Nostalgia and Dementia

About 35 years ago ….. This morning I barged into a cell of memoirs of that day.

A college mate of mine Venuraj told me on phone that his ankles are paining. I then looked at my ankle. Found that my toe nails need a trimming and went to collect the nail cutter. That was it.

That nail cutter was gifted thirty five years ago in Jeddah by a friend’s friend who shared our apartment for a few nights before he boarded flight to Jordan. He worked for Panasonic National. He said “You keep it”. None ever gifted me a nail cutter, may be with crystals. This nail cutter is unique and precious in many ways.

Nostalgia; a friend of mine told me is like dementia. I found it to be an interesting comparison. Dementia is unsoundness of mind resulting from organic or functional disorders leading to loss of coherent thoughts. Nostalgia is about poignant fixation or longing for something that happened long ago.

It appears both are demerits. I wonder though! When it sounds and steps on memories, nostalgia turns purple. It connotes love and that kind of?

I lived longer than someone and came to this world before India was independent. Nostalgia plays music in my old heart to tickle and fondle my memoirs.

Today the Gen Next will not bother to know because they have a valid reason. It does not tickle them anymore. What tickles them probably are smart things like cells, robots, AI (artificial intelligence), drones, remotes that run automobiles and speed. The flow of nostalgia is in any way trickle by trickle. Very slow like pain in the ankle of Venuraj.

No wonder when a close school friend of mine called up to ask “why not we four meet?” made me vibrant and speedy in action to meet sooner. And we did speak that night in calm and laughter only about nostalgic stories that bind us still. Football we used to play, jokes that made us laugh; cutting chai that we used to share; the kalumakai (mussels) fried in original pepper from that corner shop that does not exist, and about the shop near Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode that has gone into oblivion as a road widening took place and traffic signals have been planted. We spoke of times when there were no city buses only bullock carts and a few horse ridden vehicles, and by no way no traffic signals.
Change is forever and un-stoppable. We understand and appreciate that factor, as none can stop dementia or nostalgia. It flows and carry on with it good and bad things.

Unfortunately in dementia we forget and in nostalgia memoirs filter only goodness and leave the spoilt occurrences to waste. That is why the most often repeated concept of forgiveness comes into picture. The four of us had fought and split but we are congruent in one as much as we trace history and look at what is happening. And hold our fort of thoughts into future with a back drop of how illuminant was the days we passed by. As we grew we never thought we were making memories. We just enjoyed the fun of living.

Some moments we passed through have become treasures. They fit into our bags of assets. More valuable than some of the gifts (unlike the nail cutter) and materials we made in due course. School holidays when we used to go to uncle’s houses to recreate times shared with cousins and their neighbor hood, lakes and valleys, mountains and rivers, playing kites and running and falling.

It appears the second trip down the memory lane is a treat like the grandma’s coconut chutney. Even the eight year old grandson of mine Darsh listens as he is unfolded with an old photograph of his and asks in excitement questions that his nerves wonder. In us are those fond memories, aside us are our friends and intimate relationships and in front of us are challenges that makes future.

I miss being the child.

That brings an opportunity in all of us. Not to forget to awaken the child in us. Being lonely is a possibility and is the worst poverty of this time, as you age. Remember fear was not a part as we grew up, fear is taught en-route. A child does not fear – he just tries.
Like we four old friends met without a reason but celebrated the occasion.

“Be happy for no reason, like a child. If you are happy for a reason, you are in trouble, because that reason can be taken away from you” – Deepak Chopra.

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Rocks, Stones and Pebbles

You and I love to walk on the sea shore or on the river side once in a way. Who does not? At times, may be when a small sand particle gets into our foot ware, we think of that tiny pebble. Otherwise why we spent time thinking of non-interesting sand that is essentially pulverized, weathered rock that toss up by the waves. Sand is basically a material made of breakdown of rocks over thousands and millions of years.

My wife and daughters have been collecting small pebbles of rocks wherever we went in India or abroad and at times request friends who go places, to bring a small pebble or rock. The idea being “DHARTHI EK HAI” – world is one. As we collect we appreciate the world we live in. We understand the limit of our world as we look at cosmos. As we look at we individuals as a tiny molecule in the huge canvas of cosmos, that makes it sensible. We have a life span of restricted time period. Compare that short period to the tiny sand particles that took millions of years to form?

The highest peak in the world is Mount Everest at 29035 feet above sea level. But that is not the tallest. The tallest mountain is Mauna Kea in the islands of Hawaii. Mauna Kea stands 13796 feet above sea level and extends 19796 feet below Pacific Ocean.

