They say christmas is a time of giving and sharing. But there are some people for whom it is christmas time all the year round.They give without thinking and it is a privelege to know them, meet them or just to be sharing the same planet at the same time as them.
Anu teaches in a college in Delhi. The degree class she teaches has R.K.Narayan in their syllabus and anu was totally shocked when she found out that none of her 45 students had seen the television serial "malgudi days". She decided to fill this great vacuum in their experience by buying a CD of the same. When she could not get it in Delhi she contacted Pankaz,a friend who contacted me to check if i could buy them in Bangalore. I got in touch with my friend Prasanna who knows the producer of the serial. He took the trouble to contact Mr. Narasimhan but found out that there are no Cds and the rights are with the television channels. So we closed the chapter. There was some disappointment but it was soon forgotten. Anu was still grateful for my efforts for someone I have never met. I have neither met her nor Pankaz whom i know only through the internet. But we all made the effort and tried to help.
End of story you think? No!
A few days later Prasanna got a call from Mr. Narasimhan, the producer that he had actually converted the film copy in his possession into VHS tapes, and would be happy to send it to the college. He had gone to the trouble of spending his time and money for a reason that the generation of today may hardly understand - he felt that if the children wanted to see it, he must find a way to facilitate that. So the tapes were sent to anu and screened in the college. The students enjoyed it immensely and anu wrote back to me that the screening made "" 45 raucous girls' eyes light up". They expressed their gratitude to Mr.Narasimhan for his kindness by sending a picture of the entire gang - 45 lovely faces, enthusiatic, smiling and grateful- with their signatures and a thank you card and a small memento. Mr. Narasimhan was touched by the warmth of the kids. As he looked at the faces on the picture, his eyes were wet.While the kids felt that they could not thank him enough he felt they were too generous!
End of story, you think? No!
This morning i receive a mail from Anu that Mr. Narasimhan had sent the college a photocopy of a book containing R.K.Laxman's illustrations of Malgudi days to be kept in the college library! When she wrote to me the book was still making the rounds among the enthusiatic kids lapping it up.
If they learnt something from "Malgudi days" i hope they learnt a little more form Mr. Narasimhan - I did! I am sure that he has touched 47 lives and taught us some lessons on being generous and doing it all so gracefully and naturally!
End of story? I hope not !
I believe the story will go on as long as we all make the effort to keep the spirit of selfless giving alive!
Last week the traffic police suddenly became active in Bangalore and were stopping passing vehicles for licence and other checks .I was stopped too and after checking my licence the young officer whispered to me "ma'm,please wear seat belts or i would have to fine you 300 rupees next time" and he was smiling. I thanked him and immediately strapped the seat belt on and proceeded on my way. Now this is one of the priveleges that you get with age - people believe that a forty five year old woman is not out on the road to speed and kill while it is assumed to be natural behaviour for a younger person. When you do violate a rule and claim forgetfulness they actually believe you. You are allowed to be forgetful, clumsy,disorganised and no one takes it seriously. In fact they even indulge you like the police officer did!
At forty five, life is less stressful than when you are twenty or thirty. At twenty, when you behave like a twenty year old you are asked to grow up. But at fortyfive, the same behaviour is considered charming! Being in a roomful of smart and gorgeous young women does not make you feel insecure. You feel it is easier to accept someone else as being smarter, better looking and superior without any grudge.You can offer sincere praise where it is due untainted by jealousy. You dont feel threatened by anyone and there is no pressure to compete.You can have your opinion on everything and young people actually listen to you and no one considers you opinionated. There is no fear about where you are going because you are not going anywhere anymore. You find it is easier and simpler to give - of yourself and other things.
On a personal level too, the new grey hair that you notice on your head when you look into the mirror does not bother you. In fact you have stopped looking at them long ago.There is less expenditure on cosmetics and beauty treatments as you know you cant lose those wrinkles which are trophies that you get for no achievement but for just having survived the battle of life.You can still go out when you have a bad hair day - almost every day is at this age! I think the best part of being forty five is the acceptance that comes with it - facts about yourself and the world.
Hear this : last month they have launched a new service designed to send emails out to your loved (or loathed) ones after you die is a service where you can leave "love messages, words of appreciation and encouragement" to those they care about after their demise. Three-year membership of the service costs $9.99.
and i always thought once we were dead, we became part of the universal forces and stopped feeling love, hatred and the whole lot!! it seems i was mistaken, as seems most people want to leave these even after their death.otherwise why would they start a service as above?
