Find your push

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It doesn’t occur to us that our work needs more work. That our partner needs more appreciation and our children need more uninterrupted time. That’s why we need people who can speak the truth. Well wishers willing to criticise us not because they enjoy our faults, but because they recognise our potential. Find them and keep them close #priceless

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Great men

14355541_1175995909105100_2842310204326562970_nThere is a sense of longevity about a masterpiece
Works of great men are gifted with a sense of timelessness
They are not beholden to contexts, cultures and countries
They appeal directly to the human heart and all that’s sacred to humanity
The raw emotions that drive men
That differentiate us from all others who roam this planet
That give meaning to our meaningless existence

They are touched by something ethereal
And its influence translates into their creations

They aren’t born in riches, these men
They are products of tragedy, disaster and disturbance
Their misfortunes allow them to find something that others never care to even seek
Truth
And the truth changes everything

They are not longer products of their circumstances
Their circumstances are a vessel of their greateness
Their work continues to inspire and emote long after they are gone
Great men create meaning

#priceless

On being different

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Observe the masses and do the opposite they say. Its not simple as it sounds. Masses follow the wisdom and worse the trends of the time. Going the opposite way is like swimming against the tide, almost foolhardy.

Instead, aim for an uncommon understanding of the world. Instead of blindly following the crowd, steadfastly follow a chain of logic and let it lead you to its melody.

That sense of courage and commitment to principles is uncommon. It will differentiate you from the herd. Great men have endured great suffering and greater success at its behest.

#priceless

 

Mist and meaning in Nepal

IMG_20170721_053145904_HDR (1).jpgI have never given mist much of a thought. It’s the fresh mountain air, the bright stars at night and the tall pine trees that have always fascinated me. They have brought out words and stories within me just as effortlessly as a chilly evening brings the urge for a glass of whiskey. This visit to Dhulikhel in Nepal was different. The valley was surrounded by a blanket of white. Its presence and influence on the valley was undeniable. It wasn’t just outside; there were clouds inside my head and they taught me lessons.

The days are spent working; I enjoy the night; the nip in the air. The thunder of clouds and the promise of love.

 

 

The sky burst open in the evening

It began to rain

The valley became so beautiful and so cold

That it was impossible to stay outside and enjoy it

I have known love like that

 

 

 

I like the silence of a mountain

Unbroken by noise

The free flow of thoughts

When I find mountains

Words find me

 

 

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They are all drinking and making merry

While I am sitting alone on this chair in my balcony

Next to the mountain and making peace

 

 

Mountains open a door in my heart

Someday, I am going to turn them into a home

 

 

Can I live on the mountains for a lifetime

May be not, but tonight seems forever

 

 

The mist is growing

Taking over the valley

A sheet of all consuming white

Soon It will reach my balcony

Perhaps, I will be able to see better in its fog

 

 

It is fascinating to watch the mist take over the valley, ever so slowly

Almost like love, a madness that takes over the heart and blinds it to reason

When it subsides, not much remains

 

 

The rain, it brings with it a certain fragrance

That makes me want to breathe

I feel we should always carry a fragrance with ourselves be it joy, kindness, anything uplifting

 

 

There are birds chirping in the mountain, I can’t see them in the mist, but I know they are sitting on the branch, high upon a branch- biding time. I, too, am waiting for the mist in my head to give way to clarity.

 

 

I have never thought of mist before, but I can’t stop thinking about it right now

God help me,

It must have some connection to the woman I love

 

 

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The mist is rising, once again, from the valley

I wonder if it can climb over the heaviness in my heart

 

 

I am going to leave in sometime

Feel that only know am I beginning to appreciate this place

The valley down below

The layer after layer of mountains

The mist rising quietly

The silent beauty of it all

 

 

Everything has a purpose in life

I finally realized the purpose of the mist that has fascinated me this past week

When it lifts, it brings beauty to the mountains

But it also takes over the entire valley in its haze

It knows when to hide and when to show its cards

It teaches the value of clarity

There will be mist in your life

You can’t be too worried about it

But when the time is right, seek clarity

 

Don’t play cupid mom, unless

IMG_20161228_223318781.jpg“After 30-years of marriage and a successful professional career do you not have one piece of meaningful relationship advice for me?” I asked my mother. It was a pleasant Sunday evening and she had gently nudged me to find a life-partner. Of course, she had a girl in mind.

