Saturday, November 25, 2017

Did I really write that stuff?

Sometimes I go to bed pleased with something I have written and wake up in the morning thinking "Did I really write that stuff?" and reach for my toothbrush with one hand and "delete" with the other.

Writing can be a source of embarrassment, even if it's mostly in your head. If you write with conviction and a clear conscience, you've nothing to be ashamed of. You can always improve your style. I've got to keep that in mind.

© Charles M. Schulz

Friday, November 24, 2017

A tale of two superiors

I have never liked the word boss. It reminds me of a pathetic class bully, someone who is insecure about his position and exercises control over you. "No, you can't leave early till you finish the report." Unless you're in the emergency services, few jobs are a matter of life and death.

A leader, on the other hand, is a wise and trusted guide and friend, someone who gladly shares his knowledge and mentors you during your years under his watch. "Here, let me help you with the report. That way you won't have to stay back late."

If you get a boss, there's not much you can do about it, maybe seek redeployment within the organisation or look for another job. But what you can do is grow to be a leader or mentor - like the one who had your back. Those are the ones who come rare.

Monday, October 30, 2017

King's Circle

King's Circle
Footpaths strewn with books

To browse and burrow,
With joyful anticipation.
Secondhands and cobblestones
Jostling for space,
L'Amour here, Christie there
Austen, Wodehouse, and Blyton,
Finders keepers

Under a clear evening sky.
Will the city fathers let 'em be?
A walk down memory lane
Neither fun nor fair,
Without a trove of reads
In the King's tempting lair.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Got a job? Now earn outside of it

© Prashant C. Trikannad
The other day I casually said to my wife, "We will have to tighten our belts this month. Cut unnecessary expenses."

"Why?" She asked.

"I just got my credit card statement and it doesn't look good. We aren't going to be left with much by the end of the month," I said.

"But we don't spend all that much," she protested. "Barring the odd dine-out or occasional shopping, most of our monthly expenditure is on essentials, groceries, local commute and that sort of thing. We can't avoid routine expenses."

Then she said something that stumped me. "The key to having more money is not cutting down on your daily expenses but making more money instead."

Good point. Though the idea had often crossed my mind, I never gave it serious thought. Like many Indians, I try and put away some money every month or year to save for the future. No, that's not entirely correct. While I do make a voluntary effort at savings, I'm mostly forced to save money to avoid paying higher taxes to the government. It's going to pay off in the long run. As a good friend once advised me, “The money you don’t see is the money you save.”

So with the 80C-induced nest egg out of reach for now, what’s my next best option?

“Earn more, if not in your job, then outside of it,” my wife said simply and went about her work.

That easy, uh.

“So how can I earn more?” I wondered.

She countered that with a question of her own: “What else are you good at besides what you do at work?”

I thought for a moment and said somewhat sheepishly, “Writing, maybe.”’

“But you already do that. On second thought, maybe you’re right, you could freelance. Never mind the money. It’ll come eventually. First, get a start. Write in your areas of expertise, take it to the editors and see if it doesn’t lead somewhere, open a new door for you.”

She was right. The internet has opened up new writing opportunities in every field. News websites and webzines, third-party content providers, digital media, and startups
are constantly looking for content strategists and specialists to meet their competitive requirements. Even print media has discovered a sudden fondness for the written word. As long as there was no conflict of interest with my full-time writing job, I’d nothing to lose and everything to gain. Everyone seemed to be moonlighting these days.

Nevertheless, we sat with pen and paper and drew up a list of all the things that I could do. We came up with quite a few options, which, besides writing for portals and publications, included mentoring a creative writing class, writing content for corporate websites, copywriting for brands, producing content for social networks, e-commerce sites, blogs, and news aggregators, and offering my writing expertise to academic and other publishers. Turns out there was plenty I could do.

The money from freelance work, writing or any other, may not amount to much at first but with patience and perseverance, and a little imagination, you can make a parallel career out of it; and along the way develop a new belief in yourself and discover a skill or two you never knew you had.

Virtually, the sky is the limit provided you have the inclination and you pursue it with all you have.
If you can step out of your comfort zone and do something radically different, so much the better for you and your personal growth. And if things don’t work out, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have other career choices — who knows where those will take you. As American writer and Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner said, Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.You'll never know till you try.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The World and I by Ramabai C. Trikannad

My grandmother, Ramabai C. Trikannad, was only 39 when she died of consumption (tuberculosis) in October 1952. During her short period on earth, she read and wrote a lot. She read the Classics, Victorian poetry, and early to mid-20th century fiction, including Wodehouse and Christie, which inspired her to write dozens of poems, short stories, essays, and newspaper columns. She also published a collection of stories called Victory of Faith. I love the depth of emotion and perception in her poetry, as you can see from this stanza from her poem The World and I.

It calls me bad and it calls me good,
As the world may in its various mood —
Slanders me to serve its gossips' end,
Differently calls me trusty friend.
It treats me nasty, and treats me well,
Praises; my name for a pice would sell.
God made me. He made me ill or good,
According to His sweet supreme mood.
Graceful figure or ugly to view,
He made me through and through.

© Ramabai C. Trikannad

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Just Saying

Heavy deluge in Mumbai: And God said, "Let there be rain," and there was heavy rain and flood. Then man asked quietly, "So, Lord, do we get a holiday tomorrow?"

Monday, September 18, 2017

Alphabet Quotes: U is for Understanding

"A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide."
— Samuel Butler

"I want my boys to have an understanding of people's emotions, their insecurities, people's distress, and their hopes and dreams."
— Princess Diana

"So long as you live and work, you will be misunderstood; to that you must resign yourself once and for all. Be silent!"
— Johann von Goethe

"When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely — the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears- when you give your whole attention to it."
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

"The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding."
— Albert Camus

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Slowing down: Set priorities and reduce stress

Eknath Easwaran

Simplify your life so that you do not try to fill your time with more than you can do. Start by listing your activities. Then prune the list, striking out anything that is not truly necessary and anything that is not beneficial. Set priorities and reduce stress and friction caused by hurry.

In today’s speeded-up ways of working and living, slowing down is an important spiritual discipline. In the modern world we are conditioned to live faster and faster with no time for inner reflection or sensitivity to others. We are only beginning to see that speed makes our lives tense, insecure, inefficient, and superficial.

It is not enough to talk about this; we must learn to slow down the pace of our lives. To do this it is a great help to start the day early; that is how you set the pace for the day. Have your meditation as early as possible. Don’t rush through breakfast. Allow enough time to get to work without haste. At any time during the day when you catch yourself hurrying, repeat the mantram to slow down.

In order to slow down, it is necessary to gradually eliminate activities outside your job and family responsibilities which do not add to your spiritual growth. At first you may feel at a loss for what to do with your newfound extra time. What we lose in activity we gain in intensity by learning to rest content on each moment. The English poet John Donne says, “Be your own home and therein dwell.” We can find our centre of gravity within ourselves by simplifying and slowing down our lives.

It is essential not to confuse slowness with sloth, which breeds procrastination and general inefficiency. In slowing down, attend meticulously to details, giving the very best you are capable of even to the smallest undertaking.

Source: Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) is the founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, California, and the author of 40 uplifting books on spiritual living.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Guru Purnima

Today is Guru Purnima, the day Hindus, Buddhists and Jains pay their respects to spiritual and academic teachers, and one of the most significant days in the calendar. A Guru doesn't necessarily have to be a spiritual master: he or she can be anyone who has made a positive difference in your life; someone who has guided you on the path of wisdom, compassion and righteousness — your school teacher, your parent or your mentor at work — and helped you realise your potential to be a good human being and held a mirror to the perfection within you.

I want to share this lovely Guru Purnima message from the late Indian spiritual teacher and author, Eknath Easwaran, who established the nonprofit Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in California in 1961. It is from Easwaran's The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living: Volume 1. I recommend all his books.

"The word guru means "one who is heavy," so heavy that he can never be shaken. A guru is a person who is so deeply established within himself that no force on earth can affect the complete love he feels for everyone. If you curse him, he will bless you; if you harm him, he will serve you; and if you exploit him, he will become your benefactor. It is good for us to remember that the guru, the spiritual teacher, is in every one of us. All that another person can do is to make us aware of the teacher within ourselves."


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Remembering Swami Vivekananda

“We must not only tolerate others, but positively embrace them, and that truth is the basis of all religions.” 

Swami Vivekananda was only 39 when he died on July 4, 1902, at Belur in West Bengal. But in that short period of his life, Narendra Nath Datta, by birth, accomplished more than most people struggle to achieve with twice his lifespan.

At the young age of 30, Vivekananda captivated the hearts of men and women in the United States with his soul-stirring speech at the Parliament of World's Religions in Chicago, on September 11, 1893 — a speech that he, quite unexpectedly, began with the words “Sisters and Brothers of America.” It was to become a household doctrine for the universality of races and religions everywhere.

French writer and philosopher Romain Rolland was so enthralled by the speech that he remarked, “The thought of this warrior prophet of India left a deep mark upon the United States... I cannot touch these sayings of his...without giving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!”

Overnight, Vivekananda, the foremost disciple of 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, catapulted from a relatively unknown monk to a world-renowned seer. He was, beyond a shadow of doubt, one of the greatest social thinkers, reformers and teachers to walk the earth. He was instrumental in taking Indian spiritual culture and philosophical thought to a global audience, propagating harmony and mutual respect among people of different religious faiths, reviving Hinduism in India and making it stand among the pantheon of world religions, and raising the voice of nationalism against colonial rule.

Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Swami Vivekananda was so far ahead of his time and thought that he galvanised an entire generation, a whole nation, to be fearless and steadfast in faith, live for an ideal, and rest not till the goal was reached. In thought, word and action, the yogi was a revolutionary who believed that we were masters of our own destinies, responsible for what we are and what we wish to be, and that the power to scale the Everest of success was in our own hands. 

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

Today, 115 years after his death, Swami Vivekananda continues to inspire and motivate, and his teachings — rooted in spiritual regeneration — are as relevant today as they were in his time. Perhaps, more so. These are extracts from that rousing speech he gave over a century ago, their message of universal tolerance holding a mirror to the troubled times we live in.

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.

I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

If there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature.