Sunday, October 13, 2013

Alphabet Quotes: C is for Change

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
— Lao Tzu

Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
— Leo Tolstoy

Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.
— W. Somerset Maugham

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Remembering Mahatma Gandhi

October 2 is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti all over India. The birth anniversary of the Mahatma is a national holiday. There is nothing that is not known about the small and frail man who led a disparate nation of millions to freedom. His only weapons against British rule were Ahimsa (non-violence), Satyagraha (truth force), and Swadeshi (self-sufficiency) and he used them effectively.

Gandhi was a true leader of the masses for he lived and led by example. He never preached what he did not practice. There are numerous instances of the Mahatma using real situations in his life to inspire and influence those around him and to inculcate morals, values, and ethics among both old and young.

One day a woman came to Gandhi and pleaded with him to order her little son to stop eating sugar. He was having too much of it. The Mahatma did not say anything. Instead, he asked the woman to return with her son after three days. When she did as she was told, Gandhi turned to the boy and told him to stop eating sugar because it was bad for him. The woman was nonplussed. She asked Gandhi why he did not tell her son the first time. Gandhi said to her, “I asked you to come back after three days because at the time I too was eating sweets. I could not ask your son to stop eating sweets as long as I was eating them too.”

Another time Gandhi was boarding a train when one of his slippers fell on the ground. Before he could retrieve it, the train started moving. The Mahatma quietly bent down, picked up his other footwear, and threw it out, so that whoever found one would soon find the other and had a pair to wear.


Gandhi's humble and illustrious life is filled with similar anecdotes that serve as evidence of the kind of life one should aspire to lead, particularly if one is on the spiritual path. The Mahatma's parables remind one of the many stories told by Jesus Christ to convey his message to humanity.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stop running after the autorickshaw

Commuting in Mumbai is one hell of a ride. It takes nothing less than two to three hours to travel anywhere in this cosmopolitan city of possibilities and improbables. The place is both famous and notorious for its public transport system, its white-and-purple suburban trains, red buses, and yellow-and-black taxis and autorickshaws. What it lacks is proper infrastructure. It is not unusual to see large crowds of people at railway stations, bus stops, and taxi and auto points at any time of day or night.

Among these modes of transport, the autorickshaws, which are permitted to ply only in the suburbs and distant suburbs, number more than 150,000. These three-wheeler pygmies are inadequate to ferry Mumbai's teeming millions. Likened to ants or cockroaches by bus drivers perched in their high seats, the "autos" are notorious for refusing fares. They say no outright if your destination is not on their preferred route. Filing a complaint with the traffic police or transport authority is futile. Instead, people prefer to flag down the next auto which is as likely to say no. If you are lucky, you could get one on the seventh or tenth attempt.

While the suburban train, known as "local train" in native parlance, is the lifeline of the city, the autorickshaw plays an important role too. Once you alight from a train and come out of the station you either make a dash for a bus or a run for an auto, to take you to your office or wherever it is you wish to go. Some people sweat it out in serpentine queues at auto stands; others move away from the queue and try and flag down any empty three-wheeler they can spot.

If commuting in Mumbai is stressful, getting an autorickshaw is a nightmare. What should be a simple and routine exercise becomes a nerve-racking chase that drains you both physically and mentally. So much so that on reaching office you are most likely to start your day by complaining about the audacity of the auto riders and narrating your “horrible” experience. In your agitated state, you forget that many of your colleagues have had the same experience.

You might wonder what all this has got to do with being positive. There is an important lesson in it.

Give up the chase, as in life, so also for the autorickshaw, a metaphor for all that we seek or desire. As the wise man will tell you, the thing you want most won’t come to you in spite of your best efforts. And yet it often comes your way when you least expect it. So when you don't get something, give up your quest. You are probably better off without it. If it must it will come to you anyway.

Similarly, if you don't get an autorickshaw after waiting for a reasonable length of time, give up the wait. Instead, take a bus or walk it up; don't fret or rue over your bad luck. Something will happen, as it so often does without you realising it: as you are walking home at the end of a tiring day out of nowhere an autorickshaw will stop in your path, its occupants will pay their fare and get off, and the auto rider will look at you inquiringly. “Get in,” he will say, when you tell him your destination. If you think hard you'll see that this wasn't the first time you got an auto when you weren't looking for one. That is pretty much how things happen to us.

Inconsequential as they may seem, never underestimate the power of small miracles—they happen all the time in our life. The key is how often do we see them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alphabet Quotes: B is to Be Yourself

I should love to satisfy all, if I possibly can; but in trying to satisfy all, I may be able to satisfy none. The best course is to satisfy one’s own conscious and leave the world to form its own judgment, favourable or otherwise. 
— Mahatma Gandhi

And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
— Confucius

Make the most of yourself...for that is all there is of you. 
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  
— Judy Garland

I was once afraid of people saying, 'Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to stand and say, ‘This is who I am.' 
— Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sweep your blues away

This may sound like strange advice to you, but it works. If you're feeling low and down or lethargic and sluggish or experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, here's what you can do to beat the blues—sweep and mop the floor. Not with a vacuum cleaner and a floor mopping machine but with an actual broom and a wet mopping cloth. Get down on your haunches and get going. You may have to be at home to do this task. It's a simple and effective remedy for those not inclined to exercise or walking and jogging or riding a bicycle. Routine and onerous as this task seems, it will increase your feel-good hormones and make you feel a lot better than you did before, mentally and physically. A bit rustic, sweeping and mopping is as good as any other physical activity like yoga, gyming or aerobics. People in the developing world, in countries like India, do it all the time. The housekeeping staff owe their fitness to this down-to-floor activity.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Start your day with...

Start your day with a glass or two of water, preferably warm water, on an empty stomach followed by exercise or yoga, five to 10 minutes of meditation and deep breathing, and a silent prayer. These are simple but effective techniques that refresh, rejuvenate, and reinvigorate mind and body. Backed by a positive mind, a wholesome diet, and eight hours of sleep every night, this regimen, if done with discipline every single day, can do wonders for your mental and physical system. It is the best detox home remedy. Try it out if you haven't already.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Get your old life back

Stay away from the Television, Internet, Chat, Email, Facebook, Twitter, Smartphone, Whatsapp and any other gadget or app for an hour, once a week to begin with, and do something you haven't done in a long time. 

Here are a few healthy suggestions: draw and paint, read a book or comic book, play a game of chess on a proper chessboard, sit with your stamp collection, listen to music on a radio, solve a crossword or puzzle from a newspaper, play Scrabble, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary with family or friends, go for a walk or cycling, play Solitaire with a pack of cards, exercise, meditate or do yoga, play an outdoor sport... Do anything that you enjoyed doing as a kid or a teen. Even play with Hot Wheels if you still have them.

Make time for yourself. Do the things that you loved doing once. Put some of the lost magic back into your life. At first an hour away from your gadgets and apps may seem like agony but over time you will learn to appreciate the quality time you're giving to yourself, and to your family, and a time will come when you will look forward to doing the things that you once did naturally and effortlessly. 

Start today by saying no to your tech buddies for an hour every Sunday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Six ways to be at peace in office

The office is probably the one place that brings out the best and the worst, or both, in us. After all, we spend an average of 45 hours a week in office, spending nearly as much time with our colleagues as we do with our families. Yet, there is a difference in the way we conduct ourselves with our fellow-workers in office and our loved ones at home. While we can go only so far with our colleagues, we often run roughshod over our families and that is because they accept us as we are. On the other hand, our relations with our co-workers are often constrained and conditioned by more negative than positive factors which is not a healthy approach to work.

There is much that we can do to reverse our jaundiced view of people we work with and ensure a sound and peaceful environment for others and, more importantly, for ourselves.

Here are six ways to develop a more constructive attitude towards your colleagues and keep your peace while at work.

Don’t snatch away someone else’s moment
If a colleague is rewarded for good work, receives a word of praise or given a special assignment, don’t fret and fume. He or she probably deserves it. Accept it tactfully and gracefully. In fact, go forward and show your wholehearted appreciation by congratulating your ‘friendly’ rival like you really mean it. And while you do that, don’t steal his or her thunder. You'll have your moment of glory too. 

Kill the green-eyed monster in you
The worst harm you can do to your prospects in the organisation is envying your colleague’s and telling everyone how you feel about it. Nothing exposes your sense of security, or lack of it, as envying your co-worker. Set an example: accept your colleague’s good fortune with a smile; by doing so, you’re laying the foundation for reciprocal behaviour when fortune smiles on you.

Lie low, aim high
Lying low, as criminals do, is a good practice in an office environment. It means maintaining a low profile and rising only when you're called. In other words, the more you keep to yourself, the more your colleagues will seek you out. The best way to make your presence felt is by not being present at all, if you know what that means.

Keep your mouth shut and your ears open
Some of the most successful people in the world are those who speak less and listen more. These are the people who command respect, who automatically become centres of attention, and who get work done quietly. The more you blabber, the less you're likely to be "heard" or taken seriously, especially at key meetings. As Mark Twain said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.” Speak only when you really have something to say; rest of the time, just listen.

Judge not, gossip not
Never sit on judgement about your colleagues. Passing unsolicited opinions around is tantamount to gossip. If someone in your circle is talking ‘ill’ about a colleague, keep quiet; better still, move away. Remember: if you give it to someone today, you're going to receive it tomorrow, and in your back too.

Own up your mistakes
One of the greatest virtues of a worker or an employee is admitting his or her fault. If you have made a mistake, own up to it, at once. Don’t hide from your mistakes or wait for someone to point them out. This requires more than guts on your part; it requires a strong determination to have a clear conscience at all costs. Coming clean is a self-healing process that reveals your strength of character. It can be your crowning glory.  

Moral — what goes around comes around. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Alphabet Quotes: A is for Attitude

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
— Abraham Lincoln

As you think, you travel, and as you love, you attract. You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.
— James Allen

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
— Mahatma Gandhi

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.
— Winston Churchill

Nothing is interesting if you're not interested.
— 
Helen MacInness

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Keep your slate clean

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
— Bruce Lee

Do you admit your fault when you are in the wrong? It may seem like one of the most difficult things to accomplish, yet self-accusation is a healthy habit, a self-cleansing process. Listening to your voice of conscience rather than the voice of your ego makes you feel good about yourself. Little else does as effectively. The inner voice, as it is also known, judges your behaviour towards others and, more importantly, towards yourself. Having scruples, a sense of what is right and wrong, determines your character; it tells you, and others, the kind of person you really are. Saying “I am sorry” each time you are in the wrong enables you to wipe your slate clean and keep it that way. It's the duster of your soul.

Let nothing frighten you

St. Teresa of Ávila 

Let nothing disturb you; 
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything is changing;
God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the goal.
Who has God lacks nothing;
God alone fills every need.

St. Teresa’s centuries-old spiritual message is one of the most inspiring passages that can be used effectively in times of crisis. The words can be recalled during prayer and meditation or uttered as a positive affirmation. You can jot down these words on a piece of paper and carry it in your pocket and read them whenever you feel like. They will help soothe the troubled mind and dispel fear within. The words will give you strength to weather the passing storm.

Let your ego go

When you are dealing with people every day, you are dealing with their egos too. Big, inflated egos. Vast reservoirs of misplaced pride and hurt. Mingled with their egos is your own grandiose sense of self-importance. When the two clash, as they inevitably do, the outcome can be damaging to both and to others around you. So one or the other must pull back. The question is who blinks first.

The question answers itself.

Whenever you are caught in an ego headbutting situation, be the first to blink. Pull back. Turn around. Go away. You will think swallowing your pride makes you seem like a coward. On the contrary, it will make you feel good about yourself. Holding on to that little devil inside you can do more harm than good. This way you not only win the war without fighting the battle, you keep your peace too. Let the other person steam inside.

But why should you give in first? You should because an ego fight is never worth the trouble. Most of the time your ego goes into the ‘me first’ gear over issues that are really…no issues. Looking back, you will recollect little or nothing of the many incidents where you were involved in a ‘shouting down’ contest with someone you most likely didn’t know. At that moment, holding your ground and preserving your pride may have seemed like the most important task of the day. On hindsight, you will realise how silly it all was, if you remember anything at all.

Every time you are offended when someone you think has rubbed you the wrong way, ask yourself before you respond: do I give back or do I let it go? In those few seconds, think calmly and carefully. Chances are you will let go. Reason will triumph over rashness. This is because, at heart, you crave for stability every moment of your life. We all do.

The ego has an annoying habit of turning up in nearly every situation you perceive as a threat to you and your conditioned existence.

To illustrate this point: a few days ago, two men collided into each other while alighting from a crowded suburban train in Mumbai, an everyday occurrence. One of the men recovered himself and was about to walk away when the other man turned around and abused him. This set off a verbal spat between the two. Eyes were locked, words were exchanged, and abuses were hurled. After much huffing and puffing, the men went their separate ways, each feeling supremely important in his own right, each thinking “I stood my ground.”

What ground? There was no ground in the first place. All they managed to do was ruin their day. Whether you win or lose, an ego fight leaves you feeling bitter the rest of the day. It can also be mentally exhausting. The incident keeps playing over and over again in your mind. How often have you come home from work and talked about it as if there was nothing else to talk about? How many times have you harped on it even if you had the upper hand? If you were in a favourable position, why does it bother you so much? It bothers you because it’s not in your nature to behave the way you did and you most likely felt downright silly no sooner you did.

This is why you must chase away the ego as soon as it knocks on the portals of your mind. If you let the fellow in, he’s going to overstay his welcome and probably spoil your weekend with the family.