would surprise us all with things like flowers on our table one fine monday morning - a single rose /gerbera or marigold in a glass. No particular reason but to put a smile on his colleague's faces. On some days it would be a small piece of paper with a funny quote and another time it would be a lollypop! Totally senseless but utterly beautiful and endearing.It was simply impossible to be angry or upset with anyone on these days - life seemed so beautiful!

It doesn't require great acts of heroism to make a difference. Small and uncalculating acts like these will do!
Usha
I meet them ever so often these days - Smart,qualified, witty, employed young women, extrovert, party animals - in short "eligible" in every sense but unmarried.Reason: they haven't come across the "right" man yet.Are their expectations very high? Do they want the looks of a Brad Pitt and the qualities of a Darcy and the wealth of Bill Gates preferably with the voice of Amitabh Bachchcan and the poetry of Neruda? Not really. They just want a man who shares their interests and respects their independence and is fun to be with.Or so they claim!
So I asked one of them if they mean to say that they haven't found any like that among all the men they meeet. She said that she hasn't actually had the opportunity to find out because none of the meetings has proceeded beyond meeting at parties and she doesn't want to make the first move and sound desperate unless she is sure that the other person has some interest in her! And I have a suspicion that the men are not making the first move precisely for the same reason. so you meet them everywhere - young, smart, qualified......eligible in every sense but unmarried!

So when I got the occasion to talk to a couple of young men, "eligible" and unattached, I asked him what the problem was, in order to get a male perspective.They said that the girls these days are great as friends but not so great as wives - they wanted everything and were not ready to make any compromises.

Probing further, this is what I understood.I dont mean to sound like one of those agency surveys which draw conclusions on sociological trends after interviewing 100 people, but I wondered if the root of the problem lay in the fact that in the past 50 years women have outgrown their traditional roles while men are still not ready to contribute as much to the domestic responsibilities. Is it to do with the mindset that acquiring the skills required around keeping house and managing children is a bit of a feminisation of the male which is considered a backward step for them while a woman moving into traditional male bastions is considered as a step forward for them? Even though the division of responsibilities between men and women started out without any value implications, the "women's territories" have acquired an implied inferiority over the years probably because they don't have the potential to bring any money to the family revenues. And so men do not see any value addition in acquiring these skills.Where possible they try to avoid it by outsourcing the service - cooking for example but there are certain responsibilities that one or the other spouse has to take on personally and it is still the woman who does it in the majority of the cases. And when some women rebel against this and question why it cant be the man who makes the career sacrifices for the sake of keeping the family together, men complain that these women want "everything" and don't give up anything!
But isn't it precisely what men have been doing all these years?

I do believe that definitions of marriage and family are up for major changes in the course of this century. The above issues are already a source of unhappy marriages and even divorces in some cases. And a lot of young people are nervous about making a the commitment to a married relationship - some say they are not marrying in order to avoid a divorce! Everyone wants more from relationships and are not willing to be restrained by societal norms in case they dont get what they want.

Good or bad, this is the reality. And like all generations, this generation will come up with its own solutions for these issues.And in the mean time,you meet them ever so often these days - Smart,qualified, witty, employed young women, extrovert, party animals - in short eligible in every sense but unmarried!
Usha
Just back from an "eventful" trip to chennai - "eventful" because these trips though invariably short are always fraught with some adventure or other.
I started my trip in a non-existent coach in a non-existent train leaving from an apparently non-existent platform( almost like the 9 3/4th!) My Iticket said that I had a berth in coach AS1 of chennai express leaving bangalore at 11:45. As I entered the station and looked at the electronic notice board I made my first unpleasant discovery of the night: there was no Chennai express that night- but there was a Cauvery express leaving at 11:45 to chennai! Investigations confirmed that this was the same train ( cauvery/chennai same difference??!) and I set about looking for platform no.5 -I am very strong in numbers upto 9 so I did not anticipate any trouble- but was a little taken aback to find platform no 6 after platform no.4 although the signboard seemed to say that 5 and 6 were in the same place. So anticipating some enginnering marvel, I descended to 6 and then realised that I had to reverse to platform no. 5 which did not have its own stairs to the overbridge. Having made 2 discoveries in one night, I thought the rest was easy - I just had to hop into coach AS1 and spread the mattress on seat no 49 and go to sleep. But after walking the entire length of the train I realised that this train had left Mysore without coach No AS1! Thankfully they added it in bangalore after making us all wait for about 30 minutes and finally around 12;30 I started my journey to chennai.

