A sigh

Not far ago, we took a view around the Bridge of Sigh in Italy. In a movie inspired by the bridge, Diane Lane kissed her lover near the bridge at sun set, to fulfill a dream. This bridge is a tourist’s attraction. It began construction in 1600 to span the Rio di Palazzo (Palace River) while connecting Doge’s Palace to a prison.

According to folklore when prisoners crossed the canal on the bridge they sighed in despair as they approached their end of freedom. The bridge’s name gained popularity in the 19th century in Lord Byron’s poem – “I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand.” Life not even for a prisoner is in balance. In one hand hope persists and in other pain.

I recently breathed a sigh in watching a scenario as I walked past a lane close to my home in Kozhikode, Kerala.

Bridges bridge gaps between hopes, aspirations and despair. Bridges bring about a balance. Feelings arouse the inner hidden episodes with a sigh, a sigh that probably releases stress.

“Presence of mind” is an often used term, but difficult to practice. As most of us are out of balance with our past memories, moods and ego states. When our mind is not in the present, it is difficult to handle. Engaging with the present probably is presence of mind.

An example of sinking in sadness and moving through such conditions is depicted in a PIXAR film “Inside out”. Lesson learnt from the film is about “emotional literacy” not taught is institutions. This is our ability to notice, recognize, interpret and respond to our emotional links. When we practice this we are able to embrace the way we feel with own and other’s emotions and manage our thoughts. Emotions tell us stories – some sad and a few happy. At times we indulge in self pity. We need to stand up for ourselves. My mother once told me – “your legs are for you to stand upon”. “The moment we doubt whether we can fly; we cease for ever to be able to do it” – J M Barrie.

We all tend to live in our “In-BoX”. Filled and overfilled with matter that enter, that restricts us to an enormous burden of tensed feelings and stressful situations. Delete button is rarely used, to detox. If our in-box rules us, how that can help us for an easy walkthrough the path? A need exists to detour, de-clutter and sit for a while and have a sigh of relief. The bridge we pass through recognizes the attempt of finding out who’s that “me!
Like our bodies are servants of our mind, our mind should be our servant. A strong body and a bright, happy, cheerful countenance result in a bounty of thoughts of joy and good will. We bridge the extremes with a sigh of comfort, contentment.

The walk through the lane that afternoon made me watch and sure, you will appreciate. An elderly person was sitting in front of the huge scattered debris with a tool in his hand. The place was fouling. He a rag picker was separating plastics from the bio-degradable matter and inserting the torn plastics as an asset into his bag. When I looked at him he stared at me, and soon released a sigh of relief and smiled.

He did not know about the environmental impact or the non-bio-degradable composition of his asset he was picking. He simply attempted with a smile in his face, to separate the two. Bridging a gap between, so that he deposits the assets he collected at a renewable material store and makes up for his dinner.

A sigh was an instant outcome from me.

I then went back to the story of the prisoners in Venice in those years in 1600, when hope prevailed as they entered the Bridge of Sigh from palace surroundings to the prison rooms.

Hope that leads us – The bridge between sighs.

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Dustbin in brains!

Yes, it happens.

Yes it happens to you and me.

Yes – it can happen at any moment in our journey of lives.

No wonder why Clayton Christensen said “I believe that we can, in a deliberate way, articulate the kind of people we want to become. For the rest of life one can initiate what happens, utilize to help you become the kind of person you want to be”.

What we need to do is to observe and learn from some simple things around us – Very intricate designs that weave around us.
Look at the recent researched subject of ORDINARY pumkin flowers. Yellow ants on pumpkin flowers!

Let your mind rest and watch. “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to your life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens” – Khalil Jibran.

You watch the yellow crazy ants that disrupt pollination in pumpkin plants as written in the journal of “Biological Invasions”. Kasragod area in Kerala grows pumpkin plants that are pollinated by bees. When the pumpkin crop was dwindling scientists studied. Pumpkin plants produce male and female flowers. They found honey bees that pollinate for bearing fruits fly to female flowers more as female flowers produce a better quality of nectar. Bees needed both pollen and nectar and they flew between male and female flowers, thus facilitating pollination. In order to identify failure of fruits they covered female flowers with nylon bags. That was a deterrent for the yellow ants that affected bees pollinating. When flowers bloomed next day they removed the nylon covers to allow bees to visit ant-less bloomed flowers for pollination. Then put back nylon covers to prevent ants getting across. With bees doing their job pollination was made possible eliminating the yellow ants and more fruits were cultivated. About 47000 hectars of land in India currently cultivate pumpkins and produce large quantum that we consume.
To me it was lessons learnt.

Avoid being at a place where you have no role to play. Allow natural habitants to perform and achieve what is natural. But often with egoistic attitude we encroach in areas of other’s influences or make caustic criticisms. Isn’t that a waste of energy? Any way, if un-checked like yellow ants we too fall a pray.

In a normal day we work on with a flood of thoughts amounting to more than 50,000 per day. Most of us gets caught with almost everything. There are areas of concerns for some. Very limited areas of influence where we may be able to make a change. Out of those many thoughts, that flood our minds, imagine how many exist where we have a chance to influence?
Work on those and avoid the rest. Let us study how many are those items to check out to influence and make a change. If we use our fingers of right hand it may be less than the count of fingers.

The rest corrupts our minds like those yellow ants that prevent pollination. Food for thought gets affected by invasion into areas that are “everything”.
Witness and watch, observe and forget by letting thoughts pass by. Use the compartment in brain like the DUSTBINS; discard unwanted thoughts.
You allow the flow.

I will try in any case, a lesson learnt by the researchers on Pumpkin pollination.

Live LIFE, one chance to LIVE

There are three triggers for me to capture this photo and post.

One – I chose to replace my cell phone with a new one and my son-in-law ordered through net for one going on discount. Two – a pigeon intruded into my space in the drawing room on the seventh floor through a small slit on the open window. Third weather forecast predicted seasonal rains are almost over, I chose to clean cobwebs and glass frames. Yeah and a fourth one – a forwarded video clip of cine star Simi interviewing Dev Anand and asking him “what do you do when you become old”?

The first incident made me aware that everything has a shelf life and all things in this universe are temporary. Second one reminded me that anyone can occupy your space if you do not live your life. And the third of course was harsh in statement that memoirs are rich if life is lived well? Simi’s question had sprung another question in me – what if I become old? I am just around 73, though!

Now the photo, as I do not really see that photo often though hung on the wall, the cob web cleaner in me took it out wiped the glasses on the frame and was about to hang it all over again. I could hardly believe and was in disguise, and so cleaned the spectacle glasses with lens cleaner and had a re-look at it. Wow – that is me and my sweet heart up in Himalayas (not for our first honey moon, we do that often anyway) in Gulmarg.

A little later I called her up in Mumbai and asked her – Do you still remember our trip to Himalayas in 1980? She said yes, “how can I forget”?

With struggles we encountered like a death in sight case with her in a tubectomy case, a near death case of mine with TM (transverse myelitis) and problems with inadequate funds that stopped but we managed to take our children on yearly picnics etc.; I lived my life with those gaps of need and greed – Gaps that remain as challenges and learning curves.

The sum and substance of this short story is that – Live life; only one chance to live.

Let the weather be unpredictable, we venture out. Let cob webs spring in but clean up our thoughts and recharge. Like those pigeons someone else may live for us if we remain comparing others. So adapt to new things like the cell phone in order to be touch with old friends and people who helped us laugh and had fun with.

And Dev Sab was right: we do not become old, we mature.

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.

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.

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.