Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Challenge yourself....

WoW brings you tips that will help you not just improve your writing but also your lives... Simple steps make all the difference! :)

Challenge yourself..!
WoW Writing….
What is the secret ingredient that makes your writing an interesting read? Your passion! If you are inspired to write and have keen interest in any topic, words and plots flow out to weave a riveting story. Hence, it 's a no-brainer that you would choose a topic that you like, a topic you are comfortable with. But don’t get too comfortable playing on the same turf. Never underestimate the importance of learning. If you are comfortable writing for children, try writing for adults once in a while. If you are comfortable writing fiction, try writing something reflective. If you are comfortable writing about opinions, try writing about a theoretical topic which will need some research at your end. Dabbling with stuff that is new to you, will bring in a fresh perspective and help you grow and learn as a writer.

WoW life!
Again, let me stress on - Never underestimate the importance of learning! I try to learn something new every day. Be it by reading books, researching a topic on the internet, or speaking to someone about something that I am not very well versed with. Keep challenging yourself and you will find that you end your day with a fulfilling and satisfying feeling. You know how sometimes when you watch a bad movie, you feel terrible that you just wasted precious two hours of your life that you will never get back? Imagine that happening with a whole day! Go to bed thinking of the few bits of wisdom that you gained in the day, be proud of your efforts and enjoy the deep slumber!


Friday, October 21, 2011

As is...

Outside, it was just another November morning. Within, my cells were in a state of celebration. I was meeting my guru and couldn’t decide what to wear. His timely message on my phone read “Don’t take too much trouble over dressing. Come as yourself. In the ‘As is’ state, you are beautiful.” I sat down and softly chuckled to myself. Somehow, he always knew all the antics that I was up to. I wore my most comfortable pair of jeans and a simple T-shirt, grinned and said, “As is”. At various points of the day, the two words tickled my mind and made me smile. As is. As is. The wondering had begun…

Although I enjoy a several close relationships, it is in my sister’s company that my inner Self completely unfurls and stands ‘As is’. I feel so at ease when I am with Nidhi. If I have an issue with her, I don’t need to think or edit, I can express myself as it is and I know nothing about our relationship will lessen. I can scratch my nose or I can burst into a song, I can laugh and roll on the floor in mirth or cry like my entire world has fallen apart, and I know nothing about us will change. I always wondered why I sought her company and now I know. With her, I am ‘As is’ – not an inch of formality, not a molecule of pretension. Not even an atom of being what I am not. Oh, such freedom this is!

Being with children refreshes me – this I have known for years. This is so because kids are always in the ‘As is’ state – is a discovery I just made. Whether a little one is running around or sitting peacefully, colouring; whether he is gurgling over nothing or she is crying over a toy; I can sit in meditative silence and watch children for an entire day. So beautiful they are, in the ‘As is’ state.

As I dwelt more upon these two words, I began to realize whenever I saw someone being ‘As is’ I enjoyed that person, no matter how strange or eccentric they appeared. I liked my loud aunt because that’s just the way she was. She had no qualms about her decibel levels so why should I? I loved my miserly uncle who wears torn socks and ‘banian’ (inner vest) with holes even bigger than the ones through which we put our hands, although he is a billionaire – that’s just the way he is, who am I to question it? Conversely, I have found something within me repel whenever I sensed that someone was not being themselves. Even if someone was doing a kind act – but being extremely pretentious about it, something within me would screech like nails over a blackboard. A humbling experience came in the form of a college re-union.

The party was in full swing, and so were my thoughts. I was judging all those who weren’t being genuine and was wondering, “Why can’t people be ‘As is’ – it’s so obvious when someone is not being genuine…” Just then, a reflection caught my eye in the long panel mirror of the party hall. Someone had a huge, plastic smile on her face as she was telling another person, “Hey, we must catch up, it’s been soooo long.” With horror, I realized that the reflection was mine! I looked fake. I sounded fake. And it was clear, I was being fake. It was like a bucket of cold water being dumped on my head. Obviously, just the way I could sense it when someone wasn’t being genuine – it must be so clear to others when I wasn’t ‘As is’ too! After, we all acts as mirrors to one another!

So often I change myself because I believe it is ‘socially acceptable.’ Why say, “pleased to meet you” when in my mind I know I found the meeting boring? Why say “the food is amazing, give me the recipe!” when I know I am never going to try the dish? Why tell someone “you are looking so amazing” and then gossip about her later? I have promised myself – if I say something good to someone, I will mean every syllable of it.