Every time there is a trip to chennai I plan my itenary days in advance and list out all the things I need to do there,the places and the people to visit. I am so excited about it all that I talk about the proposed trip to everyone I know. And finally I land in chennai and 30 mins on the road I start sweating and I want to take the next plane back to Bangalore. And I never do anything I plan to do, merely sit under one fan or other and come back. But this time the weather was lovely and I could do most of the things I wanted to do and in my happy state of mind I finally understood the reasons why I love this place so much.

People: people here are very friendly if you speak to them in Tamil and they engage total strangers in an animated conversation effortlessly. For example, within a short trip between the US consulate and Sterling Road the auto driver told me how tough his job was, how auto drivers are a maligned lot in Chennai, how the police are more corrupt and yet how he was sticking to this profession because it suited his temperament as he was over-sensitive and didnt like to be bossed over by someone else! He also told me that morality was on the decline with too much money in the hands of the younger generation.He said all this in such delightful Tamil, in a cheerful tone with no bitterness, added a few jokes and plenty of philosophical statements in-between -I guess I was happy to give him the 50 rupees for the conversation rather than the auto ride.
As I got off the auto there was this man who was releasing a rat from a rat trap on to the road. As I watched the rodent race past me, the man smiled and told me that he didn't like to kill them. I said that it may find its way back to his house and he said he had the trap to catch it again! Then he also told me that he had found the rat in the coffee flask when he returned from two days leave. We both laughed at the implied joke about a caffeine addicted rat! And all this with a guy who I don't know from Adam and won't recognise if I saw him again !!
These people have a way of touching you even when they have nothing to do with you - they are never shadows and silhouettes - even if you meet them for a fleeting moment in your life!

Sense of humour:I dont know if it is true of all chennaiites or just the people I meet - they all have a great sense of humour and a sense of timing for cracking jokes. They laugh about the most serious things.They love comedy in films and theatre, they enjoy it and they use it in their day to day lives.

Songs:I love all the music I hear everywhere in chennai - be it religious songs or carnatic music or film songs and their lyrics.

The fusion:And finally I love the way the old and the new co-exist so comfortably and blend beautifully. There is an early morning life with people flocking to the temples for margazhi pooja, and elaborate kolams decorating the roads and there is a night life in the multitude of restaurants that have cropped up all over the city. You see your neighbour's daughter zipping off on a two wheeler to her college clad in trousers and shirt and a day later you find her in the temple in a traditional pavadai daavani singing the notes of a carnatic song to perfection. And they look lovely in both and fit in perfectly in both places!

This place never ceases to amaze me!
I am happy to be back at home in Bangalore but I have already started looking forward to my next trip to fascinating chennai
Usha

Wish you all a very happy 2007!
Here's another new year - but do we always move forward every new year or are we held back by our past and its baggage? As a friend wrote in his new year wishes:
"The ability to leave the past behind is quite commendable, & I sincerely hope that you'll keep your resolutions... from interfering with who you are."
"Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?"
-Mary Manin Morrissey


Of course the dawn of a new year does not erase the past and bring a clean white sheet. But it is important to know what to keep from the past and what to let go. Keep the lessons, the experience and Let go of all the bad feelings ,all the hangups, all the frustrations. That will free the energy for positive stuff.
"All our life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you are not good enough or strong enough or talented enough;they will say you're the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. THEY WILL TELL YOU NO, a thousand times no, until all the no s become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly.
AND YOU WILL TELL THEM YES."
-Nike ad.

Declare this the year of "yes".Say "yes' to the challenges and all the opportunities.


"Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results."
-Anon

Will yourself to be happy, you will be happy, we all deserve to be!
Never stop dreaming or aiming higher - remember it is passion that makes the world go round. And never lose hope.
"When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly."
-Edward teller

Do not fear the unknown - look forward to being given the wings to fly!
Have a great new year. Remember all that you wanted to do in the "future" all these past years, that future is right here. And if you are not sure of the directions, just remember this:
Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

Have a great new year! make all your dreams come true!
And finally:
"Practise random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty." Relax, let go, be a little mad and have fun.
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