Thursday, December 26, 2013

The First Things

What is the first thing you do when you come out of the confines of a bath?

My Father always emerged from his bath wrapped in a fresh white dhoti. He would fling a white muslin shalya around his shoulders and walk with single minded attention to the prayer room and place a dot of red between his eyebrows. Ten minutes later tinkle of the small brass bell and aroma of burning camphor filled the air. We trooped into the room and waited for our turn to take the aarti. And we felt blessed.

Yes. The prayer room. The lighting of lamps. The aarti with a camphor flame. The shlokas. These are rituals.
God, Universe, Supreme... give any name ... is pleased with devotion. I don't think He really cares if you forgot to place bits of areca-nut on aligned betel-leaves.... or pinched the skin of the mousambi on offering just so...
It's the thought that matters.

But what's with this mind of ours? Like the flutter of pigeons on a roof top that suddenly scatter at the burst of a firecracker, a hundred thoughts are eager to take the mind to a thousand destinations ..... phatak-dhum.

Seth Godin tells me if you think you should do it. You will.

Does Cola make me happy because the ad says it does??
You are more prepared to laugh at jokes when you go to a stand-up comedy show. You are more prepared for idle chatter when you attend a party. You are more inclined to serious conversation after an intellectual movie. 

So when Anna was performing the daily ritual .... maybe on some days his mind was on the board meeting he would attend? or on a Deal that he was about to close? But the prayer room by virtue of daily ritual had acquired a certain 'This is what you should do here' aura.
Hence when we went to the prayer corner we felt blessed. And gathered our thoughts, stilled our minds, if only for minutes, (or seconds) and emerged rejuvenated and recharged.

So maybe there is something in rituals? A ritual that is not imposed. A ritual that is admired and internalized? A ritual that is followed everyday until it becomes second nature?

Allot a zone at home to write, to cook, to worship
and the spot acquires the ability to guide thoughts!
When you are 'not in the mood' the zone will help you with its acquired aura!

I suddenly write here in defense of rituals!!!
And I always thought ... I hate rituals!

I know now. I like my rituals. I just hate it when others make me try to follow theirs!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Do we need the Daily Bath

Amma I have to go for my bath.
I will tell him to call you later. He is having his bath.
Tell Ajja the water is hot. He can go to bath.

I had thought of bath as two buckets of warm water - a plastic mug - and soap. This was modified to sporadic jerks of water from a temperamental shower head - and silky body wash.... until our trip to the US.

warm water and plastic mug

With absolutely no intentions of buying anything, we spent an hour at  the Bed&Bath section of a well stocked mall. A trim sales girl came up to us and asked, 'Do you take baths often?' 'Huh?' we thought. What a question. And then we notice that we are wandering through bathtubs. Soaking in a tub - that is what she defines as BATH. Water trickling down head and shoulders is SHOWER not bath!

The concept of soaking in dirty water (to me) is one big uggh! There were times in Europe when ONE tub of water was used by members of the family for their BATH. The eldest went in first and then the rest in descending order of age. Hence when it was the turn of the youngest baby the water became quite opaque! And that is the origin of the proverb: Don't throw the baby with the bathwater.
  • A morning shower with a mild body-wash cleanses away the sweat and grime, washes away the lethargy, pumps up blood circulation and gives the day a good start.
  • A morning shower with a soft smile on the lips cleanses away grouse and gripe, washes away doubts and fears, pumps up hope and charity and gives life a good start.
No matter if you are in a tropical climate or not
No matter if there is water a plenty or little
No matter if you sweat it out or laze it out
A bath with a smile 
is a must. What say you?


Friday, December 20, 2013

How to Sleep Late and Get up Early

You can invent something or publish 4 books or climb up a sheer wall to considered wise and achieving. Or, You can just be an early riser! One universal symptom of being wise and motivated is Getting Up Early.

The moment someone tells you... Oh I get up at 5. I like going for early morning walks... There you have that inevitable Guilt Feeling rising up your throat and plonking on your shoulder. and you secretly Hate Them Early Risers...!!! just a little bit... just for a few moments...

What if you are a night owl? What if you like to read into the wee hours of the night? Or you just need those 10 hours of sleep? How then do you stake your claim to the 'wise and the worthy' title? I Googled. And found many pointers.

  • Sleep early to get up early
  • Turn on the lights as soon as you wake up
  • Keep the alarm clock / cell phone far away from your bed
  • Sign up for an early morning gym class

But be warned. Above methods are good. But mine are better...
If early rising is important to you follow my list here. This is bound to make you early riser in a jiffy.

