Saturday, December 31, 2016

YET ANOTHER YEAR DAWNS and An Ode to the Year gone by


YET ANOTHER YEAR DAWNS
An Ode to the Year gone by

Shakespeare wrote in ‘Macbeth’. –

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

That I consider as an expression of existential angst, but I am seized with the reality of fleeting time. My angst is one of unfulfilled desires so as another year ends I am tempted to write –

An Ode to the Year gone by

Oh! Maybe if I had not blinked,
The year would not have passed me by,
All the tomorrows are now yesterdays
And the year a yesteryear,
The days no longer creep,
But pass me by at furious pace.
Oh! Maybe if I had not blinked,
I could still have held on to those moments lost,
Moments when I had willed,
Time should stand still.
Though I know time and tide wait for no man
But couldn’t they wait a little longer?
Oh! But I blinked,
I couldn’t do otherwise
For therein lies my destiny.

Yet another year has passed us by. As I now stand at the threshold of the dawn of another new year I look back to see what I have left behind. ‘Nothing much’ I say to myself, nothing which I can retrieve and carry with me except unfulfilled resolutions and a bucket that never seems to empty. I have only grown in time and carry with me the hope that the morrow will usher in further resolutions to keep me going and maybe a chance to take care of the list that still lies in the bucket. I remember when I was in school we were asked to write an essay on ‘My New Year Resolutions’. I did a commendable job in expressing myself in words for that’s what the teacher told me. But he was intrigued by the two lines with which I had ended the essay –

To every resolution made
A goodbye did I bade

He asked why I had written that and I answered truthfully that they sounded fine for they rhymed. He gave me a quizzical look and proceeded to advise me that it only reflected a defeatist attitude and there should be no room for procrastination in future. He cut out the two lines and said that now it read better. I learnt my lesson. I learnt that resolutions keep us going. Whether they are ultimately resolved are not, they take us forward. And life is all about going forward as much as we can. All our dreams do not come true that does not mean we cannot dream.

The ode that I have penned above is not procrastination or defeatist. It is only to convey the anguish I feel in not being able to hold on to moments that would soon fade away into memory. The rule of life however ensures that everything fades away, but I take comfort from the fact that every year that fades away soon gives way to a new year with renewed resolutions and renewed hopes and will give rise to moments that we shall cherish once again (and hopes that moments which gave us pain do not recur though that is hoping for the inevitable).

I recall the visit of a dear friend who stayed with us on one of his trips to India. He took out a paper and showed me what he called his bucket list. If I remember right there were nearly sixty items which included – learning new languages including Japanese, Spanish, taking part in adventure sports like paragliding and learning to play the trumpet etc. and mind you he was in his late sixties at that time. When I met him a year or two later he told me that he was still in the process of ticking of items in that list and there were quite a few which he had ticked off. If you ask me whether he plays the trumpet well, I will say does that really matter. It makes me wonder, that while I have been sitting and only dreaming of things I want to do, here was a man who has tried to turn his dreams to reality. Ultimately not everyone can attain perfection; it is the process of undergoing the experience that matters. At the end of the day life is all about experiencing.

It is important setting a goal for oneself, for that is what makes you move forward. It is on the way, on that journey, that we start seeing and experiencing things which we have never really understood before. You see things with a new perspective, a perspective that has been sharpened by the experiences on the way.

At the beginning of the year I had one major resolution and that was to complete my second book and have it published and that happened. Today as I sit here writing all this, I do not evaluate its success, though it does make me happy when a few of my friends tell me that they liked it. To me writing the book was the experience and it carried me forward during the year. Someone asked “So what now, when is your third book coming out?” I am not sure whether he had read my book, for he did not have anything to say about it, but I did reply “That will be my New Year resolution”.

We age every moment but we measure our age in years. May be that is for giving enough time to balance out the bad moments with the good ones and end up with a net balance of happiness and that is why we wish each other a happy new year for that is what we ultimately aspire for.

“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

Aside from my own reflections and thoughts on the year that has passed us by and my aspirations for the year that is on the threshold, I wish all my friends a New Year of fulfillment, happiness and peace. To each their resolutions that will take them towards discovering new frontiers and self-discovery, I wish all the best.


HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017








Sunday, December 25, 2016

TRANQUILITY


Tranquility

On this mountain slope,
A cool wind’s caress,
Sweeps across my face,
With a lover’s tenderness.

The distant sun blushes red,
At this strange intimacy,
As it prepares to go to bed,
The end of a daylong spree.

Flutter of tired wings,
Stealthy sounds of retreat:
A shepherd’s call rings,
The bustle of homebound feet.

When the sounds of the day,
Have come to die,
And the nightly music
Is yet to begin,
A  muted stillness exists.

There appears now,
My long awaited lover,
At first peeping, then ascending
Towards her heavenly bower.
She beckons me to her bosom.

Gazing at her radiant face,
Tranquillity reigns,
As I come to rest,
In her soothing soft embrace.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

GONE WITH THE WIND - CHENNAI




GONE WITH THE WIND - CHENNAI

A year ago I wrote a post – ‘Submerged – The Day Chennai Sank’. The rains that battered the city were unprecedented as it was reported that it was the highest in the last 100 years. I was there then. For the first time I saw Chennai rise up as a single united force without relying on the unreliable support of the political class, to battle the forces of nature to ensure the survival of the city. And this they did for the city was back on its feet again. There are many who are still recovering from the losses they had suffered.

This time around I was not there when Nature decided to unleash its fury on the city through wind – the cyclone Vardah. When the city had already geared itself for a repeat of last year’s heavy rains, disaster struck from elsewhere. Last year the city was underwater, this time it was blown away. As I saw the visuals on the television of the devastation caused all around, my heart missed a beat and a feeling of profound sadness overtook me. Not only because of the misery that had befallen thousands of people for the second year in succession, but the fact that the cyclone had uprooted along with the trees the very soul of what was once known as Madras.

Fifty years ago I remember cycling down the avenues of Adyar, Theosophical Society, Kalakshetra – trees, trees everywhere. With the passage of time a number of them vanished with apartments taking over the places of houses/ bungalows. But still the green cover did exist, and the older trees did stand as testimonials to an era gone, guardians of a spirit that still flickered in the memories of old timers like me.

I have been told that most of the older trees (definitely older than fifty years) have been uprooted and fallen on the ground blocking the roads. They will be dismembered, the roads will be cleared and the gaping hole where once they stood will be filled with mud and concrete (well could we call it a decent burial?). As I saw the photographs of these giants laid low by the fury of nature I felt the sorrow of having lost a dear friend. There is sadness at the loss of human life and property, but for me this is the end of a generation.

I do not deny that I did spend a sleepless night wondering whether the tree under which my car was parked would fall down and smash it to smithereens. As expected I did receive a call from my neighbor that a big branch of the tree was perched precariously above and with the next gust of wind was bound to fall on my car. I told them where to find my car keys (the house key was with the neighbor) and promptly four of the younger generation had the car moved to a safer place. Though rebuilding homes and lives and the city is going to be a long and painful process, I am sure that like it happened during the floods last year, Chennaiites will rise once more to bring back normalcy to the city as soon as possible


Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. –  Hermann Hesse

Monday, November 28, 2016

IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS AN EXCERPT FROM – ‘DARKNESS AND BEYOND – A MEDLEY OF MANY LIVES


IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS
AN EXCERPT FROM – ‘DARKNESS AND BEYOND – A MEDLEY OF MANY LIVES

This is an excerpt from my book ‘Darkness and Beyond – A Medley of Many Lives’ which was released in July 2016. I know that a few/many of you who have read the book may relish (hope so) reading it again, but it is to the vast majority of friends who have not read the book who I wish will read this and may be find an echo of their own feelings

“What is it that you seek?”

“I come seeking happiness” I replied.

“Why do you seek happiness?”

“I believe that it will bring an end to my suffering” I again replied.

“And what is that suffering you talk about?” he asked with a smile on his lips.

“This very existence, it is painful.”

“So what do you mean by ‘painful’?” he continued.

“Well, it’s an unpleasant feeling. It makes living miserable.”

“What is this feeling you talk about? Where do you think it rises from?” he once again asked.

For a moment, I lapsed into silence and then said, “I am filled with anxiety when I think that one day I shall die without ever having achieved all that I have wanted to in life. I shall die without having known what true happiness is. It makes me miserable and I suffer.”

“You really think that if you find happiness it will bring an end to your suffering?”

