Monday, May 21, 2018

We are a all a ray of "Hope for Peace"

Kathua. Unnao. Syria. Gaza. Afghanistan. Iraq. What do all these words have in common? Violence? Exploitation of powerless by the powerful? Utmost rejection of human values and empathy? Blatant disregard for the dignity of human lives? 

Frontline issue of May 2018 covered the stories related to most of the introductory words. The case of Unnao ripped my soul apart; it was a classic case of poverty being ridiculed by the rich. The death of the father of the girl and the girl's attempt to immolate herself in front of the Chief Minister's residence provide testimony to the inexplicable pain that she and her family had to go through. Can we imagine that state of mind in which a person chooses to immolate himself or herself? Can we? No matter how hard we try, we cannot. And this is reality we are talking about, truth, far stranger than fiction. Even after 6 years of the deplorable Nirbhaya case our law and order machinery has not been able to take stringent steps to ensure security and safety to its women. Even after scores of amendments, introduction of new acts and new clauses, offenders of such culpable crimes walk away with impunity. What is more shocking is the fact that most of these people are actually those bestowed with a trust  to perform public service. 

I was just imagining the plight of the father of the Unnao girl who was incarcerated for some petty offences and brutally beaten, ultimately succumbing to his injuries. How on Earth could all this happen and no one had any inkling, not one human opposed it? Why such bold steps to shield the accused, to hide the truth and to threaten the victims and nothing of this stature to defend the rights of those at the receiving end? It is because of incidences like these that laity has lost faith in police, judiciary, law and order in the country. It is because of the loquaciousness of culprits and the silence of society that an adolescent girl, a young girl, a woman do not feel safe in their own country. The question is what can be done. That is the right question. Thousands of books have been written on women rights, millions of articles have been shared on Facebook, Twitter and I am sure there are hundreds of movies related to the issue of women. So, as a reader you have every write to say, "Ah!! One more article, same old story. What purpose does this serve?" And I do respect that. But I have something to say. 

Amidst such overt harassment that women face in India we can be the ray of "hope for Peace, Respect and Dignity". Sexual assault is essentially, in my opinion, an act of domination and stamping of the authority of a person over another. In current times it if often used as an act of subdue a community, family or the woman and mar their life. But if we look closely at it, the genesis of such feeling to act violently lies in dissatisfaction, inability to manage soaring egos, guided by frustration and sometimes an act of vengeance. As far as I have observed my life in my utmost blissful moments of solitude and incommunicado I have realised that in all of us exists evil and good. We all have the tendencies to lose our minds and act violently but we also have the wisdom to channel those feelings of resentment, revenge, dissatisfaction in a way such that it does not harm other individual. Who, at the first place, gave us right to harm our own fellow brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, even ants for that matter? 

I am sure none of us would want to add to the already grim state of affairs in the world today. Now obviously, you would say that, "I am not gunning every second person down, or I am not hatching any conspiracy to kill someone" - but violence is not only defined by such occurrences which are much more readily seen and acknowledged forms. Violence is very subtle and we battle with violence all the time in our minds. Not so long ago I learnt that even thoughts can be violent and if not handled with wisdom can metamorphose into something devastating. Believe it or not but we do contribute to violence even without being aware of it. The most common form of violence would be to retort back at someone who apparently said/did something which apparently offended us. Such back and forth business only contributes fuel to the fire and never is the solution. The tougher and wiser thing, most of the times, if not always, is to send a silent blessing, to swallow the unmindful behavior of others and go our way with much more humility. There is a wonderful quote that means something like this, "I am grateful to those who bash at me or criticise me because they are my best teachers; they are attacking my ego and by that I am becoming more humble".

To cut the long story short, what I really want to say is that we all have situations in our lives where we can either practice peace or advocate violence. The decision and the choice that we make determines whether we add "hope" and "peace" in the world or merely add fuel to the existing fire of estrangement widely pervasive. For eg. I believe relationships with people provide us the best opportunities to practice the lessons of peace and violence. Not every relationship is the fairy tale that is depicted in the movies, they have their ups and downs, moments of separations, sometimes indefinite, moments of confusions, sometimes recurrent, moments of dissatisfaction and disagreement and the like. All these things are very normal and it is also common that ego-clashes occur and dominance might be not that apparent but under the covers it is always there, though in a very deceiving form as to belie its existence. It is precisely in those situations of friction, in circumstances of suffering and pain that our better version can be formed if we have the courage and discipline to look at the other person as a human being with his/her own idiosyncrasies. These moments can transform us and if we just allow the dignity of the relationship and the person involved to be upheld no matter what, we can diffuse the "metaphorical bomb" minutes before its expected explosion time. The energy that causes conflicts between two people is the same energy that causes conflicts between communities, nations and governments. -Gary Zukav.  It is a powerful energy but becomes reduced to a snake without venom if we have the required wisdom to deal with it and to not allow that energy to take hold over us. It's really that simple. 

Everyone wants peace, but the very genesis of peace happens in our families, with our loved ones, with our colleagues, with our estranged lovers and beloved. How? Our conduct determines and exemplifies whether we want peace in the world or wish to threaten the world just to satiate our amorphous yet enormous egos. I remember I always used to tell my beloved friend that, "To give you happiness is not my business because that's your business, my business is your peace of mind and I'd never do anything that'd divest you of your peace of mind".  Because honestly, that's what I believe in, peace, inner-peace is much more vital than happiness. To quote Geeta, it is a state of being "sthita-pragya" and being "sambhaav". 

Coming back to the theme of this post, let's be like the ocean which can swallow millions of rivers  yet never overflow :) Wishing for world peace and exhibiting violence in and around ourselves, in our thoughts, in our deeds is not wishing for world peace, merely professing. I believe very strongly that we are all a ray of "Hope for Universal Peace", not merely cogs. We can light up the world of others, sometimes by our presence, sometimes by our absence, sometimes by our words, sometimes by our silence - lets just serve the world in every way possible, let us never forget that when we serve others we serve ourselves. The peace that dawns upon our hearts knowing that we regarded the inner-balance of others is too precious to be lost in meaningless tussles or in attempts to stoke our egos. Try it - there's nothing else more lasting, more satisfying than that - the mental discipline to allow, accept and respect. 

We need to respect each other today more than ever. 
Love & Blessings. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cooking : An Act of Self-Care and Self-Love

Normally, in a day I am not free from anxiety related to food. Since I workout heavy, I pay particularly tremendous attention to what goes down my mouth. This blog idea had been on my mind for long and I do believe that sharing it and writing it would tremendously help readers who wish to take their health in their own hands. 

Only now do I actually realise how conscious my parents were when it came to healthy eating; back then I hardly was ever grateful for the wonderfully healthy meal my mother cooked for me every single day, three times a day. I remember that our school bus used to come at 6 am in morning, that meant that she was to wake up at 4:30am and cook food for me. Although I do not have any memory of ever thanking her for her efforts but I do remember that not for a single day during my school years have I taken bread-jam, maggie, toast or any such quick meal to school - something my classmates often used to bring. Lunch was a set of 4 boxes, one containing sabzi, other rotis, one containing curd and the last one sprouts for breakfast during the travel to school. Looking back I see extremely wonderful parents and an unmindful and ungrateful child and then an adult (not even during my 11th or 12th class had I realised what it meant to wake up at 4 in the morning, to sacrifice sleep to cook food for her beloved children). Both my father and mother cooked together for us, it has never ever been the case that my mother was up and father was not, vice-versa has happened though,  when she has not been in best of her health. I have many fond memories of us having great food together. I actually paused while writing this article and called my mother and ended up talking to her for 40 minutes, obviously not telling her about what led me to dial her number.

Coming back to the story; well, its clear to me that I have taken healthy food availability for granted during my growing up years and today for the first time in nine years that I have been out of home do I realise how important it is to take control of your health in your hands, particularly when it comes to healthy eating. May be others won't realise, but this is a huge transition in my life - I would have been the last person to cook for myself on Earth, even if some apocalypse was to happen and only those who cook for self were to survive. In college, when I used to get hungry, I always rushed to my seniors (Yashita ma'am, Purnima ma'am, Ishi ma'am, Neetha ma'am, Anusha ma'am) or to my juniors (Anshika, Annu, Charu, Kusum, Monika, Mohini), they were always very generous, extremely kind and with much love prepared something to satiate my hunger. I was so addicted to Yashita ma'am's cooking that when she left, all I could remember was the love with which she used to cook for us. Crazy days!! Although I have never had junk food more than 4-5 times in my life nor have any particular affinity towards it, the transition in my eating habits became very natural when I started feeling the changes in my mind, body and soul as I experimented with food. 