Conversely, when someone around me is displeasing me, I have started asking myself a key question. It is, “Does this person really matter?” If the answer is no, I am learning to keep my peace and remind myself that I am no one to judge anyone. However, if the answer is yes, the person does matter, I make it a point to express my feelings to him. Of course there is a way to say things – and a time and a place, but instead of allowing negative emotions to fester and boil within me, I have decided to let the other person know what’s troubling me. I have seen that when I am able to communicate nicely, directly and respectfully to the other, when I am able to say things ‘As is’ most of the times it has been received in the right spirit and the relationship has only deepened. When I looked into my life and reflected upon the relationships that got strained or fell apart, I saw that in most cases it wasn’t the issues that were too big, it was the gap between discussing the issues that had become too big. We had stopped being ‘As is’ with each other.

Being ‘As is’ is improving my life so much. From little instances to important ones, every instance where I was ‘As is’ leaves me happy and refreshed. For example, I love getting gifts. In fact an important part of my birthday is sitting amidst colourful wrapping paper and admiring the things I had received. And yet, until now whenever someone would give me a present I would say, (with one hand upon the gift, mind you) “ Heh Heh Heh, you shouldn’t have…” This birthday, I decided to be ‘As is’ – I accepted all the presents with an excited smile. As is.

In the book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert shares a profound insight. She says, “God exists within you, as you.” If the Almighty can accept us as we are, why do we change ourselves to please others? Even the journey of self improvement can only begin when, in the first place, there is self acceptance. Only when I accept that I am a liar can I move towards becoming more truthful – only when I accept the ‘As is’ can I do something about it. The stupidest thing that I have done in life is to deny me to myself, others and even God– and I refuse to do it anymore. This is me. As is.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just another memory

I realize, life is nothing but a series of memories. Every moment that passes becomes a small fragment of my mind in the form of a memory. It’s up to me whether I choose happy memories or the painful ones. Do I slip in to reminiscence with a gentle smile or a scorn? What he said, what she said, what he did, what she did, will all result in nothing but a memory in my head – so which ones are worth keeping… which not worth processing? As I became conscious of this thought, I realized, somewhere unconsciously I was picking and choosing all the right memories and therefore life is as beautiful, as abundant as it is right now. The negative memories must be lurking in corners – but I consciously choose not to think of them whereas the happy ones I play time and again, making them stronger.

I had a quarrel with my best friend. We both said quite a few nasty things to each other. We raked the past, we scorned the present and questioned the future. However, in the end of it all, it ended with both of us weeping, realizing, how much we mean to each other. There were I love you’s and I care for you’s. There were hugs and holding of hands. With a new day, with a new understanding – what played an important role was our old memory. We remembered not the hurt but the healing power of love, we kept in mind the adoration not the abhorrence, we memorized the gentle words and not the stream of insults and that’s why we are closer than we ever were. Memory… just a memory. Yet, which I choose to dwell over, which I choose to lose, makes all the difference.

“You will never be good at English”, said my teacher ten years ago. Although her words were meant to hurt, in my memory, I only remember a little girl in a blue uniform looking back with raised eyebrows. I had said nothing. But even then, I remember thinking, “No teacher, I will learn English. I will.” Even in memory there was no sense of humiliation or failure. Indignation, yes. A chance to prove myself, perhaps. But no sense of failure. Recently, after having finished a book called Thank You, Cancer and being praised for it in Times of India, the same teacher wrote me an email saying, “I am privileged to have known you.” Probably none of it had been possible if somehow my mind had not chosen to keep the memory of this moment as a challenge rather than a hopelessness one.
That’s the beauty with memory – of an entire instance, of an entire conversation; I can choose to keep alive only that which I want to. So when someone once told me, “You are pretty ugly”, I conveniently, in my memory keep alive only the first three words of the sentence. Today truly looks does not seem to be an issue in my life and I walk about with my head held high, believing I am God’s beautiful creation. What could have broken me, created me. Memories which could have shaken me, awakened me, as I chose to keep only those alive which helped me feel good, made me happier.

What you say to me is not in my control. What life brings to me is not in my control. What will happen in the very next moment is not in my control. But as I sleep, what memories I choose to keep in safe possession, what memories I choose to ignore and thereby discard remains in my, and only my control. I have made insults in to compliments, failures in to challenges, fights in to yet another chance to renew a friendship, ill health in to an important rest and pampering period, moments of humiliation in to humour in my memory. So when I look back, there actually seems so much of joy, so much of excitement and growth, that I get excited about what tomorrow will bring.

This article, as of now will be nothing but a memory… but I want to keep it alive in my mind, keep remembering that life is nothing but a series of memories – and I can chose, and lose them according to my wish. Let this learning not fade away… let this memory, of memories, remain alive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New day.. Old me?

Did you, like me, buy a brand new book, a brand new pen with a shiny tip just when you had to begin studying for school exams? For me, it was an event. I would go to a stationary shop, hold my nose high so the shopkeeper knows he is to take me seriously and stand pondering what to buy- which pen would get me more marks- which book would ensure that I write more, learn more and sleep less; which color marker would help me notice important words better? Pink, maybe. Purple, Yes. And like this my tiny shopping bag would fill with new stationary. Surprisingly, I would actually study harder, concentrate more with all these new things surrounding me.

Do you, like me, get so excited when you bought a few new clothes, that for quite some time you forgot your old ones completely. Little else thrills me as shopping does- there is a certain fragrance that new clothes have, a certain feel- that old clothes just don’t. Laden with shopping bags, thoughts of what I will wear when, anticipation of coming sales- I feel this little thrill. Ok, ok, if you are a man- its probably not clothes- think of that brand new car that you bought. That glisten, that glimmer, that fragrance that teased you as if saying- ‘I am new and therefore special’ and you probably know exactly what I am saying about the thrill of ‘newness’.

Have you, like me, felt shivers run down your spine at the prospect of getting to know a person, of adding that one more number on your mobile- knowing that you are going to use this number quite a lot. What a feeling it is to talk for hours and find out- favorite colour, favorite food, favorite flower. And favorite person. Shy smiles follow. Some relationships become new with each passing day- no matter how much two people know about each other they always find something new, something more to speak about- something new to discover together. And the excitement of ‘newness’ within the relationship simply refuses to fade away.

Have you, like I did, realized that life itself renews itself each day? With each morning, life begins once again. Sleep, like a mother, puts her hand over my head and weaves webs of darkness around me so I may sleep in peace- and wake up to a new day, a new life. What a waste of a new day it would be, if I am the same old! Yesterday I allowed ego to spoil a relationship, today I won’t. Yesterday, I was afraid to be the first one to do something; today I will do it with excitement. Yesterday I lost my temper on someone I loved, today, I will make it up. Yesterday I didn’t realize my potential, today I will. Yesterday I didn’t extend my arms and hug a child, today I will hug two. The old me had health problems, the new me wont. Yesterday I couldn’t, today I will. Between what I was yesterday and what I will be tomorrow lies a new day- renewed twenty four hours asking me- so, today what will you do?

What a feeling it is to wake up to a new day. The thrill of newness engulfs me every morning as I wonder what all I will do with this brand new day- the fragrance of newness tantalizing me to explore more, more, more. The beauty of life is, until it’s here, it keeps giving me a new day, again and again. A new sun, a new sky, new clouds, and to go with it a new, improved me- everyday.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Decided it. Did it.

Since forty years it had been his best friend. Since forty years, every day, through every different mood it listened calmly to him- never questioning, never judging, for it knew that each time he would get a little more dependent on it. Each time they spoke it took away a little from him, without him even realizing it. Each time it killed him a little, and yet he continued. For he could not imagine his life without it. Yes, he couldn’t imagine a life without his cigarettes, which now seemed like a natural extension of his fingers.

When I met him he spoke to me, with a cigarette in his hands, of his dreams. Beautiful dreams. Dreams of creating an educational institute in Rajasthan for the poor. He spoke with clarity, he spoke keeping reality in mind. I coughed a little and then smiled in encouragement. Smoke and smile. Hazard to health and dreams of progress. Cigarette and visions. The paradoxes got to me and I couldn’t help but ask him, ‘Uncle you have such a beautiful vision for the future of kids you don’t even know, and yet with each cigarette you kill yourself a little bit hour after hour – hazarding your own future. Isn’t it a pity?’

Mr Pansari, my best friend’s father looked at me with widened eyes. He processed the thought. And within few seconds he replied, ‘Give me a twenty one day challenge and I promise you I will not touch a cigarette. On the twenty second day I will call you and tell you that if I could do this for these few days, I can do it for a lifetime.’ One week passed. And then another. I had not heard from uncle at all- and in all honesty, I did have a doubt whether he would be able to do it- a forty year old habit- can it be dropped in twenty one days?

On twenty second day the phone rang. With triumph in his voice uncle informed me, ‘I decided it and I did it. My decision became bigger than me and I never even had the urge to touch a cigarette. All that mattered was my decision, my promise to you. It’s now impossible for me to ever smoke again.’ Undoubtedly I was thrilled- thrilled for him, thrilled for his family but I think I was most thrilled for myself as I had the sudden realization that this was the victory of the human spirit, the human determination over a particular challenge. If one can decide it, one can do it. Suddenly I looked around myself to see more examples of single decisions changing lives. I was not disappointed.

He was only sixteen years old when he developed an eye problem. He was told, progressively he would now lose his eyesight for a few years until he becomes completely blind. At an age where youngsters seek and find themselves, at an age where one starts developing vision for a beautiful tomorrow, at an age where what others think, how peers relate with you matters so much, he found himself immersed in darkness. His mother wept, his father wept, his younger brother too wept. But Ankit, my young cousin, made a decision.

One of those evening when he was listening to a few of his favorite songs a thought came upon him, ‘I am only losing my sight- everything else in my body is functioning perfectly and I should be thankful for that.’ Instantaneously the thought became a decision, ‘Before I knew I would become blind I had several dreams. Loss of vision will not stop me. I will achieve all that I want to achieve in life and blindness will not subtract anything from my life. In fact, it will give me an impetus to strive harder. I will remain self reliant.’ And that was it. The rest, as they say, is history.

The handsome twenty year old today reads more books than most people who can see, via a special program; he won the student of the year award in his college; he has written a book on his life and will soon celebrate six months into his first amazing job in India’s most reputed MNC. He told me, ‘I took the decision and the decision governed my life. At times when I felt weakened, I would just remember my decision and with a calm smile walk on. I started every day of my life running my decision through my mind. And today my decision is me, I am my decision.’ He adds, with a naughty smile, ‘Am sure will even find the girl of my dreams someday- after all, love is blind.’ I laugh with him but have tears in my eyes.

Her husband told her he loved her, and the he told her he loved her not. Once again he told her he did, and then he did not. Sometimes he would come home and be the wonderful caring husband that any woman can dream of; at other times he was a detached stranger- incapable of all thoughts and feelings. She questioned herself, tried providing answers to herself and kept trying to make things work. She was a housewife- she had grown up believing that a marriage is a one time phenomena and no matter what you have to make it work. Although educated, she had never stepped out to work, to find herself in a role other than a daughter, sister and a wife. That evening he came home drunk. She offered him a glass of water which he threw aside abusing her. She sat in the balcony crying, watching the sun set. And suddenly, out of nowhere a thought came, ‘Do I not deserve a better life?’ In a moment, the decision was made.

She decided, ‘I deserve a beautiful life. I deserve to live without wondering what will happen tomorrow, I deserve a life of love. If not my husbands love, at least my love for myself.’  She quietly packed her bags and left for her parents’ home. Of course there was resistance. Questions. Accusations. And yet, since the decision was made, there was no going back.

In six months she was able to get a job that brought little salary, but a lot of self respect. She managed to get out of the marriage, unscathed. And is on her journey to discovering a new Shalini. There is so much strength in making a decision and standing by it. I didn’t know what I would do, where I would be when I left my husband- all I knew is that I deserved something better and I would give it to myself. Today, that single decision has turned my life downside up and things are looking better each day.’

For the first time I realized that I need not give examples of the Mahatma or Mother Teresa, my own life is surrounded by people who have had the courage to take a decision and make things happen. A thought, when it becomes a decision has the power to make things move. A decision when remembered every day, becomes a force. A force, when it becomes bigger than the person himself can overcome all the hurdles and become reality. If indecision is like the car which doesn’t know whether to go right or left, and goes nowhere in the bargain; decision is that chartered plane which zooms past the runway and gains flight. Certain indecisions arise of lack of information- in which case one can seek a higher intelligence to make up their mind- but most indecisions arise from a fear of the future- a question upon tomorrow. That robust health, that amazing job, that dream relationship, that wonderful life… awaits. Can you make the decision and  make it yours?