If we do have feelings and thoughts for people in our lives why not share them when we are alive? I am sure life would be much better that way than when we keep hiding them from those around us. On the other hand if they are feelings not worthy of being displayed during our life time why should we even bother about them after we are dead?
Unless of course you are part of a top secret group and you have sworn not to reveal information which you want people to know after your death for the sake of saving the earth....wish I knew something like that!
aneways, all ye nice people who read my blogs, I want you to know you mean a lot to me and Thanks for being a part of my life!!
MY friend Pankaz landed in the U.S.A for his new job at the Univ of South Carolina and this was one of his first experiences there:
“We were eating in a cafe, 5 of us, one each from Japan, Hungary, Czech, Sweden and I, at 2-30 daytime. Here comes a hefty black guys and starts talking, half of which I dont understand. He says, "i don’t have a gun, no education, I am poor, I want to ask a question...." etc. He is extremely dirty, long-bearded, has unkempt hair and most probably is mentally disturbed. Then, I look at him and turn my face, because I was shit scared. And after his speech, he asks, "Yes or no?" The swede replies, No. Then he points at me and shouts "This motherfucker is a racist." and goes away. I thank God that he didn’t pull out a gun.”
So out of an entire group of foreigners, it was Pankaz, the brown skin who was picked out because he looked different.
This brought back memories of my own experience in 1990. My husband was participating in the Salzburg Seminar at Vienna and on a Saturday a bus was arranged to take the participants to the Black Forest Region and Bavaria in Germany. My son and I were also invited to join in . So there we were, a bus full of people from all over the world, English, Irish, Australian, European and the three of us. At the German Border, the bus stopped at passport control. The man from the cubicle shouted something in German to the driver and the driver said something about “Inde” and so the officers came in and only the three of us were asked to produce our passports. It was amusing but humiliating too. Some of the other passengers were appalled too at this open display of “racism”.
I suppose it is a basic instinct to be suspicious of anyone who is “different”. We notice it among animals all the time. I am sure if we were to encounter a being looking like Speilberg’s ET our first impulse would be to scream and run. But I cannot understand this suspicion among humans based on the colour of skin or eye or hair after having shared the planet together for so many centuries and in this time and age where the distances between continents have shrunk and in the age of communication revolution through the internet. In fact in the past century, there seems to be an increase of xenophobia and racism. The internationalisation of the labour market and the concommitant immigration patterns and direct competition with migrants for welfare services are two of the reasons for this.
Much work is being done at a political, educational level in all countries and by many NGO s to weed out xenophobia and racism. But it seems to be well entrenched in the human psyche as seen from very recent events. This is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today.
What will the future see? A world where people are able to appreciate and accept the differences among one another and still be able to respect one another and celebrate their differences rather than attempting to impose their own ways on others? Or one where everyone talks , walks, wears and eats alike( and much worse Looks and thinks alike )and not be very different from our mass produced and genetically modified vegetables.
I have been observing a particular trend in the well read, bright young people that I come into contact with. It is a mixture of large doses of cynicism combined with idealism.What disturbs me is that their idealism is not fired by optimism to change what they perceive as wrong but a defeatist and negative approach to Life. They don’t believe that they can actually make a difference at an individual level while still being a part of the system. (Oh, that would be "belonging" a definite 'nono')They believe that the solution lies in completely destroying the old order . "Okay and replace it with what? "
" well, Just leave things be. They will work out alright"!!! So that is our heroes in waiting , the rebels in search of a cause!
It is almost as though they feel cheated at not having been around during the momentous turning points in the history of mankind so they want to create one in their own life time. They completely distance themselves from the realities of today and go about in an alienation induced angst. They don’t believe in being sucked by the mundane struggle for existence that is for lesser mortals. They want to be martyrs, soldiers of a new order! Until that happens, it does not matter that they do not have the qualifications for a normal job. It does not matter that they cause a lot of misery to themselves and those that love them. "what difference does it make?" they keep asking.
It seems to me that we are previleged to live in this day and time when mankind has made such strides in all areas of human endeavour - arts, science and technology. True, we seem a little low on the human side and there seems to be a declining trend and this is exactly where if one wants to make a difference to the world , each one of us can do it in our own humble way without waiting for a major revolution; by being in it and yet be out of it -by just standing up for what is right, by not yielding to pressure in our simple dealings in day to day life. By spreading smiles , compassion and care around.