A “well-educated” girl from a “well-off” family- WELL. Been there, done that and learnt that wealth and education have little, if any, correlation with happiness. I tried to explain to her what qualities I am looking for in a partner, but the conversation ended with both of us confused and upset. Immediately afterward, I sat down and wrote this heartfelt article for her and for myself. Perhaps you can share this with your mother too and come to a common understanding.

Don’t tell me about her alma mater, mom. Tell me how generously she deals with differences. The way she is able to find a common ground and help two opposite camps co-exist- respectfully. Will she let the other side have a win, without conceding a loss?

Don’t tell me about her family’s economic status, mom. Tell me about the time she pursued her passion despite several obstacles and discomforts. Will she invest in our relationship even when the return on investment might seem low?

Don’t tell me about her rich taste, mom. Tell me about the time she choose to forgo that dress or that trip because she believed in simplicity. Will she be willing to put her family’s needs ahead of her wants?

Don’t tell me about her fair skin, mom. Tell me about the tenderness of her heart. When she displayed kindness to the waiter or the salesman who had shown no courtesy to earn it. Will she treat me with kindness, in my dark moments, when I least deserve it?

Don’t tell me to marry a Hindu or a Muslim, mom? Tell me about the sagacity of her thought. The way she can put aside dogmas and retain composure, despite heat and stress. Is she a maker of wise decisions?

Don’t tell me how she will fit in, mom? Tell me how she will stand out. The way she will take nothing but our best efforts in return for her love and affection. Can she go from one discomfort zone to another without losing hope?

Don’t tell me to get married, mom. Tell me to wait, as long as it takes, to find her.

#priceless

 

Want greatness? Become selfless!

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Because everyone gets thirsty in the line of duty ~ Img: imgur

No, that can’t be true. We were always taught to look after ourselves- everyone else is. “You have to FIGHT for what you want,” they said. “The competition is stiff.”

We took their advice to heart.

It served us to a certain age bracket. When we were babies, all we could think of was milk, food, and sleep. Our own needs. The moment they were unmet, we throw a fit. Enter teenage, it became about our education, our health and slowly our desires. We wished to explore the world, to consume what’s fashionable, taste the exotic, and to experience life in all its rich colours.

This carried on well into our adulthood and until then this behaviour was acceptable, even encouraged.

And then the tables began to turn. Almost suddenly, we are asked to take on Responsibility. We already looked and talked like adults, but now we are even asked to behave like one. It wasn’t a happy realisation for most. We learnt that being a grown up goes beyond wearing elegant suits and sarees and drinking alcohol on Saturday evenings (those are the few perks).

We had grown up wanting to become adults and take decisions for ourselves and now all we wanted was to go back to the sweet childhood days and let someone else deal with the mess of everyday life. It was a trap all along and we fell hook, line and sinker.

It doesn’t end there.

With every year, they add more responsibility on our shoulders. The burden of a project, of a department, of a life-partner. It goes heavier and heavier. Somewhere between all these activities, we realise that our parents are also growing old and fragile and the roles begin to reverse. They also become our responsibility.

I have been uncomfortable with the notion of being a grown-up man. I have resented the roles that were thrust upon me with no prior warning and skills to cope. What followed were a bunch of absurd and embarrassing choices (After, I was done trying to become a tennis pro, I thought may be a career in acting was my thing). It’s taken me a lot of time and effort to discover common sense. To take the responsibility of my family, finances and life. To know when to raise my voice and when to let it go.

Obviously we struggle. We struggle to choose between our partner’s desire to go out for dinner and our priority to watch football, for managing the needs of our retired-parents with our fresh-careers, for balancing the nurturing requirement of our children with our leadership tasks in multi-national corporations.

We have reached a crossroad.

Our choices in these moments will define us. Some of us will mark a premium on money, others on power and a few will choose to dedicate themselves to their family’s needs. It will be a toss-up everyday for the rest of our lives.

That’s where it will end for most, but not for all. There are individuals, few of them, who will able to reconcile these conflicting demands, absorb the pressure and take a leap towards greatness. They will lead lives of maturity and grace and inspiration, while others will stumble from confusion, to disappointment and remain forever discontent.

All the money, fame and influence in the world will not be enough for some. They will want more and more and more for themselves and the more they grasp; the more they will hunger. They are lost, beyond hope.