“Isn’t that so?” I asked.

“No, happiness does not bring an end to suffering. It is the end of suffering that brings happiness. So you see there is no way that you can escape suffering. It is a process that has to be undergone before you reach happiness.”

“And how does suffering end?”

“When you learn to live with it?”

“How‘s that possible?” I asked.

“Well when I said you should learn to live with it, I meant that it would be necessary for you to understand the cause and accept the effect as a natural result of your own actions. Once acceptance is there then it ceases to bother you and the unpleasantness or the suffering as you would like to call it, vanishes. This perhaps is the state of happiness you are referring to.”

“Do you mean to say that I should accept the suffering and do nothing about it?” I asked.

“I never said that. The process of understanding and acceptance is in itself the way to overcome suffering. 
Life is interspersed with periods of suffering and periods of happiness. Both are temporal in nature and vanish the day you die. After all, both are sensations of our physical existence.”

“So you mean to say that there is nothing like a state of permanent happiness?”


“What I told you is true of our physical existence. This is a reality one has to accept before realizing what lies beyond. It is in this process of trying to understand and accept that we ultimately transcend the boundaries imposed on us and maybe get a glimpse of that permanent happiness that you talk about, though I would term it as bliss or eternal peace. You said you have come here seeking happiness. I cannot nor can anyone else give you what you want for you are searching in the wrong place. What you seek is within you and that’s where you will find the answers. Running away from reality does not take you any closer to what you are seeking. I can only say that your suffering will teach you more about who you are then your happiness.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

MENTAL ILLNESS AND CAREGIVING by Amrit Bakshy



MENTAL ILLNESS AND CAREGIVING  by  Amrit Bakshy

Some time ago I posted a review of Dr. Atul Gawande’s book ‘BEING MORTAL’. This book deals with the author’s confrontation with terminally ill patients, the aging and dying. The book traces the slow development of palliative care from Nursing Homes to Hospices to Assisted living. It lays bare the reality of aging and increasing dependence. I found it disturbing. In Gawande’s own words, “Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone. We have been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.”

I found these words of Dr. Gawande echoing in my mind when I sat down to review Amrit Bakshy’s book ‘Mental Illness and Caregiving’. May be I used the wrong word when I said ‘review’ for I am in no way qualified to do this. This is a book which within its pages (200 and odd) places before you all that you wanted to understand about mental illness and how one goes about handling with it. Written by a person who had undergone the trauma of dealing with a daughter who was affected with Schizophrenia and who along with his wife learned to cope with the situation and ensured that his daughter could lead a meaningful life in the long run, this book is an authentic guide to all caregivers and the affected. Mr. Bakshy who had taken early retirement from his job so that he and his wife could take care of their daughter is now the President of the SAA (Schizophrenia Awareness Association) in Pune. He is also the Chairperson of the Hospital Management Committee of NIMHAANS.

The book was sent to me by a friend and I am thankful to him. While going through the book one realizes how little the awareness of mental health is among the general population. The stigma attached and the utter hopelessness we find ourselves in tackling such a condition in a family member (or in ourselves) has perhaps contributed to the large unattended cases of mental illness amongst us. Bakshy says that first of all the family has to accept that a family member is having mental illness and needs treatment urgently. Once the family accepts, it becomes relatively easy to convince the family member to go and get professional help.

The book is divided into four parts –
1)                              Orientation – covering the basic information to the caregiver regarding the various types of mental disorders like Neurosis and Psychosis (though the author says that this broad classification is no longer valid), the impact and role of the families, the caregiver, barriers to treatment, medication and side effects.
2)                              Theories, Therapy and Treatment – providing guidance on the various issues that arise during the process of caregiving
3)                              Empowerment – compendium of important legal issues involving the rights of patients, mental health etc
4)                              Annexures – provides important references.

Why has it been so hard for us to accept the reality of mental illness? If we introspect we shall see that all of us are in some way or the other mentally sick in varying degrees. While it is easy for us to accept that a part of our physical body has been diseased (even a common cold or flu) and rush to a doctor for treatment, how many of us will accept that he or she suffers from OCD or some form of neurosis which is a mild form of mental disorder. Bakshy defines Neurosis and Psychosis in the book –

‘Persons with neurosis remain in contact with reality (no delusions, or hallucinations) and understand that they have a condition affecting their daily chores, but feel helpless. They have inexplicable anxiety at the subconscious level – anxiety, depression, phobias, eating disorders etc.’

‘Psychosis is manifested by a loss of contact with reality. Persons with psychotic disorders do not accept they have a problem. They live in a world of delusions and hallucinations. They lose touch with reality like Schizophrenia, Manic Depressive Disorders etc.’

Years ago when I was in Baroda, we had arranged as part of the social service activities of the Bank branch which I was heading, a visit to a hospital for the mentally ill and serve the inmates lunch. We have come a long way from calling such places as a lunatic asylum, such a derogatory way of describing it, but we did and that was the reality then. If you ask me now what we accomplished, I will truthfully answer that it was part of meeting targets under the Bank’s programs. But I remember that visit even now for it was the first time that I came to closely observe the life inside. It was unnerving and at the same time depressing. It has taken a long time for that experience to take root within me and now when I read this book of Bakshy, I realize that to really make a difference and be a catalyst for transformation it requires tremendous amount of sacrifice and courage and that’s what sets people like him apart. If you ask me now whether I have read the book, I shall say no for the value of the book lies in our understanding and acceptance of the fact that there is such a thing as mental illness and us playing a proactive role in mitigating the trauma such people undergo.

It would be necessary for me to quote Mr. Bakshy’s own narration of the transformation that happened in his life –

“Looking back I remember my becoming a proud father of a bundle of joy in 1972. Eighteen years later, in 1991, destiny made me her caregiver. In 2007 I became a volunteer for helping those with mental illness and their families and in 2010 I joined the mental health movement as a full time activist. The journey continues. I have made arrangements for Richa after my wife and I are no more. I get great satisfaction to be ‘Agony Uncle’ of the community of caregivers.

I feel I have an unending responsibility towards my daughter and the mental health community, so this journey will continue as long as I am functional.”

I wish and hope that Mr. Amrit Bakshy will be able to reach a wider audience through his book in his efforts to create an awareness of ‘Challenges, Concerns and Complications’ in dealing with mental illness and its mitigation.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A LETTER TO A DAUGHTER An Excerpt from ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’




A LETTER TO A DAUGHTER
An Excerpt from ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’

Now that you must have read An Extraordinary Man (Amitabh Bachchan)’s letter to his granddaughter, I request you to spend some time to read the letter written by an Ordinary Man to his daughters much earlier.

I am posting this excerpt from my book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ which was released in October 2014. I know a number of you who have read the book may relish (hope so) reading it again, but it is to the vast majority of friends who have not read the book who I wish will read this and may be find an echo of their own feelings. 

‘Who would want to read the auto biography of an ordinary man? I know you will and may be other ordinary men. No one is going to write our biography; we are not that interesting.’

My grandson is a beautiful child and I am sure one day he shall grow up being a handsome and confident young man. But above all I wish to see him as a loving and good human being. I am hopeful that I shall be there to see this happen. I know you are capable of giving him all the love that he needs, but you have to ensure in the process that he is given his space and is allowed to develop independently. For this, it is absolutely necessary for you to take stock of your emotions and keep them under control. At every step you should make him understand what is expected of him for it is never too early to start. It’s most important he should understand the value of relationships. I look forward to the day (maybe when I am eighty years old) when I come over to your place on a visit he gives me a big hug and says “Hello grandpa, how are you?” that would be enough.

When I look back over the years, I think your mother and I have as parents given you and your sister all the love and space you needed to grow up as individuals who can take their own decisions and chart the course of their own lives. I am happy that you both have grown up as good human beings and I have no doubt about that. Of course we each have our own fallibilities but in the ultimate analysis if we can live a life devoid of all those base instincts of jealousy and a desire to hurt other people through our actions and words, it is a worthwhile life. I always wish that you become stronger, realize your own worth and are able to face any adversity with equanimity and firmness. Believe in yourself and never be shy of standing up for what is right. These are qualities which you will be passing on to your child.

Your mother and I are as individuals very different in our views and approach to life but we have been together for thirty five years and the passage of time has in no way diminished the love we have between us. That is because we have given each other the space required by us as individuals in our own right and a tolerance towards each other’s views and above all a trust that has grown stronger over the years. Not that we have not had our fights or have not been irritated at each other sometimes, we still have them but they have been of no consequence given the strength of the relationship. We may belong to a different generation than yours and have not been subjected to the pressures of the present day living and demands, but I guess the basic definitions for happiness, understanding and relationships will hold to whichever generation you may belong to.

I have always found that the best way to handle people who irritate you is to ignore them and move away. Conflict does not get us anywhere except increase the existing tension. By this, I do not propagate the view that one should always keep quiet for there will be situations where you feel that what is happening is unjust. In that case you have to speak out and make the other person see reason, or at least understand your point of view. If this also fails, then you will be left with no option but to fight it out. But, are we prepared for this? Do we have the necessary mental setup to withstand the consequences of such an action? These are questions that you will have to answer for yourself. I can only say that injustice should never be tolerated.

 I never like to be preached upon and I try to avoid preaching to others. But I say all this out of parental concern. Your mother may have different views but we have only one thing in our minds and that is you should be happy and comfortable in your life. We never expect demonstrations of affection for we know you love us and that is enough.

Our life is one endless stream of choices. At every step we are forced to choose. We choose to accept or we choose to rebel. Ultimately the life you are living is the life you have chosen. There is no point blaming someone or for that matter God, that things have not gone the way you expected them to be. You make compromises all the way to ensure that you are not inconvenienced in the conduct of your life. In the process you may lose all that you had held as valuable. It is when we want to retain our values that we choose to rebel. Rebellion brings with it its own share of misery and suffering but it ensures that your life becomes more authentic and helps you realize your own worth.

As a father I can always advise you. Like I said I am concerned and that is the only reason. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated and do not manipulate others. Be a good person but be firm in your relationships and let people know that you are an individual in your own right and that you expect respect in return for respect. I never want to hear a weak voice when I talk to you and would always like to see you with an erect stature and look people in their eyes when you interact with them. These are the signs of an individual who knows oneself.

I have written this letter to you and would like you to keep it and show it to your children when they grow up so that they are able to understand and appreciate the concern that parents have towards their children. I am sure that with all the love that you are capable of giving them they will grow up to be fine human beings

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

TIME HAS PASSED



Time Has Passed

Time has passed,
We have moved in space,
But, certain mornings like this,
I sit in bed and gaze,
Through the window.
The cooling green
Of the tender day,
Sways,
My heart leaps, bounces,
Back to the past,
To the little rock,
On which we stayed
To hear the gentle tones,
Trickle,
And caress our feet.

Time has passed,
We have moved in space,
But, in the stillness
Of certain moments,
When the heart seeks
The softness it once perceived,
On the river’s bank,
Through the strands of hair,
That softly slid,
And veiled,
Her smooth surface.

Time has passed,

We have moved in space, but….

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Brook


The  Brook

The clouds crept in,
Kissing every tree,
Devouring every leaf,
Leaving the beyond clad
In a ghostly garment.

And as the icy hands
Slid across my face,
I shivered,
And stood still.

Below this very pine,
We had lain,
Letting the tender sunshine,
Of our love,
Overflow,
To the brook below,
Down into the valley,
To spread and settle down,
In tranquillity.

And the clouds crept in,
Kissing,
Devouring me.
Only the restlessness of the brook
Kept me awake, to this
Enveloping solitude.

And it was the brook,
That had sung,
The lullaby of my love.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Drifter



Drifter

Drifter,
You peacefully make your way,
Across ephemeral heights,
Look down,
This mortal tries to reach you,
Shed a tear or two,
Cleanse him,
His frivolous fantasies,,
Have stained and stirred his whim.

Drifter,
You drift away endlessly,
Showering on distant views,
Like a lover, your nectar;
Whilst he a balloon bloats,
Rises high,
In new found power;
Punctured,
Falls down dead and dry,
An autumn leaf from the sky.

Drifter,
Sometimes ominous, in greyish form,
You burst in tears and seek,
To reform,
Our brownish parched pastures,
To dress in verdant cloaks,
While he in rapture,
Squeezes out little saltish drops,
To revive in vain those visions lost

Drifter,
I gaze above,
Your whiskers white,
With silent wisdom,
Makes me shiver.
As my ignorance heightens,
Assumes appalling attitudes,
Dumbfounded I bow my head,
On the guillotine,
Awaiting my execution.