It was not difficult to observe that food without/very less salt, boiled, clean, with lots of vegetables, fibres, olive oil and herbs and spices : was way healthier, good on stomach and also cleansing for the soul. Often times I have invited my friends to home and we have enjoyed dinner of just boiled vegetables, sweet-potatoes with nuts, jaggery and they have actually shared their feelings after eating the food. I have always believed and today I believe much more strongly that we become what we eat, our thought process is guided to a significant extent by the type of food we ingest. Just like the nature of man : saatvik, tams and rajsik, so is the food of that type. I think I have experimented with food a lot and this is just a beginning. The equation of healthy food habits is something that sweetly confounds me a lot of times; I do not eat outside, I just have become immune to the temptation that others feel at the thought of eating outside in some super-six star restaurant. Infact, when I have a plan to have lunch or dinner with someone, I usually invite them to home, we cook together, this way time is also saved and solidarity is deepened as efforts are shared towards the common act of cooking. Moreover, the excitement of eating outside in a city like Bangalore fades away thinking of its traffic, pollution and dust!! 

Preparing food for self, actually investing time and energy in deciding what to eat, how to manage proportion of items in food has quintessentially taught me some of the greatest lessons of life. I am also learning that healthy living is really about the kind of food we eat and the way it is prepared - the fuel that we need to keep our mortal bodies running and to keep our brain functioning must then be handled with utmost care and caution. Isn't food an important commodity for our survival and sustenance, and isn't food the most recklessly handled commodity, the most abused thing in current world? It seems most amusing to me that the very thing that fuels us, we hardly care about it and rather load up our bodies with all kind of deep-fried, ready-to-cook, junk food, convenience foods, breads, cakes, biscuits etc. , there is no end really. It really surprises me a lot. Food according to me is not pleasure, it is a source of strength, something that keeps us going. Imagine like this, a car running on authentic diesel and another one on contaminated one, what will the fate of the latter be? Poor food, hastily prepared food and unlovingly prepared food is exactly like that - a car propelled by contaminated diesel. 

Food has caused anxiety in me for a long time and it still does, but I know the source of this anxiety. "Me not willing to prepare food for self and then thinking whole day from where to eat because nowhere really do I get something which satisfies me from the health point of view, this causes headache to me, I often become more anxious and then in the end I have to resort to some sub-optimal dosa without oil. I eat it thinking I made a healthy choice only to discover the next day that the batter used was bad because I have an upset stomach now". And I have had multiple such experiences, I keep on going back and forth between such kind of experiences; if food was a beloved it would have been a very difficult relationship for me. It still is, but I try to work around it. And with any relationship, I am only beginning to know that I have to invest in this relationship if I have to ensure my long term health. I am beginning to learn that health ought to win over convenience and I have also observed that my days go fantastically productive when I invest a little time in cooking for myself because that way I am free of any anxiety and can peacefully carry on with my day without having to be consistently anxious about health quotient of the food from tuck shops! I never realised before that in an attempt to save time from cooking I actually ended up inviting whole lot of anxiety also, but investing 30-40 minutes in cooking food for self has actually made my life easier. Though I mostly eat boiled food and sometimes cooked food but I have, most certainly, experienced that investing time in cooking for self is worth it because that is also a way of caring for self, a way of self-love. Who would want to fuel up their bodies with junk, sub-optimally prepared food. For a long time I have, although in temperance but today even that does not exist. I have been experimenting with food a lot, my mind is very much involved in these experiences but at the end of the day when I sleep, not only do I feel happy about how the day went by, I also feel a little satisfied that I did not abuse my body, my mind and my soul. 

Health, I have learnt is an every day decision - we have to push ourselves every single day to make healthier choices, be it in exercise , food , sleep, thoughts or actions. Yes, health is an every day decision and it is tough but we become tougher as we follow our decision to live a life of utmost health and peace. Infact, I feel much better from inside when I know that I am eating the food that has been cooked by me, exactly like I desire it to be. Interestingly, when it comes to cooking often times I remember Aayushi, she has never flinched from cooking food at home even after a long day at office. Such could be the commitment to eating  home-cooked cleaner and healthier food. She has taught me by her actions that cooking does not have to be a burden, but an act of love, an act of self-love committed towards the goal of self-nourishment. The same way when on mobile Mohini used to tell me that she is making food or Anshika used to tell me that she is chopping vegetables for dinner or even Ronak sir that he is making food for himself, I used to get surprised as to how these people can make out time to cook. But today I understand, I understand because I do the same now - I invest a little time in ensuring healthy eating for my longer life ( I WANT TO LIVE LONG).  And its not easy, believe me, exercise is way easier than all this!! But health is 70% food and 30% exercise as you'd know. Therefore, I have welcomed this change in my life- a challenging transition. Besides, I am getting to learn how to take care of myself in a better way. Cooking for self is an act of self-care and self-love; the feeling of having nourished your body with most healthy foods, fruits and vegetables is definitely a very liberating one. 

This change has taken a lot of sulking to finally gather some shape, a lot of failures to come at this stage. Cravings have disappeared, the exotic menus of restaurant hardly excite me (nor have ever much), I seem to be finding bliss in simple, healthy food - particularly Mediterranean diet. I believe it is a step towards a healthier me, a more sane me and a more clean me. My energy levels are higher, I feel fulfilled that I am living like a mature adult who knows how to take care of self and make wise decisions related to healthy eating. I do not think I would have ever imagined writing this : But cooking for self seems empowering to me, I feel empowered. I have always known how to cook, since 7th class, thanks to my mother who ensured that in summer vacations I learnt a little about how to cook and she trained me in learning certain survival skills. But in matters of making and preparing food I have seen no bigger truant than me. Today it all seems to be dissolving and Lord is teaching me all these lessons so that I can thrive and survive on my own wherever I am while learning how to best manage my time and tasks. 

Sincerely, preparing food is one of the best investments towards your health and if you have someone at home who ensures that all your food anxieties are theirs, then it is time that you go to them, hold their hands and kiss them for preparing food for you. I have overlooked my mother's efforts well till my mid-twenties but only today when I seem to be struggling in my algebras and calculus with food do I seem to immensely realise such perfect was her hold on food and such unconditional was her love for us that even in the worst winters in Delhi she has woken up bravely and prepared the warm food for us. Only a mother can be so kind and so selfless. 

I have only taken the first step towards healthy eating and there is still a long way to go, many more challenges to come and many more lessons to come. But one thing is very clear to me : "Crap food makes us feel crap, nourishing food makes us feel nourished. It is our choice to treat our mouth as garbage bin or a way to much stronger selves". 

Invest a little time towards a healthier you by making wiser decisions about what to eat. Let's not abuse our wonderful bodies, the medium to salvation. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Thoughts on the movie "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil"

A lot of people die of shock when they hear that "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" is one of my favorite movies and the story one of my favorite love stories. I have received such reaction a lot many times so I thought it would be a good idea to actually write about why ADHM is indisputably a very admired movie for me; definitely my favorite. 

And as I write this article, I am listening to the most pure song to have ever been written about pain of unrequited love, the one song which expresses the feelings of pain and gratitude in love with grace (grace is an important word here); the one song which makes it clear that the lover is heart broken but not resentful; the one song which succeeds in showing that the lover is pining for the beloved every moment yet the passion has not withered; the one song that elegantly brings to light the vulnerability involved in love yet the courage to admit that vulnerability, to accept that vulnerability and to embrace it wholeheartedly. If you can guess, the song is the title song of the same movie, ADHM. Well, this song would take up an entire post and this is not that post, this post is about the movie ADHM and why it is one of my favorites, close to heart. 

So, bringing focus back to the movie. The movie is beautiful and as with all movies revolving around love, affection and passions,  relatability to movie is one of the biggest deciding factors in the individualistic review of the movie. So, I have to give people a gentle empathetic nod when they express indifference or dislike towards ADHM, their opinion is perfectly acceptable but I harbor a different opinion.

 I was left bewitched by the movie, I watched it last year on Diwali day. The lover in Ranbir Kapoor, the estranged boy friend in Fawad Khan, the sandwiched beloved in Anushka Sharma, the wise former lover in Shah Rukh Khan and an image of "aspired-lady" in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan all have played their respective roles in the best way to make the movie what it is. But for me the movie is all about Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and of course, Shah Rukh Khan (his lines on Love at the art gallery are big reminders to all of us on what Love truly is, but more on that later, or in a different post, because it demands another post). You can remark that I am a little biased towards SRK, well I am , not because of his acting prowess(which is definitely state-of-art) but something else shines more, his gentle demeanor towards ladies.  

Coming back to the movie, ADHM. So, in a nutshell the movie revolves around two protagonists - Ranbir and Anushka. We'll not focus on the names but the character they depict in the movie because that is what matters more than anything else. Ranbir who does not know what love is meets Anushka who definitely has had profound experiences of love, separation, pain, pining and eventually falls in love with her, or should I say he rises in love for he gets to understand the fabric of love, love transforms him, it brings out the pain and vulnerability of love in him and that pain becomes his songs - exactly what Anushka had remarked was lacking in him when he had first sung to her. And as with all love stories, the path of their ambiguous relationship is not smooth (ambiguous because Anushka has someone else in her heart who occupies more space than Ranbir), the original lover comes in the picture, an unsettling situation happens and Anushka has to go with the one she loves.  Ranbir is left all alone, unbearably broken, probably feeling the pain of love for the first time in his adult-life romantic relationship. And when separation happens after a good time spent with the beloved, it is emotionally challenging, the lover cries to himself/herself, pines for the beloved, the warmth but never expresses. I believe this pain that ensues after separation has been magnificently portrayed in the movie; Love is more about pain than companionship, the torrid love I am talking about, the kind of love that invigorates us, sets us on fire and places peace in our hearts at the same time. Without any temperance or any restrain the movie depicts the pain that Ranbir goes through, tear-eyed everywhere he goes (not at all like those attention seekers, but very genuine, very pure and yet he endures). At the airport when he meets Aishwarya Rai he breaks down (breaking down in its own essence is a unique experience, it proves that the heart was indeed given to the beloved), he shares everything with her. 