At times we say we touched rock bottom of our lives, it seems a comparison. We say hidden are most of our feelings; like that of Mauna Kea. At times we burry our feelings that burden us like Mauna Kea submerged in the sea. At such times we need to reflect of what Sir Edmund Hillary said “It is not the mountain we conquer; but ourselves”.

In our lives we often climb big rocks, small stones that we trip and fall and sands where we make footprints during our journey of life. We need to remember then of millions of years that rocks take to become sand as water cuts rocks on a dimension of time. Do we overestimate the turmoil we consider as huge in comparison?

It says “River water cuts rocks not because of its strength but by its persistence”. We had a chance to kayaking on the river Sutlej that emanates beyond Indian borders and pass through Shimla. Remembered sitting on the banks on a sea of pebble stones. Close to that place was a hot spring on the banks of Sutlej River that was extremely cold. That spring was hot and was unbearable for hand touch. It is such phenomena that we witness to understand that co-existing as in nature is a lesson to learn for social existence. These lessons help us to build our attitude and thus our character.

It was in Cairo where I and my wife went on a camel back to see pyramids. We chose to walk the distance on a camel back to adapt to that place. Sure it was an amazing experience. Most of us know the way pyramids are built and a lot is unknown. The size of mammoth stones that shaped the angles is a sight that we can imagine. Irregular and equally charming are the rocks and mountains in Rampura en-route to Bangalore. That was a locale movie SHOLAY was shot, Shaped into an array of elegance Sippy chose that place for Shoal to be shot. Jorge Luis Borges was apt in saying – “Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand. But we must build as if sand were stone”. The story of Hampy is another study of rocks. It took time for those monumental structures to be created, but they last a long time.

In my professional life there were umpteen enquiries with nature between official engagements. One such was a visit to Bora caves away from Visakhapatnam. The Gosthani River, originates close to these caves and flows between the solidified stalactites and stalagmites in the karstic lime stones formation. Water percolating from the roof of the caves dissolves limestone and trickle drop by drop to form stalactites of the cave and drip down to the ground. These deposits have developed into interesting forms and structures inside the caves. These shapes have captured the imagination of tourists. Excavations carried out in the caves by archeologist unearthed stone tools of middle Paleolithic culture dating back 30,000 to 50,000 years, which confirmed human habitation. A similar kind of rock formation as a cave is there near Krabi islands in Thailand. During that visit my wife looked above as she had a droplet of water on her head. While she looked above I was looking down as I spotted a plant growing in that underground environment. That is nature. With the need of water for organic growth drop by drop a plant can grow in that ambience. Marvelous indeed I captured a photo of her standing near that plant. Anything is a possibility to grow and flourish, provided we seek the luck in an opportunity at right time. This study is beyond geology and research into historical evidences that create rocks into caves.

Here we differ and think is it right to quote “A rolling stone gathers nothing?”. The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way we use them. Both are rock formations are in our thoughts. We need to differentiate. After all our thoughts are mental blocks; attitudinal issues. That’s why we need to think out of the box. Parallel thinking patterns. Resolving conflicts, in relationships and moving ahead stepping on stumbling blocks of rocks that appear as mountainous terrains. A drop of water with persistence can give life to the plant and a drop of water can cut rocks with less power than the hugeness of the problems we foresee.

Rocks at times are illusionary clouded in colours of blue, like Alps. Such formations provide us with patterns to dream. We climb and achieve success; we compete with self rather than the surroundings and environment. It is not the peak of Everest that we reach but knowing the strength and capabilities of our minds.

Like the rock, the strongest muscle is our heart and the worst enemy is our mind. Understanding this we avoid unwanted thoughts and manipulations. Pass through beautiful caves inside mountains and take a dip to find submerged Mauna Kea.

Fly away, anyway

Early morning sometime in August, almost a wet day, drizzling, I chose to walk in my dhothi that I rarely do. Sun had not risen and nearly cloudy. I heard a flutter all of a sudden and looked around. Wow, pigeons from nowhere were flying up in the air and before I could take up my cell to click a few were far away in their flight to freedom.

A few weeks into my journey at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai as I lay on the thirteenth floor undergoing treatment for Transverse Myelitis, a disease that parallelized me, I was looking through the window sill and a pigeon sat and after a while flew away. Seeing the flight of pigeon I requested my doctor on a possibility of getting back home, away from hospital. Actually I was seeking freedom from looking at the false ceiling of hospital.

Freedom is the RIGHT to be LEFT alone.

In relationships I heard stories where not allowing enough freedom gets entangled into rough patches. Freedom means much more than probably what the dictionary meaning convey, applies in cases involving facets of feelings.
Most keep tensed relationships under tight controls thus pressurizing to accumulate feelings. To let go is actually not to deny, but to accept a fact that if we cannot influence a situation better let go. Probably freedom helps in enhancing the status of our mind, composes our hearts. It allows us to fly with our wings of thoughts.

“You are born with wings, why crawl through life” – Rumi. Let our fears be free. Through our seventh floor windows we can listen to chirping sounds of birds. That musical sounds provide us ideas of freedom. Especially of parrots that sit on bushes around. Allow us to sing, and dance in our hearts. Free from the perils of what may be going on around. Of the many thoughts that creep in our mind every day only a couple or more need our attention. That itself is a great responsibility if we can fulfill and achieve results.

Between freedom of speech and freedom of action lies a lot. Having worked in cryogenic industry where oxygen is one of the most important gases that I dealt with, I recollect what Moshe Dayan once said – Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. Isn’t that right? That’s our right, to be left alone to wander, exploring new ways and means? That right helps us with chances to improve. To seek opportunities by being free to do what we can.

Freedom is becoming YOU without a need of permission from others. To be labeled as intentionally imperfect. We need to fly out from conventional corridors to unknown frontiers, risk being a rough estimate. After all death is imminent, you like it or not. Rewards that you receive thus are secrets, miracles.

I read a book that stated luck is not that reaches you un-expected. It comes to you when you strike in time, being ready to receive fortunes. If not ready, with homework done, we miss out royalties and rewards. Because freedom is not gifted, we need to work for it. You need to win freedom.

Let go the face masks that we wear often. Be the YOU – YOU like to be. Seek freedom from what others expect you to be; and remove the obstacle like face mask.

That scene on a Thursday evening in Jeddah where my Palestinian colleague Al Khammis witnessed his house being burnt will never ever be forgotten. Being a week end in Middle East we were on sea side when a call came stating that there was fire. Fire had almost finished all that was. Seeing him unperturbed I enquired: “Very sad, very bad”. He had enlarged silence with a smile to answer my exclamatory note of sigh. In less than one year he made up most and added more to his new apartment. I knew then that making success out of a situation is revenge. If everything is lost we are endowed with freedom to do anything. Japanese after World War did that. Recovery flights in a path of freedom. Like the way birds return back in flocks to their abode in the evening to fly out again next morning. Beyond borders, with unlimited freedom to live and move on.

“I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past that I was leaving behind.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Image and imagination are two different things; interdependent and a process of reaching beyond using wings of freedom.

Fjord – What’s that?

“Fjord” – I read in news paper as I passed through an article.
My God!

I having passed through a Malayalam medium high school with limited knowledge of English spelling wondered and peeped into Webster Comprehensive Dictionary. Wow, the word exists that lead me to look at the word “fiord”. There it comes, and says see even “fyord”, they are synonyms for the meaning – a long and narrow arm of the sea with high rocky banks. Then remembered a trip to Krabi Islands with my wife on our 35th wedding anniversary where there were such landscapes but never thought to check the word, then. That was 8 years ago. That shows we tend to forget small things, though they make up a lot for our hearts.

That made me curious enough to look at things that I did not know, with a pair of progressive spectacles that I recently bought. Revisit and refocus through that new lens. Yes, stumbled upon glass. Between most of us and glass there is something or other, a love affair either to toast or to buy a crystal or a tinted glass painting.

Some people amongst us are settling down, some are settling and some refuse to settle like butterflies. When life gets confused we need to adjust our focus. Vision improves when we see what is invisible. When you look at things differently, things we look at change. I see these with my new spectacle,
Long back in a program at Kolkata, I made a presentation. I never used a pair of glasses as a youngster, but later used a spectacle and a bi-focal. And at times I used a microscope for dissection to get into details and a telescope for distant viewing to look into future. Having used all those glassed items, what I loved was the use of a cheap toy on earth – Kaleidoscope, made out of broken glass pieces. A tilt and a new picture emerge; a new perspective, objective, new idea that are fresh and glowing a glittery pattern for every tilt.
Our minds should think out of the box and look differences and align patterns in our thought processes that enhance our relationships.

Glass brings back a story most of you may have heard. A newlywed wife on her first few days looks through her window across to see other side. She tells her husband that her neighbor washed clothes that were not as clean as hers. But her husband cleans the glass panes and shows that it was her window glass that was not clean. Perspectives change with introspection. We cannot assign the world dirty unless we clean own glasses. Our perception of others actually is a reflection of ours. Extending glass to stained glass windows it is said: they sparkle and shine when sun sets; true beauty is in darkness with the light WITHIN (us).

Let me turn the page of glass to mirror. In a mirror, we look for effects of time on us but cannot watch our effects on others. Mirror in a way is a true
friend of ours as it does not lie. When we are happy it shows and does not show sadness. There is a story about mirror. Someone sent his son to clean the mirror and repeatedly advised him to do so every day. He did but asked why? Father answers: “This is actually the case with the mind. Clean it every moment, because every moment, just by its nature, dust goes on gathering.” “We will be able to see God on the day on which our heart becomes like a mirror” said Osho. We can see ourselves better, when dust on the surface of mirror gets cleaned. It is the dust of our actions, ego, thoughts, desires and feelings. We need to cleanse to get right refraction of splitting white colour to its magnificent seven that forms like a splendid rainbow. After all, all of us deserve to be beautiful, to self and others. Who does not want to be?

“It is better to conquer yourself than win a thousand” – Buddha.
Mirror yourself, better, more beautiful.

P+P+P = P

Between me and Tennis hardly anything exists. As a school student at Kozhikode, Malabar Christian College School, I used to cross the boundaries set for the tennis games that used to be played in those evenings. My close friend and classmate Dado Pavamani, son of Principal Dr. Pavamani used to play tennis and I used to look around as my games were something different in hockey and basket ball – Though my name came from Lala Amarnath. Later my father who used to be one good at cricket and football took me to the Cosmo Club at Kozhikode when Ramanathan Krishnan played. No wonder when I first went to England and went past Wimbledon I felt that I should get into the stadium.
Every failure is a lesson to be learnt. So is every success. Roger Federer who set up the 19th record breaking Grand Slams in July 2017, appeared to me as a success in his pursuit of achievement. I went on to understand and appreciate his story and found an equation:
P+P+P = P

The following is based on this – P for passion; P for Power; P for Perfection = P for Performance. And a hidden P is for being Positive and that P comes on both sides of the equation.
René Stauffer who wrote about Roger Federer after meeting him when Federer was 15 years old tells the story of the boy who made history. Every story becomes a history only when accomplishments become either in creation or destruction.

“He appeared to have mastered every stroke, which was quite unusual for juniors in his age group. He dominated with his serve and his forehand, but his powerful one-handed backhand and the occasional volley also looked like something taken from tennis textbook. Federer was a diamond in the rough, no doubt.”

Like a diamond that turns from carbon black, it takes years of pressure to glitter- Sweating it out. Federer’s athletic maturity stood in stark contrast to his behavior. He was a hot-head! Being hot is a phenomenon that is evidenced in many successful giants in history – they chase and every failure makes them grind – grind their teeth. “Hunger for results” – my MD of British Oxygen Company late Mr. Prasad used to advise.

In that interview when Federer was just 15 years of age, with René Stauffer, Federer said “I probably am among the 30 or 40 best in his age class in the world and I want to become a top professional but still had to improve his game. That is his attitude”. That arises out of the first P – Passion.
“I hardly forgive myself on any mistakes although they’re normal. One should just be able to play a perfect game.”

That takes the dominant and the third P – Perfection, in that equation.
It is written about Federer: “He seemed to sense his great potential that he was capable of doing great things—but he was not yet able to transform his talents into reality. His unusual attitude towards perfection had a positive side effect in that he did not consider his opponents as rivals who wanted to rob the butter from his bread. His opponents were more companions on a common path. This attitude made him a popular and well-liked person in the locker room. For Federer, tennis was not an individual sport with opponents who needed to be intimidated, but a common leisure activity with like-minded colleagues who, as part of a big team, were pursuing the same goal”. My friends like Indrajit Mukherjee and Anil Batra who are veterans in the game of golf used to tell me that that game is a fight between you and you.

Successes eludes even for bright youngsters, because some lack in their persuasive and persistent behavior and lack of commitment including health issues. Federer was once quoted as an underachiever. For years he was dogged by the label “best player without a Grand Slam title.”
“To the contrary, Federer developed quietly and not be subjected to the pressures of expectations, from his parents and from the public.” This is what we call as focus. He grew. Like the game of golf, he played to improve himself.
“He was very vibrant, a bundle of energy, and was sometimes very difficult” said Lynette his mother. This energy of Federer is in the equation the second P – indicating power and the fuel is that energy that he built both physical and mental.

Being positive is on both sides of the equation. Federer had his streaks of being negative. Negative emotions also often took control of him on the court. “When things weren’t going the way he wanted, he would curse and toss his racquet” Kacosvky once said “It was so bad”. But Federer himself understood and probably corrected in his journey to win the 19 Grand Slam and set a record. That silent P – being positive made his reach the current position. In his own words – “I was constantly cursing and tossing my racquet around. It was bad. My parents were embarrassed and they told me to stop it or they wouldn’t come along with me to my tournaments anymore. I had to calm down but that was an extremely long process. I believe that I was looking for perfection too early.”

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure”- Peter Marshall.

As we move ahead …

Things change; things will change. Things should change for better. Most of us believe in this. Whether we like it or not!

Sitting once on the shore close to the decaying pillars of the pier (now mostly non-existing) near Kozhikode beach, I who was born in pre-independent India, after world war II, looked at the rate of change witnessed by me and my kind of generation, through now kind of generation.

Most of the thoughts were linked to the way we think and live today and how that will change in a few years. I wish to publish a book on these digital space aspects in relationships soon. Linked to the digital space where most of us belong, I went back to my training days in a British MNC way back in 1970. As part of my induction training I was led into a large room nearly a section of the floor occupying about three thousand square feet at Taratolla Road in the then Calcutta. And I was given to understand that those machines were called computers and main frames. Wow. People around had been working on the cards where they punched holes that were in use with those mammoth systems, called computer. Things changed. We are now with drones, robots and tiny cell phones in our hands which we use and live in this world. Different for me of course, when I have those memory cells in my brain getting excited at the rate of change my kind of generation witnessed. I believe we need to and there is no other way other than coping up, by learning.

Nicolas Negroponte wrote about the transition from atoms to bits and bytes. Years later what he wrote is now real. The reality is we adapt ourselves.
Many years ago when my father-in-law who held his Standard Chartered bank account number “9” was given a 10 digit number and was told that he can have most of his currency transactions from ATM, he was upset and met the manager and told him he will miss the smiles and little conversations between his office staff. He missed the humane touch.

The question is will real become virtual in our relationships as we go more digital?

World is in transit and has been over millions and billions of years. As the industrial revolution came people objected to that. Thomas L. Friedman who won the Pulitzer Prize wrote a book – The world is flat. He dealt with globalization. This book deals with the scope of its ambition on the subject of globalization and technology.

If I look at the way my hair dresser late Raman came to my house and shaped my hair and beard to what we do today, it reveal the change that happened in that small intrinsic area of our lives. Most of us probably have no time to appreciate and find the rate of change we underwent. That includes the non-existent pier that was once used for trade in Pathemaris (large wind driven vessels in sea coast) across continents. World is a bit more flat these days with internet of things.

Change brings in issues and challenges. Seeing those as opportunities makes us appreciate and adapt as our learning experiences gets enriched and enhanced to deal easily with those challenges.

That probably is the way the new social order gets embedded. The way the society becomes truly global. Un-biased; without distinct borders of cultures; integrating diversity into unity. Unity of purpose of changing our mind sets, without changing human values. We need to leverage this opportunity of our times to give the next-Gen a platform from where the next changes will shape up to progress humanity.

Soon we handle driver-less cars and transit on earth at speeds that once we thought impossible. We sit and work from our homes and get paid in full. It’s in darkness where the stars become a delight. We probe and learn and answer some questions some of us even may not know to ask as of now. Our ability to learn will remain the heart and pulse of the creation of that new social order where living patterns will emerge that appears impossible now.

That is possible by improving our ability to improve.

Keeping our ethos alive we improve making choices and taking decisions. In handling technology of tomorrow we keep human values as fundamental. The
challenge is being. Our being; being as humans first and last.

I remembered those days when holding my parents hands they took me to the beach side where those piers handled goods in transit from across the world, at Kozhikode. Online deliveries replaced conventional buying behavior. So it does in various aspects in our daily chores and routines. We need to think. Think different, to make it possible in using technology by learning, replacing old and giving ways for new.

History books record many events that shaped the world we live today. We by creating a destiny that is different from what is planned by back benchers in thought process, need to allow the next Gen historians to write digitally to circumvent the world, that we learnt and adapted to new technologies without eliminating human values.

And we, as a breed remain human, in our approach and relationships, irrespective of living in different cultural bases. The world we live in will become transparent and more flat then. If by chance Raman my barber were to revisit, he will still accept a genuine smile in return to that of his.

There is no limitation to being just a humane. We need to find our inner voices.