Monday, 26 September 2016

The Calling - Unleash your true self. Book Review.



            The Calling - Unleash your true self, is an inspirational book written by Priya Kumar. An award winning and a bestselling author of books like 'I am another you', and 'License to live', Priya Kumar brings for us a book about a journey within. A journey we all need to make in order to  discover our true selves, and the reason behind our presence on this planet.

           Books that belong to this genre attract me, in that they motivate me and help me realign my perspectives and gain some clarity and peace of mind.  And, this book does just that. In a language that is lucid and a style that instantly makes you feel at ease, the author narrates the story of Arjun  and his journey that changes his life forever.   I found it somewhat similar to The Alchemist in nature, which also happens to be a tale about a man who embarks upon a journey learning about life and about following one's dreams.

       The story is peppered with maxims all along; maxims that leave us stunned with their candour and awaken us to certain realities about life and ourselves. Here are a few that made me  pause and reflect upon and helped me find answers to questions that have gnawed at the back of my mind for quite some time.

*     If you don't like the rain, rise above the clouds. Cursing the rain won't make it go away, but it will surely make you wet!

*    Death is not a solution because life has never been a problem. How do you propose to solve a problem that did not exist?

*     LIfe does not test you at your level, it tests you at a  level higher than yourself. You don't choose the test.  The test is always a step ahead so that in reaching beyond it, you grow beyond yourself.

*  Sometimes we are so annoyed with people that we don't heed them at the times they are correct. We continually hold their idiosyncrasies against them and deprive ourselves of the value that they could add to our lives.

*   You are the creator of your own world. What others do in your world is on your wish, your intention and your calling. 

* Don't be a slave to money. Be the master of your destiny. Stop running. Start living your life.

      Life,  if we observe closely,  always offers us a second chance. A chance to redeem ourselves, better our performances and learn the true purpose behind our arrival into this world. Seldom do we recognise these second chances, for we are too busy stressing over our humdrum existence.  But, the lucky few who do grab the second chance vouch for the fact that it changed them, changed their perspectives and brought about a sea change in the lives they had been living.

      The first chapter  in the book reminded me of the movie, Bruce Almighty, where the character of Jim Carrey is guided by God Himself for bringing him on the path of righteousness. In The Calling, Arjun is assisted by his young guide, Chandu, and a Sadhu he meets on his trip to Hemkund Sahib, to discover himself and  his real purpose in life.  I found the story intriguing, but also a tad tedious in places. However, it picked up pace in the latter half and reached a perfect denouement.

    If you are a fan of The Alchemist, which I am sure you are, then you might find this book equally interesting, as well as helpful. It might even bring about an awakening and help you reach the place you ought to be. A line in the book perfectly helps unravel the mystery behind the matters that often leave us baffled:

       The destination does not hold our redemption, but the journey towards it does.

   That might help you come to conclusions about the whys and the wherefores of the quirky journey called life!




 
     

        

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Chikoo and I - A love story.

                     
Young man, Chikoo.

        Chikoo was an un-planned pet - much like an un-planned pregnancy.  Hubby felt that  bringing home a puppy would add some much-needed cheer to our world. But, I argued, that if getting home a pet was so important, then why not get a fish? It would swim in its bowl all day, minding its own business, but a dog  would spend its entire day minding other people's business; what if that got us in trouble? Moreover, we knew zilch about caring for a dog.
      Sadly (for me), any further argument was pointless, for, the deed was done and the 'furry package' was on its way home. I decided to deal with it as unsentimentally as I could; it was an animal, after all, who knew nothing about 'emotions'. Ironically, the moment I laid eyes on the said  package, I melted! It was love at first sight when the fur ball looked up at me, tilted its head to a side and asked, "Hey, who is this girlie?" I swooned over those chocolate brown, very expressive eyes!
     Things happen for a reason, I deduced.  People  walk into our life for a reason.
      (Thank you, hubby, for bringing Chikoo home.)

       It did take some 'getting used to', but the pup and I  began accepting each other's presence at home. In the initial months, Chikoo's love was reserved only for his 'dad'; he was brought home by the man, so naturally he was his hero! He was a permanent fixture by hubby's side  - at meal times, at bedtime, and also in the bathroom, giving his dad some quiet company! As the days passed by, I, too, began taking care of him, his meals, his grooming; more importantly, I began getting involved in his 'upbringing'. And, it felt good!

     Still, he was daddy's boy and daddy was who he wanted all the time. He would even insist on sitting on his lap  in the car. I would try and hold him in my arms, but he would wriggle out and reach for his dad, much to my chagrin!
   Once, when hubby was driving on a busy highway, Chikoo,  freed himself from my arms and stood right in front of hubby, obstructing the view ahead; he wanted to sit on his  dad's lap! Hubby hollered at me to pull Chikoo away lest he ram his car into another. My throat went dry and my heart in panic mode as I grabbed hold of Chikoo and yanked  him back. There were a hundred vehicles moving  along at breakneck  speed and here was this brat with his strange demands!

     Enraged, I muttered, "I take care of you, feed you, bathe you, clean up your mess, and you shower all your love on your dad?!" Chikoo  looked at me, perplexed, wondering why his little wish wasn't fulfilled!  Bad dog?
     No, darling dog, bad me!
    We humans couldn't be more pathetic, could we? demanding love like that! I guess, this is the reason Chikoo entered my life - to teach me things I was ignorant about.

                       
"Mamma, may I? "
      Over the years,  things began to change. We grew closer - Chikoo and I. He began regarding  me as his mum, or so I would like to believe. For, he  followed me everywhere I went. He would grab the end of my kurta with his teeth and walk alongside me, not letting go even for a short while.   Now that he is old and unable walk as well,  or stand unassisted, his eyes follow me wherever I go. His favourite place in the world is the entrance of the kitchen, where he plonks himself and keeps watching me with his big, brown eyes - observing my movements and chatting with me about this and that. Yes, his eyes really do talk!
    Every time someone asks him, "Hey, Chikoo, come on, let's go for a walk!" Chikoo gives me that questioning look and asks, "Mom, what do you say? Should I go, or are they just kidding?"
    Mamma's boy!

Chikoo and I. 
     Life, as we know it, is ever-changing.  People change, relationships undergo changes, and when that happens, life tends to get lonely. It hits you hard where it hurts the most - your heart. It happened with me, too. Accepting this change was difficult.  The loneliness became too much to bear; friends stayed too far to meet or talk with. At times, the silence at  home would seem deafening,  and I would burst out in tears. At such times, the only soul by my side was my son.  Chikoo  would  read my mind in a jiffy. A few sniffles from me and he would know his mum would soon turn on the waterworks.
    In an instant, he would trudge up to me, place his paw on my knee and try to calm me down, "Shush now, mom, I am here for you, am I not? Stop crying, please!"   I would gather him in a tight hug  and thank him over and over again. Despite the pain that had begun troubling him, he only cared about me!
 
      It's something Chikoo has taught me over the years:
      To be there for your people. Always. For, you may be the only person by their side in their time of need! I am not as large-hearted as Chikoo, but I am learning. Being selfless is not easy, though. Wonder how these babies do it!

    There's one incident I would like to share before I end this post.
    Few years ago, we met a gentleman who needed a male Labrador to mate with his Labrador bitch. We agreed to help  out and drove Chikoo to the kennel where he would meet and mate with the 'girl'.  Unfortunately, for the father of the, er, bride, things did not go as planned. The girl was very aggressive and hostile towards my peace-loving Chikoo! So, the idea had to be dropped and we brought Chikoo back home. When I informed my sister-in-law about how the belligerent girl had driven my son away, she burst out laughing. "Shilpa, you sounded like a typical mother-in-law when you said that! "   
    Well,  yes, I am Chikoo's  mother and I will not take it kindly  if some  hoity-toity chick turns down my darling son!

     12 years ago, I had not an inkling that an animal would change my life, my thinking, my heart; an animal I had decided to deal with "unsentimentally"!
     I must say we have come a long way, haven't we, Chikoo baby? Or, should I say, I have come a long way? Eh, sweetie?



Dedicating this song to Chikoo, who came into my life and changed it, for the better.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

A cheery post about my son!

            Twelve years ago, on a grey August evening, hubby called up from Pune to inform me that he had bought a puppy.  The fretting and fuming that ensued is not really worth mentioning here. But, all of that changed the moment my eyes fell on this cute little furry package  that hubby had brought along with him! I fell in LOVE. Period. Of course,the apprehensions  that followed this emotion were a-plenty.
     
     "This little guy will now make a mess of my beautifully maintained house!" I rued. And, as if reading my thoughts, the moment Chikoo stepped into our house, he peed on the door mat! In typical doggy-style, he made the house  his home by marking his territory!  For me, it was a sign of things to come.
    Torn bedsheets, chewed furniture and footwear, uprooted plants, scratched arms (mine), you name it. But, he was a family member now. A package deal!

                               
                                 
     In the first few months, we heard not a sound from the guy. Not even a faint woof! I wondered if we were  to enjoy 'it' as a movie from the silent era! One day, though,  hubby played a prank on him and Chikoo barked. He actually barked! I heard it right up to our 3rd floor apartment. Wow!
    "Ah, the little fellow can talk!" I heaved a sigh of relief.

                                                       
 
     Chikoo was one inquisitive little pup. His daily routine included  investigating every nook and cranny to see if he could learn something new and interesting about his new world. Little things caught his fancy. The tiny idols of Ganpati Bappa and Shri Krishna, the Shivling, the flowers my MIL offered to the gods in her temple - these were like his play-mates. He would approach the temple when no one was watching, pick an idol of his choice, take it for a grand tour of our house and then drop it off in some cozy corner, or under some furniture. Most often, when the said idol was found to be missing from its rightful place, I would find it relaxing happily under the bed or the wall unit! These deities sure must have enjoyed a change of atmosphere!

                                           
      He also was a keen observer of his surroundings and his people and their idiosyncrasies. Once, I had to rush downstairs to look at the veggies the veggie-vendor had in his cart. I opened the door and was about to descend the staircase in a hurry, when little Chikoo barked at me to stop. I turned around wondering what had happened, and what do I see? He ran to the balcony, picked up one of my sandals that I had placed there  to dry, brought it to where I stood and set it down at my feet!
    "Aren't you supposed to wear this when you step outdoors, woman?!" He asked with those very talkative eyes.
   "Awwwww.....!" went my heart. I grabbed him and kissed him, much to his amusement!

                                       
                                         
       This loveable old saint of today was a real brat when he was younger - a bundle of energy. And, all of that energy he would vent out only when I took him for his walk. With his dad, he walked like a gentleman! My mother often teased me when she asked who walked whom! Young dogs can be tough to control. And, Chikoo was no less. He just had to spot another dog, or the markings of another dog across the road and he would drag me all the way to that place. What a sight we must have been! Gosh! People often asked (very sarcastically) if I needed any help in holding his leash if I was finding it difficult to manage.
    Several times I found myself  on the ground on all fours, with the leash in my hand and my rambunctious dog dragging me along in unbridled  excitement! Can you imagine the level of embarrassment I endured? All because of this little imp! Uff! I must have lost my temper a hundred times thanks to all of his antics, but don't all mothers go through it? I giggle when I think about those times - lovely times, with my lovely son!
     Nope! Pulling -hair- out- of-frustration times, with my little devil!

                         

      On the other hand, he was also very caring and protective about me. Once, when we were returning from our morning walk, I spotted a mentally deranged man on the other side of the road throwing stones in our direction and  shouting obscenities. Chikoo saw him, too. He quickly grabbed the leash in his mouth and pulled me hurriedly all the way home, stopping every few steps  only to turn around and see if we were being followed! My heart thudded in my chest! Had it not been for Chikoo, I would have freaked out!
   And now, he is a bit too protective. Last year, when I was taking Yoga lessons at home, exercising  in those strange positions, Chikoo would keep looking at me, alarmed at why I was standing awkwardly and not sitting down comfortably! My Yoga teacher found it rather amusing, nay, adorable, actually! She would gush at his caring attitude towards his mamma!
   "Awwwww......my baby!" 

    There are countless stories of Chikoo -about  his naughty streak that drove me mad, his loving nature that melted my heart, his intelligence  that made me proud of him. I guess, I will do a post on each of his attributes. Writing about it all in one post won't do him justice!

    I hope you all enjoyed reading this post, as against the last post that made many an eye well up. It's just that I have come to depend on my baby  so much; watching him suffer in his old age gets unbearable at times. Most of the times.
    Sigh.

 
   

 

 

      

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A list of things I love.

        I have been reading this book, "Until I say Good-bye", where the author, Susan Spencer- Wendel is suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral schlerosis) - Lou Gehrig disease (an irreversible condition that destroys the nerves that power the muscles). She has about an year left on this planet which she decides to spend in the company of her loved ones,  travelling to places she had always wanted to. She wrote this book on her IPhone using her thumbs, as the rest of her fingers  became useless with time.

      There is this  page in the book where she has made a list of all the little  things she loves and feels we all keep such a list.. I loved the idea and decided to come up with my own! It took me some deliberation to  come up with a list of things which give me a sense of contentedness, things  I find  therapeutic and which help me feel buoyant on indulging in them.  Seemingly insignificant things but, which bring about an exhilaration and a happiness to every cell in my body!

 
      So, here's my list.

 Kneading the soft folds of fur on Chikoo's neck. I just have to grab a handful each time I lie by his side - which is  often - and revel in the  calming effect it has on me!

Lying in bed, holding Chikoo in my arms, and feeling his body move as he scampers about in his dreams! Yes, dogs do dream, and believe me, it's a sight to see!

Staring into his chocolate brown eyes.

The colour - chocolate brown.

 Chocolates. And, eating those sinful little pebbles when no one's around. I NEVER share my chocolates!

My chocolate brown nail colours and lipstick.

Conversations with my mother and my girl friends.

Day-dreaming in the peace and quiet of my home when there's not a soul to intrude upon my privacy.

My space. My thoughts.

My beauty sleep.

Rain, petrichor, the rainbow, the lightning and the thundering. I love it all!

The white frangipani and the pink lilies.

My books.

Scrabble and  Sudoku.

Sexy voices  -  making-me-go-weak-in-the-knees kinda sexy voices!

Beaches. Shells. Sand. And, the sea.

Sparrows and their chirps.

Puppies.

And, yes, silence.


           These are just some of my favourite things! There's a song with this line, isn't it?

What are some of the things you love? I would love to know!




Sunday, 11 September 2016

This one's for Chikoo.



             






 The drum beats from a distant Ganpati pandal wake him up with a start. The whining comes almost instantly. Music blaring out of  loudspeakers, crackers going off even at a distance fill Chikoo with fear. I rush to shut every window in the house, but to no avail.  I fail to make our home soundproof for my boy. Sigh.

       I gather him in my arms as he lies whining and crying in fear. Trying to soothe his nervous heart, I speak to him in whispers, to reassure him that the sound will not enter our home, ever! All the efforts to calm him down fail miserably. I let out a deep breath and sit by his side, fuming and cursing the people who fail to show some consideration towards their fellow beings.

        The music dies down only to return with a force that sends Chikoo in another fit of yelping  and crying. He tries getting up on all fours - a feat for my arthritic dog - to move to a place where he can find some peace. Alas, standing up is something he hasn't been able to manage independently since months now. He drags himself here and there, all the while crying in pain and fear. His joints have been acting up despite the array of medicines he is being administered, and his hearing, too, shows signs of ageing. Sounds like the knock on the door fail to reach his ears, but the bursting of crackers drives him insane!  Finally, I help him onto  a sofa and sit by his side - my patience evaporating, my strength giving way.

       Life as a pet parent is tough. Your "child" ages before you do, suffers the pain and agony of old-age before you do, finds it difficult to express his feelings vis-a-vis his pain, and withers away silently right in front of your eyes. And, what can you do? Nothing,  except watch helplessly. You do your best to keep your fur-baby as comfortable as humanly possible to you, you give him the best of medical care and then, keep waiting for the moment. The moment when he will stop suffering, the moment when he will be gone to a much safer and quieter place, albeit, far far away from you. Tough, isn't it? Caring for  a pet dog is not easy.

      A week ago, I had this horrid dream where I saw an image of a lifeless Chikoo lying unnoticed in a corner of the house for more than a few days! I awoke frightened, my heart beating wildly, a weird sort of a vacuum in my chest. I kept mum about it, but then shared it with  my SIL and frightened her, in turn.  Couple days later, a  friend of mine informed me how dreams foretell the future. I know what the future holds for my son; it's just that I don't want that future to arrive into the present so soon!

     Every day, I cuddle up with Chikoo, click pictures of him, with him, in a bid to make memories for my future. I agree with my optimistic SIL that my son is fine and he still has time, but the pessimist in me argues that time always comes unannounced, therefore make the most of every moment that you have with him, for you know  not what the next day will bring along with it!

     All I hope for him is that he lives the remaining days of his life free of pain and suffering, if that is possible. I am here to take care of him, but, may he tell me when the time arrives for him to cross over the rainbow bridge. And, yes, may he wait for me to join him there someday and then take me around to show me all his favourite spots!

    Amen!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

A page from my diary.




                I plonk on the sofa, my cheese sandwich in hand, and a sudoku puzzle to work on. Life's good, I muse. Cheese sandwich, sudoku and  cold coffee work wonders on my blue moods. I throw a glance at the overcast evening and realise that I did not spot the rainbow this year - my most loved part of the monsoon. Couple evenings ago, as I gazed at my lily turf, I wondered when will I see those pretty pink blossoms, and as if granting my wish the very next day, I saw not one, but two flowers, wishing me a very good morning! Maybe my wish for the rainbow will  get fulfilled, after all.

           Life gives you surprises, for sure. Life also gives you sad moments - moments that spring upon you when you are lost in the mundane stuff. A few days ago, my SIL spotted an injured fledgling lying in the corner of our lobby. She called me to inform me about the poor baby and begged me to bring it home. I was reluctant.  It had fallen out of its nest and was hurt. Whether I brought it home or left it there to its fate, it would die. SIL kept up with her pleadings and so, out of pity for both - my SIL and the baby sparrow - I asked the watchman to bring the birdie upstairs.

       The poor baby was in a bad state, would be an understatement. Petrified of its surroundings and separated from its parents, it was in a pitiful  state. Panting with fear, it cowered in  a corner of the basket in which I placed it. I tried feeding it some drops of water with the help of a cotton ball, but, of course it refused to have it. It had no idea I was trying to help, It would stop breathing each time I tenderly ran a finger over its head, in a vain attempt to soothe the panic-stricken soul.  I knew I was making things worst, but I couldn't think of anything else. I hadn't felt this helpless in years!

      After a while, I decided to read up on what one must do if one spots a fledgling fallen from its nest. And, the first thing the expert informed was NEVER should one pick it up and bring it home. Its parents keep hovering around it, trying to find ways to help their baby back to the nest. I just broke down  and sobbed as I realised my folly. Begging for forgiveness, I took the basket downstairs and placed the baby sparrow from where it was found and returned home, all the while sending fervent prayers heavenwards for its safety and wellbeing. Although, all the while,  the knowledge  that my prayers would go unanswered, gnawed at me within.

     My entire day passed by in a daze as the heart-rending image of the injured fledgling kept flashing before my eyes, its pitiful cries calling its mother echoing in my ears. I begged God to look out for it and do something to help the poor thing, for, it's possible only to Him to hear His children's cries. Alas,  as I had known all along, our  prayers went unanswered - mine and the baby's. Late in the evening, as I went downstairs to have a look at it, I found that it had passed away. It was natural - the birdie meeting its end; its situation was rather bleak. I consoled myself that whatever happened was in the best interests of the bird - it wouldn't have to deal with the harsh realities of  life.

      Its been a few days now since that incident, but those moments still haunt me, break my heart. I love sparrows, and to watch a baby sparrow meeting its end because of a silly mistake on my part, is unacceptable, unpardonable - to me! I hope I am forgiven. Had I left it there in the first place, its parents would have helped it somehow and gotten it back to its nest. Sadly, destiny had other plans for us!

      Life is full of such instances - heartbreaking moments that fill us with sadness and happy ones that fill us with hope. It's the happy ones that we remember, mostly. Or, is it the sad ones that haunt us night and day? This incident will stay on in a corner of my mind for years to come. But, the next time I spot an injured fledgling fallen from its nest, I will just leave it alone and pray for its safe return to its home, to its parents.

      And, I will also keep looking for my rainbow - for me, it's a promise that there's magic in life! Life is not only dark and gloomy clouds, but also the ray of sunlight that gives those clouds a silver lining, and us, a ray of hope. Life is not all grey and bleak, but also that vibrant rainbow that wipes away our tears and fills our heart with joy!

      Rest in peace, my dear fledgling. May you find peace among those soft and fluffy clouds. And, may you help me spot my rainbow. For me, it will be a sign that all's fine with you and that you are happy where you are!



Friday, 9 September 2016

We, the caterpillars.

           
                                              God changes a caterpillar into a butterfly
                                               sand into pearls
                                              and coal into diamonds
                                               using time and pressure.
                                               He's working on you, too!
              

Human beings are ever-changing. Our future will not see even a shadow of our former selves. We change, transform, evolve into a different version of ourselves. We get better or bitter, fearful or stronger, all because of the battles we fight all along this journey called life.  So, can we take it as "we are creating ourselves?" Or, is it our life which is bringing about that change, that transformation?

I like to believe it's life, the people we meet in  our life and the various circumstances we go through that are responsible for the changes we undergo. Life teaches us lessons when we are  busy grumbling about our circumstances. But, the most observant among us catch the subtle signals life gives us from time to time, and bring about the necessary changes in themselves. In that, they create  themselves. The transformation may be conscious, or even unconscious, but a transformation does take place.

Until the recent past, I was a very different person. The ups and downs that I had been through, had changed me from a carefree, cheerful person to an edgy and a timid person I so disliked! But, unbeknownst to myself, I had also changed into a much more understanding, empathetic person - something I so admired!  It felt good that I could feel the pain of others, gauge their situations and assist them accordingly.

Did I create myself thus? Or, did life do it for me? Did I evolve through my circumstances, through the stress and the pressure, and come out of it shining brighter than I ever did? It was not consciously undertaken - this transformation. It just happened. And, I feel good  that it did! I really can't take credit for this change in me, for,  I can see Life smiling at me with a twinkle in her eyes, as if teasing me for being, err, arrogant!

We pass through tough situations, deal with adversities, stumble and fall a hundred times, hurting ourselves in the process. Yet, we also get back up on our feet, dust ourselves and keep moving ahead, a lot wiser than we were, about life and people. We learn our lessons, keep ourselves from making the same mistakes and learn to make better decisions and judgements. We also become a lot more calmer and mellow as well as considerate about our fellow beings. We do transform into the most beautiful version of ourselves - the ones we were supposed to be!

How did we do it?  Did we create ourselves? we wonder. Or, did we just come to be this magnificent version of ourselves?  Whatever it may be, the fact remains that we change, we evolve, we metamorphose, we transform, call it what you like. But,  we - the  caterpillars - do turn into the most vibrant, most beautiful of butterflies we were meant to be!


*Today's post has been written for  Friday Reflections at  Write Tribe. 
Today's  prompt: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." by George Bernard Shaw. 



Living my Imperfect Life