Anushka's marriage deepens the void that was created when she had left, the void sort of gets filled by Aishwarya, but never to the extent that the name of Anushka is wiped from that void;  Ranbir consistently finds himself lost in the thoughts of Anushka. He does not express it much, but in his heart he pines for her all the time. Why? Because he knows that he loves her but more than that he knows that the pain he feels is his vulnerability in love (the wiser me would say "attachment" but I do not want to say that here because something else seems more important to talk about here). What binds me more to the movie is the pain that Ranbir feels, pure, unvarnished, unassuming, innocent and extremely real. The relationship which Ranbir lands up with Aishwarya is the type in which he just slides without being conscious of what he is doing, it just happens but in his inner heart he knows that someone occupies more space than Aishwarya.  Aishwarya eventually discovers that at the dinner table when they invite Anushka. Logically, the mature lady that Aishwarya is, she takes a decision and persuades Ranbir to leave her because he obviously has Anushka in his heart; Ranbir relents. 

How true .

Once again, he is thrown from frying pan into the fire, he cannot contain the anguish, the discomfort that often accompanies unrequited love, all his concealed feelings surface again when he sees Anushka after a long time and the vulnerability in love resurfaces. He runs all the way to her, surrenders to her, admits the hollowness and void in his heart, completely bows down to Anushka unable to contain his emotions; Anushka understands and admits that she loves him but that love does not involve romance. Anushka's stance is understandable and respected , but what further attracts me to ADHM is only Ranbir, the character he has played. Throughout the movie I can feel the pain that Ranbir is going through, unable to move on completely he moves to and fro between Anushka's presence and  Anushka's absence. 

Now, I am the kind of person who holds a very practical standpoint when it comes to love about which I have talked numerous times on this blog yet ADHM very genuinely depicts the pain and vulnerability of unrequited love, and that keeps me glued to this movie. I have an issue with the term "unrequited" though, I believe no love is unrequited if it is done with every cell in the heart, love is never validated by the response of the beloved. Even though I have used the term in this post, I believe love is love, unrequited, requited are just unnecessary man-made constructs, sort of peripheral phenomenon. 

ADHM depicts the ambiguity in romantic relationship with immense vividness, drama but the drama which is not overly unbelievable, its credibility is well within limits, the movie succeeds in showing the pain of separation, the vulnerability of torrid love and the helplessness that accompanies love. But that helplessness never crosses the limits of respectful distance and holds the integrity of the relationship of the time spent together. Ranbir never acts foolishly and never chooses a violent or abusive way to channel his pain, he instead uses it to transform himself, he finds expression of that pain in his creations, that pain becomes his songs. Most people forget this aspect of love and separation, when we get separated there is all the more requirement to show love, more importantly to show more respect, to feel the pain but never wince in it expressly, instead to let that pain transform the inner self, slowly, slowly, day by day. I think I have shared all the reasons as to why the movie commands my salute without any second thought. 

These are the few lines from the title song that are just my favorite: 
तूने दिया है जो वो दर्द ही सही तुझसे मिला है तो इनाम है मेरा

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तूने दिया है जो वो दर्द ही सही तुझसे मिला है तो इनाम है मेरा
(Even if I have received only pain from you, , it is a reward for me because I have received it from  you)

अधूरा होके भी है इश्क़ मेरा कामिल
(Even though incomplete, My love is complete )

ज़मीं पे ना सही तो आसमां में मिल 
(If not on earth, Come, meet me in the sky )

This is all I had to say. 
Thank you. 
"Love is freedom, it is not torturing the beloved by broadcasting our love for them. Love is Liberty, that's all. Amen."

God Bless you all. 

We are a all a ray of "Hope for Peace"

Kathua. Unnao. Syria. Gaza. Afghanistan. Iraq. What do all these words have in common? Violence? Exploitation of powerless by the powerful...