Meanwhile, those few who achieve a more benign version of success, will think beyond themselves. They will empower others to succeed and in the process ensure their own success. Because they will want nothing for themselves, they will be liberated to make a valuable contributions to their organisation, state and even nation.

Truly great characters like Teresa, Mandela, and King differ in their skills, ideas and stature, but they have something common. They stand out Because of their selflessness.

For their ability to put others (family, community, nation, humanity) ahead of themselves. They can’t stop giving and almost by some miracle they receive in abundance. All the things they don’t desire (admiration, spotlight, influence) follows them wherever they go. The more selfless they act; the greater they become. It is a strange notion to get your head around. Yes. It is against conventional wisdom. Yes. And yet such behaviour continues to inspire us. It lends a deeper meaning to life.1234

In Hitler’s presence, German jumper Luz Long’s advice American Jesse Owens that led him to win the gold at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 whilst Long settled for silver.  “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-carat friendship that I felt for Lutz Long at that moment,” said Owens. 

Does that mean we give up promotions and social mobility, perhaps not? But it can mean that we find a way that our progress doesn’t come at the cost of someone. That we carry people along on a successful journey.

Holes in the selfless ship

There is a variety of individuals who have lived their lives antithetical to this idea, of course. The all-consuming dictators, power-hungry politicians, and greed-obsessed managers. Their selfishness knows no bounds and sometimes yields good results, however, their journey causes more grief and spills more blood and destroys more value than it creates.

That kind of greatness comes at a cost to everyone around them. It causes suffering and pain to the world and it inevitably comes back to haunt these megalomaniacs. Meanwhile, the followers of altruism bring peace to the suffering. Their presence alone builds trust and creates an environment conducive of growth, goodness and productivity.

It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter where you are and what you do. The more selfless you are; the happier, possibly greater, you will become.

An ocean full of stories

img_20161203_170249515Every story needs a twist and it happened when I missed my flight back to India. A Bolt-like sprint wasn’t enough to get me past Air India’s check in counter at the Colombo Airport.

Only a few hours ago, I sat in a youth hostel and made fun of Air India’s perpetually delayed flights. Fast fwd a few hours  and here I was hoping that one such flight delay would allow me to board the flight. Someone up there must have had a good laugh at my expense.

Between a climate conference and social dos, I slipped out and spend time next to the oceanfront- enjoying all that Sri Lanka had to offer and writing stories.img_20161127_213756006A young man sat on a bench, lost in thought, eager, waiting. Alas, the nights brings expectations, sometimes heartbreaks.

The last time I was close to the ocean in Vietnam, the waves came and washed away my slippers. I kept my belongings close this time. All things beautiful are occasionally dangerous.

Itis early evening and my pen is already stuttering. I hope it doesn’t betray me tonight. I have miles to write before I sleep.img_20161128_195817Pen, pencil, rubber, light, sound. What do you need to be creative? The answer is simple. You need the ocean.

A lonely bird  flew away into the distance. I followed its flight with interest. It carried dreams and ideas on its wings. So do I.

I am not the most privileged young man there is. But it doesn’t matter. I can make each day count with my thoughts, with my deeds and most of all with my words.

I skipped dinner and drinks on  tonight and came to the ocean. Sometimes humans should leave humans alone.

I wish the girl I like is just like the ocean. I will go to her every evening and pour my heart out.

Some people like to see what no one else has seen and boast about it. I like to express what everyone sees and no one notices.

I feel this pull towards her. I keep coming back to her just like I come back to the ocean. Wonder if I will stay afloat or sink.

The adventures of Hakuna Matata

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This is what my distinguished Pakistani colleague called Unawatuna (our weekend holiday destination). We had a gem of a time sharing stories while our American friend planned the getaway. It almost came undone when a local protest cancelled trains and our taxi didn’t show up for hours. Finally, an eccentric driver took us to this coastal paradise a.k.a. hakuna matata.

We lived inside a mangrove forest, in a thatched hut and spend hours at the beach . If an Indian, a Pakistani and an American can get along then there is hope for the world.img_20161203_170313243I want to describe the moment when the waves hit the rock. Both are relentless. Neither gives way. But the moment they come together, both lose their identity and become more than the sum of its parts. A lot like love, I think.

That combination was heady. The salty ocean, the strong sun, the fierce wind. By itself, they would have been unbearable, but together they were magic.

Sometimes while swimming in the ocean you swallow salt. Not everything about a relationship is sweet either. The ocean may leave you with a bitter taste in the mouth but the joy of just floating wave after wave is priceless.

A Twist in the tale

“Where is the arc? Who is the villain?” I  asked my more learned colleagues during a discussion about using stories to identify impact. Well, the turns and twists came right at the end for me. I felt suspense, anxiety, and fear counting every minute of the way to the airport and then the sprint all the way to the check in counter. Finally, the laughter concealing the disappointment of having missed my flight.img_20161205_024140797-1The end? I sat in an airport canteen, took a sip of tea and wrote an ocean full of stories.

The scary idea of marriage

img_20161110_202550788You are settled now, get married. You are getting old, get married. Time is running out, get married. I want grandchildren, get married. Huh!!

I have faced a barrage of these questions over the past one year and none of my answers (logical or emotional) seem to convince my parents otherwise. I am done giving answers; it’s tiring. Instead, I tried to understand the idea of marriage at the wedding of a close friend recently. img-20161112-wa0006When I think of a life partner, I imagine someone close and afar. Close enough to inspire and far enough to allow inspiration to translate into words and stories.

Moon is benign on the river tonight so the water shines. True love is when two people are benign to each other. They shine.moonThere is a girl I know. She has all the grace in the world in her soft voice. It’s a strange idea that I have to share my feelings with her. One look into my eyes should reveal everything.

My friend said, “We are going to chill next to a bonfire. Why are you carrying notepad and pen?”

“You never know,” I replied. “Love and inspiration come unannounced.”

This girl I know, she has all I could ask for, while I have nothing to offer her except my words. I hope she understands they are priceless.

My friends called me. I am expected somewhere and I have to go. I realise that something has to end for something else to begin.img_20161110_083812926It is a funny institution marriage. Unlike any other venture, where we celebrate accomplishments, here we make a lot of noise about its beginning. May be what we are really celebrating is the best of humanity. Coming together of two people in search of love, joy and fulfillment.

I am not against the idea of marriage at all. A life partner adds meaning and value to life. He/she checks us from our excesses, shares our success and supports us in our failures. I am all for marriage and a life partner and particularly vary about not ending up with someone who does exactly the opposite.

At some point you have to find your courage. Take off the cloak, open your heart and allow vulnerability to fill your lungs. It is frightening at first, but give yourself a chance. Wounds don’t go  away, but a layer of happy memories can act as a balm.

There is no shortage of romantic songs tonight, but not a single hand to hold.img_20161110_131238395_hdrMy friends are discussing how marriage is about “compromise.” I think that’s a terrible idea. Soaps and shampoos are about compromise. Together is the right word that defines marriage. Grief together. Failure together. Moments of laughter, in between, together.

Weddings, they are indeed beautiful. A celebration of love, life and togetherness. They make you want to believe in a bright future. It is good to be positive at the start of a journey that will last a lifetime.

When I make this commitment, when I say those vows, I will mean every word. I will put her happiness above all else. A partnership based on honesty, simplicity, and mutual respect. I hope she understands what that means. I hope she signs up for the same. If we take care of each other’s happiness, we won’t have to worry about our own.

Will they let me carry a pen and a notepad to my wedding? I would like my wife to get married to me and my words.IMG_20161111_095510804.jpg

That One Corbett Wedding

IMG_20161111_164723838.jpgIt was That One Corbett Wedding where the bride danced with all the guests (wearing a kala chashma of course), and her mother sang a graceful Hindi rendition, and the bridesmaid danced to the delight of everyone and the groom sat atop an elephant for the first and only time in his life and even managed to stand up and smile.

I saw it all and I put it in words so that no one forgets:

Day 1:IMG_20161109_174439407_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpgAs I walked towards a dark and silent corner of the resort, I could hear a woman sing a love song. Her voice was uninhibited and melodious. She was alone, but the song was meant for someone. It had to be. She sang from her soul.

A speck of river water shines under the moonlight. Moon is benign on the river tonight so the water shines. I hope Pakhi and Sahil are benign to each other so both shine.

Day 2: Sangeet and EngagementIMG_20161110_215054409.jpgThe bride (Pakhi) she wasn’t okay with sitting quietly and posing during the sangeet ceremony, instead she danced with all the guests. We even did burpees together. The only thing close to dance that I know. She calls me her workout partner. I wish her health and happiness and a few burpees every now and then.

Pakhi is not my sister, at least not by blood. But that is irrelevant. It is these bonds with no name that define us, that connect us, that make life meaningful.

If there was one moment of the wedding it was this: The pets (Smokey and Frodo) had an engagement ring attached to their collars. Pakhi accepted the ring from Saahil’s pet, while he did the same from Pakhi’s.

They exchanged more than rings, they exchanged promises. She was in tears but she looked happy. He played it calm. His role for a lifetime. Something tells me they will make this work. The river below will continue to flow and life will take its own course. For now, it is time to celebrate.

Someday, somewhere I will make the same vows to a woman. We will have our promises to keep. I hope she cries, from happiness.

What is the significance of dogs wearing an engagement ring around their collar? Not much. Except it makes for a good story and we all love good stories.

Sahil seems to know who he is not and what he doesn’t want. I like those qualities in people, whereas I am always suspicious of those who are too sure of themselves.

Day 3: Haldi and WeddingIMG_20161111_111243769.jpgTheir face, hair, clothes, everything is covered by a yellow paste. Yellow and music and laughter and everyone jumping into the pool filled with freezing water. A friend asked me the significance of Haldi ceremony. I didn’t know. But I do know this: By the time the colours come off they would have become life partners with nothing left to hide.

Weddings, they are indeed beautiful. A celebration of love, life and togetherness. They make you want to believe in a bright future. It’s good to be hopeful at the start of a long journey.

With a glass of whiskey in their hands, my friends are discussing how marriage and love is about “compromise”. I think that’s a terrible idea. Toothpaste and soaps are about compromise. Marriage and love is about togetherness. Grief together, failure together, moments of laughter (in between) together. I raise of glass of togetherness to Pakhi and Sahil.

Each of their seven vows will be questioned at some point. Their faith will come to a test. Will they prevail? I don’t know the answer, but they can always look back at That One Corbett Wedding for strength and hope.

Day 4: FarewellIMG_20161110_083812926.jpgIt is peaceful. Sunshine wading through leaves, sound of the flowing river underneath, a cup of warm tea in hand. Sometimes we ask too much from life when we need so little.

It’s a funny institution, marriage. Unlike any other venture, where we celebrate accomplishments, here we celebrate its very inception. May be what we are celebrating is the best of humanity. Coming together of two people in search of joy, love and fulfillment.

The shenanigans, the ceremonies are now over. Guests have left. The music lingers on. Moon and stars continue their watch. The river takes its course. What’s left? A lifetime together.

Pakhi and Sahil, here is my wedding gift to you. A gift of words and memories.

A letter to my mother

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Ma,

I once heard the story of a man who spent many years travelling in search of enlightenment. His quest led him to a Buddhist monastery high atop a mountain in the Himalayas.

“I am looking for answers,” he said at the entrance.

The monk nodded and asked him to join in the meditation. An hour passed. Nothing happened. Two. Three. Four. The traveller soon grew restless. Finally, no longer able to control himself, he screamed out loud.

“I don’t want silence. I want answers.”

The monk opened his eyes and said, “The answer is Silence.”

Mom, the answer is silence and slowing down.

You have devoted your life to your family, to fulfilling your responsibilities and to the well-being of your children. You are no less than Superman, but even superheroes need a break.

The responsibilities have taken a toll on you. You may not realise, but they leave you irritable and rushed and perpetually worried. While it is natural for you to be concerned, the continuous stress and anxiety is toxic for your system. It affects not only your but our collective well-being. Personally, I feel hassled and rushed in your presence. You carry this anxious energy (vibe) like a piece of garment. I am unable to share a story or an idea with you, because I know you have a million tasks to attend to. This equation plays out negatively in your day to day life and interactions. The good news is that it can be changed.

Give your body and mind time to refresh and replenish. Continue to create and teach and mentor, but not at the cost of your well-being. Allow yourself the luxury of a late-evening walk, ten-minutes of meditation and a few hours to unwind. That’s all.

You have given me a lifetime of love; I hope to give you a few moments of comfort, joy and peace. I can only do that if you take care of your health (mental as well as physical). I want to introduce you to my life partner someday and grandchildren to whom you can tell wonderful stories. Hopefully, they will listen more attentively than I did.

We have a lifetime of happiness and prosperity ahead of us, I promise. But first, learn to enjoy silence.

Love,

Anmol