Or like Emily Dickenson puts is:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
“ Going home?” asked the lady sitting next to me in the lounge at Colombo airport.
Thinking of familiar smells and sounds and sights, the warmth of my own bed I said “yes” with a smile. The word home always evokes images of comfort, warmth, familiarity and welcome in my mind.
Then I asked her “ What about you?” and she replied “ I don’t know where home is!”
She is a Palestinian lady who shifted to Jordan when trouble began and now she lives in Dubai. She has all the comforts that money can buy but no real “Home”. I remembered my Lebanese friend in Dubai who once told me that she had decided to shift to Dubai because she had a choice between living at home or living in peace. For the best part of the early years of her life her family had lived in Beirut, moving houses every six months and with the noise of bombshells in the background. She still wakes up at the slightest noise in the night far away from the shellings and so many years later!
Home is something most of us take for granted – where one can be assured of security and unconditional acceptance and where you ‘Belong” as a right. It is a pity that for millions in several parts of the world Home is not safe. And those others who are told that they don’t belong in the only home that their families have known for generations!
How blessed are those of us who have a home – albeit disorganized , dirty and corrupt. But how far away are we from Poet’s vision of Home and love being almost synonymous.
Home and Love
Robert Service
Just Home and Love! the words are small
Four little letters unto each;
And yet you will not find in all
The wide and gracious range of speech
Two more so tenderly complete:
When angels talk in Heaven above,
I'm sure they have no words more sweet
Than Home and Love.

Just Home and Love! it's hard to guess
Which of the two were best to gain;
Home without Love is bitterness;
Love without Home is often pain.
No! each alone will seldom do;
Somehow they travel hand and glove:
If you win one you must have two,
Both Home and Love.
And if you've both, well then I'm sure
You ought to sing the whole day long;
It doesn't matter if you're poor
With these to make divine your song.
And so I praisefully repeat,
When angels talk in Heaven above,
There are no words more simply sweet
Than Home and Love.
My friend asha wrote this in one of her blogs (
"Does the landscape we inhabit enter our characters, define the people we become? Does the landscape we inhabit enter our characters, define the people we become? Do mountain people know patience, and the humbling truth that you cannot control everything? Do forest people know courage, that buds break forth from ravaged trees? Do farmers know waiting, that there are things that you cannot hurry? Do river people know change, that you "step and not step into the same river"?
And in what way does the city enter us? Would we have been different people if we lived by an ocean and knew the endless comings and goings of the tide, the quietness of moonlight on water? "
Mountains challenge me with their cold impersonality, their mystic silence. They have seen it all. There is stillness all around. You may go to the mountain with your quests and find your own answers. Mountains seek not to understand nor care to be understood.With the mountains you are alone, at peace with yourself perhaps but alone. Even in a crowd, you are alone. You seek your answers within yourself. Life in the mountain is with reference to oneself.
With the sea near you, you are never alone. It is never silent. Sea is like a friend reaching out, playful and beckoning. Whoever lived by the sea was allowed to pass by without feeling its gentle touch on the feet? Even the person who attempts to stay from the water is swept suddenly by that one unsuspecting wave that comes rushing and sweeps his feet. Then it tempts you with samples of its treasures and draws you deeper to look for more wonders. Even the lone sailor in mid sea knows he is among life. Sea sustains, nourishes, comforts,shares, teaches and stays in the background like a mother with outstretched arms waiting for you should you need reassurance.
I would like to believe I am a sea person.
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Many years ago, I was amused to see the following safety warning on a plastic bag which came from the U.S. It read :"This is not a toy. Keep out of the reach of children." and then there was something more like " Do not place any of the enclosed plastic bags over your head and then tightly wrap duct tape around your neck to shut out the air." I wondered if that was any indication of the manufacturer's assumption about the buyer's intelligence or if it was common practice in that country for plastic bags to be put to such a use. My friend explained that this was necessary to escape law suits and that is why manufacturers assume nothing and try to protect themselves against all possible misuse and abuse of the product and the packaging.
Although the whole point about assumption seemed amusing to me at that time, I kept wondering what would happen if such a stringent legal system were to become a reality in India where many people still cannot read or can only read what is in their mother tongue - would the seller be required to explain the safety instructions and take a declaration from the buyer for having understood them?
