Roots and Wings!

Everyday is a special day for it opens for you a storehouse of opportunities. It is up to us whether we look for the opened or opening windows or pine and sigh for the closed ones. Given that, I still say today is a special day to me. The day I became a mother in 1985. I still remember the teeny weeny little one curled up in my arms, holding my finger tightly and instinctively with her tiny fingers! It was as if she knew even then that she could hold my hand, through thick and thin.

This day, way back in 1985, was a special day for us in Kerala, for it was Thiruvaathira day. Falling on a full moon day, the festival is related to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva & Thiruvaathira are much more important to me as I grew up in a rustic village called Pallavur. Pallavur boasts of a beautiful Shiva temple (not so beautiful anymore as some “bright sparks” decided to lop off all trees in precincts of the temple and making the soothing green haven one of stark brown earth, crushed and paved stones!).

Tripallavur

In Kerala, the festival is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva. ‘Thiruvathira’ is the nakshatra or star of Lord Shiva as per the Malayalam calendar . And Thiruvathira happens to be one of the important festivals of our temple. “Thirivathira means sacred big wave using which this universe was created by Lord Shiva about 132 trillion years ago. Before the Big Wave there was nothing. Modern scientists confirm much of these theories outlined by ancient Rishis (Indian Sage scientists): their claim is it all started with a “Big Bang” and that the elemental forces are wavelike. The discrepancy is in one minor detail: the age of the universe per modern scientists is 13.8billion as against the 132-trillion-claim of ancient Indian Scientists.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallavur)

So, it was on such a festive occasion that my daughter was born. She was named Aathira as she was born on Thiruvathira day. Well, it would never be a hyperbole if I say that she made our lives too festival-like! Full of vitality, verve and enthusiasm. Today, when she is a self reliant young professional, I thank our Lord Tripallavurappan for all His infinite mercies showered upon us. We have traversed arduous journeys together and have been there for each other all the time – though physical space had actually separated us.  It is said that the best things we can give our children are wings to fly and roots to grow. I honestly hope I have given her both. Let me wind up this post with a lovely poem titled “Roots and Wings” I found in this link: http://www.vanier.com/roots.wings.shtm

If I could give you many things,
I’d give you gold and silver rings
Of knowledge that I’ve gained with years
The gift of smiling through the tears
Confidence, courage, determination,
Laughter and spirit and love of creation,
Wrapped up in a box with a bow,
I’d give To you these gifts to keep for as long as you live.

If I could give you just two things,
One would be Roots, the other, Wings.
Roots, not to tie you to the ground,
But to guide you to where your fulfillment is found
The nourishing start, the firm foundation,
The source of your inner determination.
Wings to soar over obstacles, wings to fly free,
Wings to glide to the heights of the best you can be.
And when obstacles loom, from your Roots grows a hand
Providing a strong, sturdy, safe place to land.
I’d choose these two things for the gifts that are best,
For with Roots and with Wings, you’ll find all the rest!

25 03 2009 011

P.S: to Aathira: Wish you a happy birthday my little girl; being mom to you has been the ‘bestest’ ever that has happened to me! Smile Smile Smile

December Memories

December to me is the most happiest month of the year. After growing up in a lushly green yet sleepy village where time almost stood still in the rice-rich Palakkad, the month simply evokes in my mind myriad images.
The sight of very many pilgrims clad in black, blue and of late orange, all readying to go to Sabarimala for pilgrimage… The mornings & evenings were greeted by Ayyappa devotional songs….
I love the December weather. Mornings are chill and the evenings are cool. Throughout the day there is the strong eastern winds blowing along the Palakkad Pass. This has come to be known as the “Palakkadan Kaattu” (meaning Palakkad’s wind). You feel the wind against you the moment you enter the district from either via Walayar or Kuthiran hills – sometimes caressing, at times a little too strong…
The strong breeze bringing in dry leaves especially of teak and its dry flowers and fruit laden branches, which will fill the courtyards…
The emerald green rice fields swaying to the rhythm of winds making gentle waves. What a spectacle is this from the nearby hillock called Karivottu Mala!
The full Malampuzha Canal, the waters of which are released to help the farmers water the paddy fields for the second crop…
Trees laden with drumsticks and gooseberries…
Beds of Koorka Kizhangu or Chinese potatoes. The taste of Mummy’s fry made of these tubers still lingers in my palate…
The hyacinth bean or Avarakka with its purple flowers and green bean pods climbing on to the trellis. Sambhar made of this kind of broad beans and the bean fry are just delicious…
Arrow root, the powder of which is used to make a sweet porridge for one of the most important of festivals – Thiruvathira, which falls on the full moon day…
Walking along with my siblings and my grandmother on Thiruvathira day to the Thripallavurappan temple with a tray full of goodies for the Lord – tender coconut, bananas, betel leaves, agarbathis, camphor and the like…
The dry reeds in the hillocks around that reflect & glow golden yellow at dawn and dusk… There is pure magic in the December air!

December is also the month when the world celebrates Christmas. Houses and shops are all decked. One very clear memory is that of lot of big balloons with ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ imprinted on them along with the pictures of Santa! Christmas star is even to this day an integral part of our household, though we are Hindus. The last five years have seen us setting up the Christmas tree replete with decorations and coloured lights. It gladdens me to see how secular we have grown to be. We used to send out so many cards  for Christmas & New Year by snail mail. When my daughter Aathira moved into the middle school, she developed a keen interest in making her own greeting cards using water colours on chart paper cards. Now all that has become part of the bygone era. Today it is just e-cards, tweets, status updates – all sent through the click of a button or the swipe of a touch screen.

And one of the best Decembers in my memory is of 2000 – when we, my daughter and I, spent almost all of December in Munnar as my daughter was preparing for her class 10 examinations. Though we had a month of winter holidays, we decided to stay on at Munnar and go home briefly around Christmas time to celebrate my daughter’s 15th birthday with her grandparents. The crystal clear night skies  decked with thousands of twinkling stars… The joy of finding an occasional shooting star… We used to switch off all the lights and sit on the step gazing wondrously at the enchanting spectacle of the sky… The very cold mornings which did not deter us from taking our morning walks…  The morning teas which had to be literally gulped down to savour it hot… Simple joys and pleasures galore!

One of the finest books on Christmas that I have read is the Christmas Carol. I enjoyed it even more when I taught it for my class 10 students. It was a great opportunity to acquaint impressionable minds with timeless values. The story of Scrooge, a miser who becomes a different man when he is presented with visions of past, present and future by the ghost of Marley makes it such an endearing read. Christmas celebrations at school … and listening to some of the most beautifully rendered Christmas songs by Jim Reeves… Plum cakes… Cakes with icing…

Finally the best thing about December is that I became the mother of a lovely girl in this charming month. She was born on 27th December; on the full moon day on which we, Hindus, celebrate the festival of Thiruvathira. Rightly she is named Aathira.

So, those are my very own December memories. What are yours?
Am signing off with wishes to each one of you for a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

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Desiderata

Holiday season is around. It is the season for festivities, celebrations and reunions. It is also the time to look behind and beyond for we are at the threshold of a brand new year. There is a lot of turmoil all around the globe. Am sure there are a lot of good things that happen around the world. But we get to know more of the bad and the ugly possibly because the media absorbs them like a sponge and showcases them in all limelight.

Let us introspect for a while. How good was 2012 for you? Can you list the 5 best things that happened to you? Or the worst that has happened to you / what went horribly wrong? What could you have done better this year? Why did things go the way it went? Before an event we plan everything so that the event happens smoothly, without hitches and glitches. So it is with the new year.
Plan ahead.
Pay attention.
Do your best. Leave the rest.
Have Hope and Faith.
Believe in yourself and in everything you do.
Smile a lot. It is good for your body and spirit.
Silence the inner critic in you. Be kind most of all to yourself.
Let go of the past. The hurts. The troubles and travails.
Forgive and forget. It will release the demon, the prisoner in you.
Be compassionate. Judge not. You or others.

Finally let me leave you with this very positive credo for life. I came across this thanks to a dear friend Giribala Menon, way back in 1988, while working as an English Teacher in Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Pallavur. Those were troubled times for me personally and the lines were like a soothing balm on my frayed nerves. I must have read them hundreds of times! Called “Desiderata“, it was written by Max Ehrmann, a poet and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, who lived from 1872 to 1945. It has been reported that Desiderata was inspired by an urge that Ehrmann wrote about in his diary: “I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift – a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods.”

The word Desiderata, a noun, is the plural of desideratum (1650s), from Latin, lit. “something for which desire is felt,” from pp. stem of desiderare “to long for”. It means things wanted or desired. May these lines be a beacon of light whenever you walk along dark alleys and ride on troubled waters.

(I am using red and green for those are the colours of the festive season!) 🙂

                                                                 DESIDERATA

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Xmas

Loving Yourself: How to?

When I wrote my earlier post on Loving Myself – Is is Vanity or Necessity and shared it on my FB wall, a former student commented that it would be good to learn about the “how to” also. Therefore this post. I hasten to add that all these are tried and tested ways when I went through a “low self esteem” phase.
 
(I hope this is useful, Swati.) 
 
1. Discover yourself.
 
Ask yourself these questions: Do you know yourself well? What are your strong points? What are the areas where you have developmental needs? Write them all in a private journal. The more you know about yourself, the better you can accept yourself.
 
2. Smile often.
 
Research says that one uses less facial muscles to smile and more to frown. Therefore smile should come to us easily and naturally. It is not for nothing there is this saying that exhorts one to smile, for ‘it adds to one’s face value.’ Smiles beget smiles and what an amount of happy cheerful energy surrounds you! This is the most positive aspect of smiles. They are like sunshine – life giving and radiating.
 
3. Cultivate acceptance.
 
You are what you are physically. Technology has advanced so much that there are costly quick fixes like Botox or tummy tucks and the like to enhance one’s body image. It is also worth remembering that such alteration comes with heavy prices – the actual cost factor and the after effects that can be even life threatening. Look at yourself in the mirror and lovingly tell yourself “I love my … “ (fill it with every body part from head to toe). Look at yourself with new eyes. What a marvel you are thanks to each and every invisible part in your body! Take the case of your heart – it does the job silently. Should it stop, we cease to exist. But have we ever thanked our heart for keeping us alive? Our legs, for taking us from place to place? This exercise of thanking each and every part of our body will help us with not only acceptance but also fill us with gratitude.
 
4. Learn from mistakes.
 
Society abhors the ‘F’ word – failure I mean. Historically educators as well as adults have created a climate that does not encourage errors. Failure is pictured as a bottomless abyss from which pupils / people can never come out. No wonder then that many young teens are hope-less and despondent even before they have entered the brave new adult world. Whether it is homework, test taking, making friends or playing games, learning is enriched through making mistakes. It is here that a parent /mentor/educator can play a vital role – encourage all even when they make mistakes. This will prompt them to try again and not give up in despair.
 
5. Be kind & positive to yourself.
 
Many cannot forgive the lapses they make or that of others. Research says that ruminating about the past and about mistakes committed releases so many negative emotions and expressions, increase cardiac reactivity and impair the body’s parasympathetic calming response. Compassion and forgiveness on the other hand generate a host of positive emotions and responses, giving the body comfort, control and the right social orientation. So, it is worth letting go of bitterness and grudges. The moment you do that you stop being and acting like a victim. More importantly, forgive your own trespasses. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and say, “I forgive myself for——.” Another technique is to write a letter to your own self about the transgression. Burn it (be careful and prevent accidents of fire). This is symbolic of burning the thoughts of guilt and being reborn from its ashes, like the proverbial phoenix.
 
6. Silence the inner critic in you.
 
Is your negative self with its nonstop chatter, chiding you at each and every step? Stop this; else it will kill your self-confidence, and leave you at the very edge of depression and anxiety. Such an inner critic is all about the past and looks for blame. Replace that which beats you up with something new that will make you feel good – something constructive, positive. Accept your imperfections and be grateful that you are you and not anyone else. Remember it is perfectly ok to not be perfect.
 
7. Affirmations – use them lavishly.
 
“I live in the present, here and now.”
“I am very contented and happy.”
“I am fit and healthy.”
“I am me, I am ok.”
Words are expressions of thought and repeated positive and fostering expressions send positive vibrations to the Universe and make thoughts happen. So use suitable affirmations to develop love for yourself.
 
8. Look after your Body.
 
Eat healthy. Nurture it with proper nutrition and exercise. Treat it with utmost respect and care. Nourish it with Love. Very often many body image issues occur because the body lacks love and care.
 
9. Stay away from the comparison trap.
 
Can you ever compare apples with oranges? Each has its unique features. Never compare yourself with others. Comparing results in judging and leads to resentment, hatred. It evokes either inferiority or superiority, besides a host of other negative, damaging feelings. How do you stop comparing? Count your blessings! Focus on your positives, your strengths. To love yourself is to stop comparing.
 
10. Journal and plot your shift.
 
This is a highly reflective and effective exercise. Look at the good and the bad / the high and the low of each day. Jot it down in a private diary. It is an amazing stress buster and helps to release all pent up emotions. The consequent reflection empowers you by clearing your mind and giving you focus. When life hits unprecedented lows of change, hurt, loss and pain, journal writing can detoxify and heal. It can be an observation journal or the very effective gratitude journal.
 
So, there we are – love yourself first. When nobody celebrates or compliments you, learn to do them to yourself. Learn to enjoy your own company. The more you like yourself, the less you will want the lives of other people. The more the encouragement comes from within you, the more wholesome you will be. And the more wholesome you are, the more you will love yourself!
 
Reference:

A Pretty Avian Visitor

Dawn break on 21st December 2012  -  from my 15th floor residence

Dawn break on 21st December 2012 – from my 15th floor residence

December 21, 2012. The day dawned with much promise with a spectacular view. Being neither a believer nor a sceptic I had no fear or illusions that it is the day of the Apocalypse. Being a holiday, I knew however that I could spend my time in enriching endeavours and nurturing practices. So switching off the phone and the internet, my day progressed in prayer and introspection. After lunch I settled in to watch television.  Half way through the programme I was distracted by some unusual bird calls in my balcony. Normally I have only mynahs and pigeons for avian visitors. This call seemed to be different.

I looked out. My myopic eyes could make out a small green and red tiny bird on my clothes stand. I wanted to get a better view but did not want to scare the birdie. So I moved quietly closer. Thankfully the sliding door was open and I stepped into the balcony.

Emerald Lorikeet also known as the orange billed Lorikeet - my guest!

Emerald Lorikeet also known as the orange billed Lorikeet – my guest!

The bird looked at me carefully. I held out my hand and inched closer little by little. I wanted to gain the confidence of the bird that I meant no harm. It hopped from the clothes stand to the air conditioner. I went in to get some broken pieces of walnuts for the bird. It was still there. Observing me watchfully. But not for long. As I reached out gently, almost touching it, it flew away. I felt very sad. The bird evidently had flown away from its home (read cage!) and seemed disoriented. It banged against the French window of my balcony a couple of times.

My daughter, Aathira, told me that the bird is a Lorikeet. I surfed the net in an effort to find out more about the bird.

The vibrantly hued Lorikeet on my air conditioner's top

The vibrantly hued Lorikeet on my air conditioner’s top

Lorikeets are small to medium sized arboreal parrots. They are mostly natives of coastal areas around the Australasian region comprising Australia, South East Asia, Polynesia, Indonesia and  Papua New Guinea. They have a brilliant plumage and hence are extremely attractive. They live on a diet of nectar, pollen and berries and hence as pets need a specialized diet. This bird seemed to be a juvenile as the beak was ivory in colour. It is when they mature that it turns orange in colour giving it its name – Orange billed Lorikeet or Emerald Lorikeet. These particular Lorikeets are natives to the subtropical and tropical mountains of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They are intelligent, entertaining and stunningly beautiful birds.

It made me very sad to see the bird fly away. If it does not find its way back to its home, it might not survive. Which brought me to the crux of the problem. Why do people want to have birds as pets in cages? A bird becomes one only when it is free to soar into the blue sky and fly around seamlessly. We moan and groan, gripe and whine about our freedom when it is curtailed. We make such a noise about our loss of freedom. It would be worthwhile to keep this in perspective when we cage birds – well, it could be even equal to sentencing the bird to death!

Birds in cages suffer from malnutrition, improper environment, loneliness and stress due to confinement according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The New York Times has reported that many birds “go off the deep end when they are … placed in captivity. … The resulting frustration, [Cambridge University zoologist Dr. James Serpell] said, leads to abnormalities like repetitive behaviour  in which the bird’s head weaves back and forth, or in which it shifts constantly from one foot to the other; abnormal grooming in which the bird picks out all of its feathers, and aggressive behaviour.”

I fondly hope and pray my little friend has safely reached it cage!

Anamika: The Nameless One

When the nation was outraged at the horrific gang rape, I sat numb with shock. I did not want to even watch television news – I knew the gory details will be splashed all over and haunt me in a long time to come. The inputs I got was from an occasional media report I read – and I was not sure if I should believe that. Most of the Indian media sucks… they dramatize issues and then push them into oblivion; they make a furore and never follow up; there is paid news and partisan news. So where will I get authentic information from?

Am sure the incident made the World to sit up and watch the horror tragedy that unfolded – thanks to the hooligans. And what a sullied image for a land that was at some time in the distant past considered the Deva Bhumi, Land of Gods! Recently (on 10th December) I listened to a video conference where the key speaker referred to India as a land of rapists. I was livid. Within a week’s time we proved ourselves that we were!!

I am not going to write about the rape and rave against it. Enough has been done already by the media – both the print and the visual. My thoughts at this time are just about the hapless 23 year old physiotherapist who bore the monstrous atrocity. The Press calls her AMANAT meaning The Precious one. I will call her ANAMIKA. The Nameless one. For it was her, on that fateful day. Today / Tomorrow it could be we or our mothers, sisters or daughters.

I am amazed at the love for life in this young girl. She has been abused most heinously; yet she is spunky enough to put up a brave fight with Lord Yama (the God of Death according to Hindu Mythology). And it looks as if she would be successful in her efforts. As I write this I understand that she is taken off the ventilator. May God bless her and keep her safe.

I wonder what life after will it be for her, once she recoups. For this is a country where rape is a word synonymous with stigma and ostracism; where rape victims are treated as if they invited the rape; where insitutions need proof to establish that the rape has happened to punish the guilty; where nobody spares them – neither the law and order institutions like the police and judiciary nor even the society. I see that the youth is solidly behind her – going by the visuals at the Raisina Hills and Parliament street today. That is so very heart warming. Thanks to the cyber initiatives that have woken up the average Indian from slumber and sent strong messages to the authorities in power.

However future holds some issues for this young girl: What physical challenges will she have to face? Intestinal transplant (sourced from a brain dead person or from a living donor) which is still in an experimental stage seems to be an option as doctors have removed her intestines to ward off gangrenes and subsequent threat to her life. That she is also showing early symptoms of Sepsis (Blood infection) is a dampener, however.

More than the physical aspects, what about the mental and spiritual aspects? Will she be able to walk around free without stares and jeers?

Will she be able to distance herself from the constant reminders that her private and personal space has been inhumanly violated?

Will she be able to lead a normal life? I guess she might also need countless sessions of counselling to put back the traumatic experience. Only time can tell.

The Shift has happened. December 21 has sure shifted the collective Indian conscience. Is this the beginning of the Indian Spring? Or is it the beginning of India’s very own Jasmine Revolution? Whatever it is, authorities better remember the collective power of the masses. If not, like today, they can only flex muscles and suppress; but won’t that give rise to many more uprisings which will be too hot to handle? It’s worth watching as to how things will shape up. Or have I said something too soon? Will this issue of safety for women be forgotten like many other issues that ail and flail our country?

P.S: To me this girl, ANAMIKA is a hero: An ordinary individual who has found the strength to persevere and endure in spite of thoroughly overwhelming obstacles. (Adapted from Christopher Reeves’ definition of a Hero).

P.P.S: God bless you my dear girl. May you heal in body and soul. May your pain cease and your strength increase. May you find strength to strive for better and the courage to be different. May your fears be released and may blessings and love surround you. The entire nation is praying for you and am sure prayers of over 1 billion people will have a positive and nurturing effect!

ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ।। (Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanthihi)