Fool fool fool fool

Abraham Lincoln has very famously said:

You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people, some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time

Now that is like a theorem or lets say, an axiom. Now let me add a corollary – you can never fool yourself!

This thought has been going on in my mind, ever since I moved to London and have been noticing differences between the way things work here, and the way things work in India. One comparison that stands out is a set of events, involving people in the same profession, but their reactions were so very different. The profession – politics. The English politician has been charged of getting driving offenses marked on his wife’s license. The Indian politician has been accused of viewing porn while in the Parliament building. The English politician resigns so that he can clarify his name and not let this incident meddle with his duty of serving the public. The Indian politician just gets defiant and denies the accusation.

Now this isn’t a post about India vs Rest of the World, but it did germinate a thought in my mind – each one tries to fool someone, sometime. The point is, how much does it matter fooling others for any period of time, when there is absolutely no way you can fool yourself. How do you convince a part of you that something did not happen, or that something is right, when the whole of you knows that something DID happen or that something is NOT right? How long will you sustain the farce? Will time change the truth?

People spend an entire life time pretending to be someone. People spend an entire life time showing the world what is not correct. People spend an entire lifetime’s worth just to fool someone into believing something that does not even exist. When the world believes them, they get a high – it gives them further motive to fool the world. But are they really happy? Can they look themselves in the eye every day, every morning when they brush their teeth? Can they tell themselves, they have nothing to hide?

Wouldn’t it be much easier, if one could just be what they are? Is the world such that it forces us into a shell of make believe?

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A Leap of Faith

So, its been a month into marriage .. And wonders never cease (atleast for folks who know me well). They first thought I’d never walk the “arranged marriage” trap. When I did that, they thought I’d never settle for a traditional do and not put up with the “processes” that go in a normal Marwari wedding. When I did that, they thought I’d never want to change my surname. Well folks, I did that too. So now that a month has passed, I have a whole lot of people asking me “whats marriage done to you?” or “how is marriage treating you?” and then a few would want a blog post. So people, here it comes ….

So, first let us settle the surname thingy – and let me quote Shakespeare – “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”. So here we go .. My name and my surname do not define me, rather, I define my name and surname. So whether it is Agarwal or Elhance, I do not change as a person. Infact, the way I look at it is, that Aditi is the name given to me at birth – it represents my family by birth. Elhance is the name given to me by marriage – it represents my family by my husband. So, “Aditi Elhance” represents a complete me.

Now coming to the marriage part – it is a big leap of faith. Lets not mince words here. And honestly, if things had to go wrong, they can go horribly wrong. And there is no way of knowing in advance. No astrologer and no soothsayer can predict this. Its ultimately about how well you choose and what life has in store for you. On a more tangible note, your communication with the spouse and the temperament of the family you are marrying into also matter. One’s just got to be compatible with so many people, not just one. There are so many factors that influence a budding relation, that a lot also depends on your own reactions. This is one time where the ego has to be separate from the individual. This is one time where one just has to let go, and try to merge in as much as possible. The basic idea is that when you merge in, you do not lose yourself, you just add to yourself .

So, do I recommend it to others? Absolutely. But like all things advertised on any media, I’ll add a statutory warning – be absolutely sure of what you are getting into and who you are marrying. And make sure it is your decision, and not somebody else’s.  Because, if things don’t go right later on, you will not want to point fingers at others – it will simply add to your heartbreak.

Things are very uncertain in life, and definitely in marriage – you do not know where you’ll be standing a few years from now. Its a game of chance, where you jump in, based on only your instincts. So, enjoy it while it lasts .. if the while is forever, you are darn lucky .. if it is not .. atleast you had a good time!

Phoenix

The phoenix hope,

Can wing her way through the desert skies,

And still defying fortune’s spite;

Revive from the ashes and rise.

–Miguel de Cervantes Saavendra

The phoenix is, supposedly, an eagle sized bird and looks like a cross between an eagle and a pheasant. The poets, though, love to believe that the phoenix has the best part of each and every bird in the world. But that is not why this bird is so special.. They myth goes like this :

The phoenix is supposed to be immortal – periodically, as it grows older and older, it builds itself a very special nest consisting of the best of herbs, spices and wood. Then, when the time comes, it sits in the nest, turns towards the sun, and as the sun rays ignite its nest, it beats its wings to fuel the fire till it is not consumed. And after the “death” of the phoenix, a small phoenix arises from the “pyre”, beginning the life cycle of this fantastic bird once more. The phoenix has a very special place when it comes to religion and symbology – the very egg of this bird signifies “rebirth”.

Rebirth – I am not talking about the age-old philosophy and debate regarding this topic. I am talking about the rebirth a person goes through in this lifetime itself. And not just one rebirth, there are many .. really many. A drastic change, a drastic fact – you never thought you’d have to open your eyes and acknowledge, a situation you always thought “happened to others”. All these and more, cause a rebirth. Rebirth is painful – the very fact that there is a “re” in rebirth, drives home a point – there’s got to be death, before the birth.

Death is not easy – coz it requires a part of you to go away forever. You know that part of you is bad, but you’ll never want it to go, out of habit. But death, will not wait. It will claim its due and then there will be pain, loss and maybe some mourning. And within that somber state of mind, there will be birth. A small shoot of something good that is to fill up your life. It will be so small, that you may just not realize that it has already taken birth.  From within the ashes, the phoenix does rise.

One of the most difficult deaths to die, is to realize that one has to embrace one’s darker side, and yet not let it overpower you. The taming of the darker side and its subsequent co-existence is not an easy task – specially since, often the darker side decides to give up and pay back in an equal currency.  The nest is created, over and over again, and the fire is lit, over and over again, and the bird dies, over and over again. But, from within the ashes, the phoenix does rise.

And so will I.

Open Letter

Dear Reader,

For once, an open letter addressed to the anonymous, and yet, the ones for whom this is meant, got a personal message to read it. So, if you happen to be one of the ones who got a message from me, read carefully – I have a reason for it, and you’ll know it once you read it. And if you happen to be one of the ones who just stumbled upon this, enjoy the reading if you have some time, else feel free to skip this one. So, first the question, why an open letter and then personal invitations to read it? Because, this letter addresses the one issue (disguised differently) I know each one of us is going through and this one content deserves to be hosted on a common place so that each one of us (me included) can read it when we need it.

Life gives us a whole array of situations. We cannot hide from them, we’ve got to face them coz they serve some purpose. The worst part is, we do not know the purpose. These situations come without a warning and just hit you full on. This makes the “unpleasant” situations really difficult to tackle. Now we’ve got a few ways to handle it :

1.  Flight. Escape. Refuse to accept the situation. Refuse to admit to the problem, refuse to ask for help, refuse to even do anything about it. Just tell yourself “this is what it is.. sigh!” and look the other way, while actually you as a person are being affected and messed up with.

2.  Fight. Hate the situation. Tell it, “I won’t submit to you”. Just get angry and frustrated about it, coz it won’t go away just coz you want it to go away. Look at it with so much of aggression hoping that the aggression will get rid of the situation.

These two ways do no good. You can’t ignore things nor can you just fight something off like that – life is stronger than you, remember? And the basic idea is, if you could do this, then why would the situation arise in the first place?  There is a third way:

3.  Accept it. Accept that it is there to stay with you (even if it is for a while) and accept that it is there for a good cause. Feel the impact of it. You’ll suffer a bit, ponder a bit. You’ll go into your shell and want to be alone or you’ll want to be on the phone with someone very close to you. This is all healthy. It puts things into perspective. And once you have felt the impact of it, it would automatically stop bothering you and go away.

Life always has the best in mind for you – don’t mess it up by refusing to accept the best. Everything that has happened has been for a good cause, everything that is happening, is also for a good cause, and everything that will happen, will also be for a good cause. Life may not give you what you want, for a simple reason, that it is not good for you. A mother will never give the child with a sore throat cold water, no matter how much the child wants it. A mother will risk the child going hysterical, but will not give in to a desire just to satiate it for a moment, and then be in a worse situation.

When we discussed this, a few of you told me, “we should know what to choose”. You are right and you are wrong:  you can’t /don’t choose what to face, instead, you choose how you react to something. Its like – at the end of term, you are going to have exams – you cannot choose that. But how you react to it, is in your hand – would you bunk those exams (option 1 above), would you not study and turn up unprepared for the exams just to show your defiance to them(option 2 above) or would you accept that you have to face the exams, put in the desired efforts and do your best(option 3 above)? Options 1 & 2 would ensure that the problem is out temporarily, it would recur till you don’t accept to choose option 3. Option 3 would directly get rid of it – given the little bit of “suffering” you put in for it.

Yes, it is difficult. We have all slipped at some point. And I’ll admit – so did I – very recently. Knowing all of this, I chose option 1. And suffered miserably coz at one point in time, it did sink in really bad.  And then I chose option 2. I fought it, fought it bad and probably hurt a few of you in the process. And all I can say is, I am sorry. I have realized, I shouldn’t fight. I have realized, I need to accept a few things, and trust life that it is giving me the best, provided I am willing to let it give me the best. Time, they say, is the best healer. Let me give it time.

Lots of love,

Aditi

Fickle Relations

It’s amazing how fickle relations are in life… One moment something means a lot, and a split second later, you don’t even know what that something is… One evening, you think that your world will end if someone is not a part of it, and very  next morning, you are planning a life without that particular someone!

Well, in a way, such fickleness is good.. The moving out of something from this life, signifies place for something more meaningful to fit in. It signifies less of hurting and more of enjoying. It signifies readiness to move ahead in life and face whatever life has packed in for you with a bright smile.

But as fickle as I have seen them? One moment yes and the other no, and yet next, yes. Is this like a switch? Or is it that somethings just don’t matter if they exist or if they don’t? Well, I’ve been thoroughly surprised recently by someone close, and someone I thought I understood. And if that someone close has realized I am speaking about her, then please, take a few moments out to explain how it works…  is it something I don’t understand, or is it something that doesn’t really matter to you, or is it just that some relations are fickle and its best to leave them that fickle?

 

The Frustrated Cycle

The universal law of energy – “Energy is neither destroyed, nor created; it is merely transformed from one form to another”.

This could actually apply to a whole lot of things (with a few minor tweaks, if necessary), for example – Frustration. “Frustration is neither destroyed, nor created. It is merely transferred from one person to another”. Consider the classic example of a stereotyped boss in a white shirt, some miserable tie, a pot belly, balding head and a naggy wife. Boss screams at Junior, coz his wife served him burnt toasts for breakfast in the morning, coz the maid didnt turn up for work, coz the maid was beaten by her hubby at night, coz the hubby had been yelled at by Junior’s wife, coz she had had a tiff with Junior, coz Junior had been yelled at by Boss as his shirt had an imaginary stain. You see, frustration levels at each stage remain the same. The expression is, at the most basic level, the same. Its only that the receiver becomes the sender when we move from one link to another.

But the interesting thing to this law is that, like most laws of physics, it has an exception. Normally, at any stage of frustration, one chooses to redirect it, without any effort, to another sink (erm, sorry, victim). But in the exception, one can put in some efforts and transform that frustration into something constructive. The amount of effort required is directly proportional to amount of frustration and inversely proportional to the amount of self restraint we are able to exercise on ourselves. So basically, the hen-pecked Boss could have invited Junior to a table tennis match. And both junior and hen-pecked boss would have worked out their frustrations in trying to beat each other in the match, and burnt a few calories in the process. And then the cycle would end there.

We don’t know how much of frustration is coming our way when we wake up in the morning. The best way to handle it is to chalk out an appropriate chunk of the day doing something we love doing, irrespective of the amount of frustration we are to receive. Its a win-win situation; if you are frustrated, you work it out and if you are not, you have a good time.

[ PS – Its really worked for me in the last two weeks …. ]

As I Walk Through Life, I’ve Learnt …

The following is a small poetry of sorts, I encountered on the net.

As I Walk Through Life ….
I’ve learnt-
that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I’ve learnt-
that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I’ve learnt-
that you can keep going long after you think you can’t.

I’ve learnt-
that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I’ve learnt-
that either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I’ve learnt-
that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I’ve learnt-
that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.

I’ve learnt-
that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be so, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I’ve learnt-
that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I’ve learnt-
that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I’ve learnt-
that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others, Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I’ve learnt-
that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.

I’ve learnt-
that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I quite agree with the “I’ve learnt” except for the very first one. There can be some very moments when we do something really very stupid and stand to regret it for the rest of our lives. But, there is also something like going back and apologizing for the action. There can be no explanation, but there can always be a heartfelt “sorry”. The heartache does stay forever, but there was at least an honest attempt to set it right. Things could take a turn for the better, you never know!

A special mention to the person from whom I have copied this. (I will thank in person when I meet you).

The most important women in my life

Its Women’s Day and hence, its time to appreciate all the beautiful women in my life, who are primarily responsible for who I am today. There are many such ladies, but I’d like to thank the 3 most important women in my life…

First, my mom. Yea, this is no surprise…. She’s the one who got me in this world and she’s the one who’s played a major role in sculpting my character. She’s the one who is primarily responsible for the principles I follow and for the person that I am. We look quite alike, and when people say we look like xerox copies, I love to reply back saying “Yea, I know I’ll look gorgeous even when I am in the wrong side of 40”. Words can really not describe what she means to me and and the more I try to put it in words, the more I’ll end up making a mess of it all ….

The second, my maternal Grandmom. She’s one strong lady and made sure all her grand-daughters became just as strong. Her philosophy for any woman “be able to earn and fend for yourself, but, don’t ever neglect your family” is very deeply ingrained in me. It is responsible for making me so conscious of my career, and yet, it has kept me so very detached from it. It has ensured that I know more than one skill to earn a livelihood, and yet, it never let me deviate from following my dreams. And most importantly, she made me realize that I have an identity which is not associated with my family name, but which is associated with the person that I am. Nani, I know I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with you of late, but that in no way means that I don’t love you any less.

Finally, the person I consider my spiritual guru. I was pushed (literally blackmailed) to meet her by her son (who is a good friend of mine) at a time when I was going through what people of my age call “quarter life crisis”. I never regretted that “push”. She’s helped me grow spiritually;  taught me the “never-say-die attitude”; taught me to give it my best shot, even if I knew I was fighting a losing battle and finally to be detached from failure and to look at it very objectively and then to move on. She’s someone I consider my second mother (sorry future-mom-in-law, you’ll be the third mother in my life) and someone who introduces me to her family and friends as “We got to know Aditi through our son, but now, she’s our daughter since we dont have any”. Everytime she says that, I send a small prayer of thanks to God for sending her in my life. Everyone has one mother who shapes him/her, I have two 😀 (I cant help gloating … Excuse me)

Apart from these 3 women, a lot of others have made me what I am. They are my aunts, my cousin sisters, my nieces, my close friends, friends, acquaintances, family friends ….. Each one of them is unique in their own, each one of them has taught me something and each one of them is very special to me. Here’s wishing all of them “Happy Women’s Day”…

Take a Chance

The other day, I was being driven around the city by a close friend, and we got around to discussing a few “not so happening” aspects of life. We discussed a lot of things, and eventually came around to talking about something I was planning to blog since a long long time.

There are many things in life, we feel like doing, for apparently no reason at all. There’s a choice in front of you – seems very trivial, but somehow it just consumes enormous amounts of CPU cycles – like a zombie process (sorry, cant prevent the occassional tech lingo that slips in – please suggest a better way to express this and I’ll replace it).  You know what you “should” do, but somehow, want to do the opposite. You cant convince yourself why you want to do the opposite either. Even if you try to push it to the back of your mind for a while, dilly-dally about the decision, it keeps coming back. Ignore it for some more time, and it will back. And the most frustrating part, you cant explain it why… Its like that inexplicable itch on the back – difficult to scratch, but till you dont, you kind of keep wriggling around suspiciously!!

So, what do you do? Continue being baffled and think of innovative ways to ignore it? Its the easy way out, but then when were the easiest ways always the best ways out? And thats the ostrich sticking its head in the sand in order to ignore the predator instead of running. Or you just force yourself to accept the “should do” side of the decision and ignore the intuition? We try that always, and it always brings grief! You always end up wondering “what if” !!!

Lets see the other option – weigh the consequences of following the intuition. The consequences look a little grave, coz thats not something you “should” do. But how grave are they anyway? Worse than the fact that the rest of your life you’d probably be thinking “what if” ? If not, then just go ahead and follow the “gut”. One has to take a few risks in life to move ahead, to achieve something extraordinary. Its better than regretting later. And regret is a difficult thing to live with. A failure, you learn from it and move on – you can say “ah I took a wrong decision, but so what, everyone makes mistakes, how will I get experience if I dont make mistakes”.  But a regret is inactivity, a mental block, which in turn brings in remorse, and later wastage of time speculating “what could have been”.

Life’s a big canvas, paint it on innovatively. Experiment a bit, act a bit impulsively. A few jarring colors dont always spoil the big picture, infact, they lend a subtle balance to it and for all you know, you may end up creating a masterpiece.

What was, and what should be …

On the threshold of another year, here’s a brief post on what went by, and what I hope comes across.

2009, on a personal level, was a nerve-wrecking roller-coaster ride. Disappointment in certain areas of life, changes in the others (which I still cannot tag as good or bad) and excellence in matters of the mind and soul – if I could represent the year in a picture, it would definitely be one of high and steep mountains. The take-homes for this year :

  • There are certain things in life, one just cannot help. Somethings are bound to happen, no matter how hard one tries to prevent them or adopt an ostrich-in-the-mud attitude towards it. They happen, and they make sure they are noticed and felt in full brunt. Feel them, learn from them and then move on.
  • Trust life. There is a certain reason why one is alive. If one was born just to eat and plunder earth’s scarce resources, I am sure humans would have completely stopped reproducing by now. Try to accomplish the reason. (For someone who’s had 2 narrow escapes, I know for sure, there is some selfish motive God has for keeping me alive).
  • There are a few people for whom one’s existence matters. That you smile or frown, changes the weather for them. Try to maintain sunny weather for such people, even if it’s snowing inside.
  • It’s ok to hurt, and its ok to cry and it’s perfectly normal to mourn. It’s definitely very necessary to emote.
  • It’s safe to attempt to cut a new path. It’s easy to drive on the highway, but it’s altogether a new game to explore the wild. People may think you are crazy when you try to walk into a jungle hoping to create a trail, but then (a) these people will tread on the same trail that you leave behind you when you are leagues ahead. (b) they are “people” – who cares !
  • If you enjoy your job, you never work a day (else its hell for you and your manager!)
  • People come into your life, and people leave your life – some walk away, some just fade away, you kick a few out. Each one leaves memories and impressions behind, treasure those.
  • Friends are the music of life, never stop listening and keep humming along.

In spite of all that I learnt this year, I hope the next is tranquil. I want to have a lush green meadow with a cottage in the middle, and the mountains in the background as my picture for 2010 !