How often we take so many things for granted!In spite of illiteracy being such a major issue in the country what steps do we take to make such important messages reach them? We are familiar with the public service advertisement where the doctor asks the young girl to read letters on a board to test her vision while she keeps staring at the letters which she can see but cannot read.
I remember one incident in my life which made me realise how insensitive we are sometime to those that come from social and economic circumstances that are different from ours. For a few days when someone in the family was sick, my maid servant's daughter from the village stayed with me to help out. Often she would disappear into the garden and oneday when I followed her I found she was running to the garden to answer the call of nature. I was appalled and gave her a mouthful of words regarding keeping the environment clean etc.The girl was in tears and finally told me that she did not know how to use the toilet. It had not occured to me at all to explain this to her!
Since then I have learnt not to assume anything or take things for granted.
There is a jewish story about the "tree of sorrows".
On the Day of Judgment, each person will be allowed to hang one's unhappiness and sufferings on a brach of the great Tree of Sorrows. After all have found a limb from which their miseries may dangle, they may all walk slowly around the tree. Each person is to search for a set of sufferings that he or she would prefer to those he or she has hung on the tree. In the end, each one freely chooses to reclaim his or her own assortment of sorrows rather than those of another. Each person leaves the Tree of Sorrows wiser that when he or she arrived.
So the moral of the story seems to be that everyone has their fair share of sorrows and you are not given any more or less than others although it may seem so from outside.Does your pain diminish when you see that others also have similar or worse problems? or do we just see the painful reality of sorrow and accept it?
It seems to me that we would choose the same set of sorrows more out of confidence gained from experience - that you have been there before and can do it again rather than take on a totally different set of sorrows whose fine print may not be obvious from the description on the display!
And then, what about those extraordinary beings like Mother Teresa who voluntarily take on the miseries of others upon themselves? Would they chose another set of sorrows than what they have been through?
I hear these words often in film songs where the deluded one tells her /his lover ' let me take your share of sorrows in exchange for my share of joys". I would like to see the choice of these at the tree of sorrows!!
What is it about some people that even your "first" meeting doesn't seem "the first"?
How is it with some people you can remain silent for hours and still feel completely at ease ?
How is it that you say the rudest thing to someone and when you are in trouble you don't think twice about calling them?
Why is it that it does not seem like a favour when some people do so many kind things for you?
How come you can say "love me or leave me" to some people and be pretty sure they wont leave you in spite of all your tantrums?
What is it about some people that you are not flustered when they walk into the house when it is looking like a post earthquake debris?

What would the world be without friends?
I envy people who can switch off their hearing at their will. I have always been more receptive to what I hear and I normally seem to hear everything people say to me. Even as a student I used to read my lessons aloud so it registered better. It was always a joke among my friends and siblings to see me solve arithmetic problems talking to my notebook. Now this has caused a major problem for me with my maid. She is also about my age and perhaps going through similar problems of all women in their middle age. Unfortunately for me she has no husband to vent her frustrations on. It seems like she has decided to elevate me to the level of a psychiatrist . So everyday she starts talking to me about her problems with her neighbours, her relatives and all the minor details of her life and there seems to be no dearth of them in their lives. The worst part is that everyday the story starts at the same point some 20 years ago when her cows and her sheep died as a result of some black magic that her brother in law practiced in order to drive her and her children out of her house so he could appropriate the property to himself. Property? Oh yes, a 20 ft by 10 ft plot on which she has her house. I have suggested buying an alternate plot for her but she will hear none of it one because she wants to fight for her rights , and two because it is where she lived with her husband. No amount of gentle hints that I have heard them all a hundred times over deter her. She doesn’t hear my protests at all, blessed soul so you see it is I who has the problem!
So she goes on each day to treat me to all the gory details of the death of each cow and calf and the illnesses brought up on her and her children as a result of her wicked relative’s maneuverings. Now it seems pretty rude and insensitive for me to tell her that these details don’t interest me nor can I switch off my mind while someone is talking! So it goes on day after day. May be she feels better after the sessions.
I cannot get rid of her for she has been with me for over 20 years now and it is not done to give her the pink slip just like that!
I am willing to pay for her professional psychiatric treatment but scared to suggest it to her as she may be offended that I am calling her a nut case. So I listen to every word in frustration day after day and run for an aspirin and coffee when it becomes too much. One of these days when this fails, may be I will get an appointment with a shrink!
Or I could teacher to BLOG!