  1. Have a maid who leans on your doorbell and half past six in the morning
  2. Have a cat in your neighbourhood that will drink up the packet of milk if you don't bring it in as soon as the milk-guy drops it off
  3. Keep a pet dog that wants to poop at 6
  4. Set the mechanical kitchen timer. It will not turn off till you go there and whack it.
  5. Have a baby and bring it up in the Indian grandma-pampered way.

I write in defense of Late Risers.
It is nice to be wise and worthy without feeling guilty!
The early bird gets the worm. But perhaps it gets the worm that is fuzzy and walks slow because it got up too early?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Do only cowards give up?

My friend is heartbroken. She has tried very hard to maintain a good relationship with her cousin. They grew up together and even went to the same hostel. But if anything, her cousin gets ruder and abusive.

The near and dear,
                 good friends and peer!
The doodwala, the dhobi,
                     the maid and cabby!
Now-and-then adorable,
                         are mostly queer!
Keeping affairs in sync is
               more chore than hobby!

Relationships are like plants. They do not grow in a day. They need nurturing. Don't give up on relationships. Work your way towards making them wholesome.
That is what we know. That is what we believe. Yet we do give up on relationships don't we?
When you do not get along with a doodwala or a dhobi, no problem. Wait till you find a better one. And go for a change. What if its a neighbour or a boss/colleague? Not easy to change house or job! What if its a family member... say an uncle or cousin? There is more at stake here. Lots of other relationships are involved too.

So you work at the connection. You try to make it better. You talk things out. You extend your conciliatory hand. You say sorry when you do not have to. You make the call though you have been ignored. You buy little presents to make them feel better. You praise. You give positive strokes. You try reason. You say nice things. You walk the mile.

Still things do not change. And that one sour relationship blocks the view.

The shuttle that our mys bound Shatabdi had to wait for

Then what? Would I be a coward if I gave up on that link? Would I be counted as a deserter? Will the world smirk?

My physiotherapist tells me, "That cartilage in your knee is weak. Nothing can be done about it. Invest time and energy in the other muscles in your knee. They will become stronger. They will compensate for that weak cartilage".

So it is with relationships? A particular relationship is weak? Too bad. But why allow that failing to sour all waking moments. We can give it some space. We can back off and accept the truth, however harsh. And enjoy the other wonderful people in our lives.
It is not always the cowards who give up. Would you agree?


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Acceptance, with eyes wide open

What we see ........ depends on what we are looking for....!!
I traveled to Mysore over this weekend. I took the Shatabdi. Sitting by the window I sighed at heaps of garbage lined beside the railway tracks. I squirmed at the shambles of houses that dotted what had been farms and open land. I pondered over the diminishing water bodies. The train is running late. And my stomach is rumbling so! Did you notice, a train that is late, waits at every way to the train that is on time. And thus the train becomes more and more late! There a big lesson to be learnt here... Don't be late, and if you are late, don't be a Shatabdi.

My cousin P and I have a quick lunch of hot rotis, awesome aalu palya and lemon rice (no adjectives here!!). Manu the auto driver arrives promptly at 4 and we are on our way to Chamundi Betta.

gopuram of temple on chamundi betta
'Do you think you want to stand in a line to enter the temple?'
'Er! what! We don't go in??!!'
Thankfully there is no line at all. We have a nice darshan and wander into the courtyard around the temple.
We hold back. We observe other devotees.  A young man dips his head into the sacred stone at the back of the temple. A purohit sits crosslegged by a brass pot offering thirtha. A grandfather cups his hands in reverence. He takes a sip and scatters the rest on his bald pate. A young girl skips to her grandfather. A lady hurries by tucking a yellow shavantige into her hair. The heady fragrance peculiar to temples is everywhere. Everything is so beautiful. The raw stone floor, the pillars, the wooden beams, the intricate statues that make the gopuram,  the experience of being together and silent in this place...

thirtha and kunkuma prasada
Two days fly by. And I am again in a train on my way back. A gentleman sitting beside me looks out of the window and says ...Oh! this stretch between Bangalore and Mysore is the best.  What wonderful scenery! and this time I see.... green carpets in rice fields, purple flowers of sugarcane, glistening blue pools of water, white egrets with long necks, and stuffed scarecrows doing their job ...

I realize, when I am watching out of the window the first time I am an opinionated city woman. In the temple I am a relaxed tourist seeing everything with open eyes of acceptance. On my way back, the gentleman's words nudge me towards looking at the same scenery in acceptance. And that makes all the difference.

Perhaps that is why travelling opens up the mind? A new kind of acceptance is awakened. And we are able to look at our own lives too in different light.