Life – A Series Of Stories

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Phillip Pullman story4

I love listening to stories & story telling.There is a lot that we take away listening to stories. Some stories impact us immediately and some crop up at different intervals in our lives and leave their footprints. I have believed that everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes us what we are. We build ourselves out of that story. Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here!

I would like to share some stories that have impacted & inspired me and I carry them with me now. I know as a story teller I must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story2story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. So, I am hoping that these resonate with you all in some way.

Food For The Soul

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer, a building contractor, of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

His employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was no longer in his work. He had lost his enthusiasm and had resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and his boss came to inspect the new house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built for ourselves. If we had realized, we would have done it differently.

Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.

 

How Great Love Is

Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, and all of the others including Love. story1

One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all repaired their boats and left. Love was the only one who stayed. Love wanted to persevere until the last possible moment. When the island was almost sinking, Love decided to ask for help.

Richness was passing by Love in a grand boat. Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?” Richness answered, “No I can’t. There is a lot of gold and silver in my boat. There is no place for you here.”

Love decided to ask Vanity, who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel, “Vanity, please help me!” “I can’t help you, Love. You are all wet and might damage my boat,” Vanity answered.

Sadness was close by so Love asked for help, “Sadness let me go with you.” “Oh…Love, I am so sad that I need to be by myself!” Happiness passed by Love too, but she was so happy that she did not even hear when Love called her!

Suddenly, there was a voice, “Come Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that he even forgot to ask the elder her name.

When they arrived at dry land, the elder went her own way. Love realizing how much he owed the elder, asked Knowledge, another elder, “Who helped me?”

“It was Time”, Knowledge answered.

“Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me?”

Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”

 

The Fence

There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad or worse than a physical one.”

 

Big Rocks Of Life

A while back I was reading about an expert on subject of time management. One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.  story3

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” The title of this letter is the “Big Rocks” of Life.

What are the big rocks in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

So, tonight or in the morning when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the “big rocks” in my life or business? Then, put those in your jar.

The last one is a personal favourite, as a lot of people ask me how I pack multiple activities in my life. My response to them I have found my big rocks…time to find yours now 🙂

 

I’m Motivated…Therefore, I Am!

Gautam Buddha once said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Very true. I am giving this a little twist and adding, “My mind is motivated…therefore I am!”

What brought this on? A multitude of interactions with people from different walks of life and a few movies I have watched over a period of time. Let me start with the movies. I saw “Mardaani”…a movie which has a heroine as the honest, passionate cop who uncovers a human trafficking racket in India. This is just one among the few from Bollywood. Hollywood has it’s share of such movies. One hero or heroine who is charged with a sense of mission, achievement and passion to make a difference. They are willing to overcome whatever obstacles come their way, throw a few challenges to people around them and generally come out looking good after achieving their goal. Love life

On the other hand, in my interactions with people around me – friends, family, acquaintances, people I work with – I have discovered what Zig Ziglar says is 100% true.” People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.  That’s why we recommend it daily.”

So, what struck me was why is it that a handful of people are inspired or motivated to do that much more in life, while, a majority go through life as a burden?

I draw my inspiration from some of the people around me…people who are “full of beans”, so to speak. One person I can name is a dear friend Chaya Srivatsa, whose zest for life is so infectious that it leaves me on a high. And then there are two old men (both in their 70’s) who keep me on my toes – Venky Patil & Niranjan Malik, both father figures for me – the former my biological and the latter, my godfather. Such enthusiasm for life they have and such happiness they spread.

My own excitement about living life knows no bounds. I chose the adrenalin rush that life brings, I opt for the positivity that comes with the sunrise every morning…therefore, life allows me to live the way I want to. People have asked me what works for me and I am sharing that with all my readers.

1. Life is a plan. Have you ever planned an event? When we plan, do we not take contingencies into account? People who plan for obstacles are more likely to stick with projects than those who don’t. There have been innumerable surveys conducted that have proved when you have a plan B, you are more likely to succeed in achieving your results, because, you don’t get stuck only with plan A. Michelle Tillis Lederman of New York City practiced this strategy when she was writing a book (11 Laws of Likability) last year. She installed blinds on her home-office door to minimize disruptions and hired an editor to give feedback on each chapter so she wouldn’t get stuck along the way. She also established rules, like checking e-mails only after she had written for two hours. “It was easier to follow this plan,” says Lederman, “than to wrestle with every distraction in the moment.”

2. Believe in ability. One person whose work I have admired is Prof Albert Bandura, professor of psychology at Stanford University. His work has shown that people who have perceived self-efficacy (that is, the belief that they can accomplish what they set out to do) perform better than those who don’t. That self-belief is what helped Ingrid Daniels of Newark, New Jersey, leave a stable corporate job to develop a T-shirt line after the birth of her first child. “It never occurred to me I could fail, even though I had no experience,” she says. Today Daniels runs two successful small businesses (the T-shirt company and a line of stationery), which allows her to stay at home with her three children. We have a great many examples like this all around us. Personally, this was a challenge I overcame myself, to be able to do what I want to do in life, rather than be stuck with what is “expected of me” because others perceive me in certain ways.  mandela

A quote that made a difference to my thinking goes as follows: People always say you have changed when they find you don’t fit into their framework.

3. SMART goals. I can’t emphasize enough about this. The best example I can give is when we all embark on weight loss programs. Over ambitious goals and hoping to fit in jeans that are two sizes smaller, is a sure shot way of remaining where we are. I am personally guilty of this. So, what I decided was to stick to realistic goals that were/are more achievable. Goals that are a stretch but not an overreach…stretch, so that I feel I have gone the extra mile and seen the results. Working on the goals or dreams everyday is the key to sustaining that bit motivation.

4. Declare your dreams. What good is it when your dreams die with you? For they surely will if you do not share them with anyone. As children we are encouraged to dream, parents feel happy when a child talks about his or her aspirations. What happens as the child grows? They are asked to be realistic. You may say that my previous point spoke about being realistic. Yes, that is for goals. If my dreams aren’t big enough, what will I look forward to?

More important, do not stop sharing and talking about your dreams. When you share, you are internally motivated to go out and do something more about fulfilling your dreams.

5. You are your priority. Put your needs first, even when it feels utterly selfish. You will derail your progress if you sacrifice yourself for others in order to please them. Very often we are inundated with comments like, “C’mon don’t be mean…just this once.”, “You’re doing it for me”, “I’ll be hurt if you don’t do this.”, “How can you do this?” etc, etc. Remember, these people may mean well…but, the dream is not theirs, it is yours. So, you have to become a priority with yourself. Also, when you are happy from inside, you will make others happy.  Inspirational-Quotes-483

6. Raise the challenge bar. One of the simplest ways of moving ahead and reaching goal posts is when we challenge ourselves that much more everyday. It’s hard to remain enthusiastic when everything stays the same. However, only I can change the status quo…right? Athletes and sports people do this constantly, as do creative people. They are constantly pushing the envelope where their talent and skills are concerned. It is that much more interesting when you do things a little differently.

7. Keep learning. One of the reasons I continue to love the man I love, is his curiosity to learn something new in every situation, from everyone he meets. In fact, he keeps my learning curve growing because of the knowledge he keeps sharing with me. It could be bits and bytes about travel, politics, work in the office, books, music, culture, friends, family…just about anything. The process of getting to the goal, rather than just eyeing the finish line., is so much more enjoyable. Very often we forget that.

8. Always focus on the personal aspect, deeper meaning. We are more likely to realize our goals and fulfil our dreams when there is personal significance attached to them. For example, I always set emotionally connected dates to reach certain milestones in life – birthdays, anniversaries are the best target days. The sense of achievement is fantastic! Similarly, doing something because it has an emotional connect is much more meaningful, than just doing something for the sake of it. So, go ahead and find the deeper meaning.

Vincent Van Gogh said, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” I could not agree more. My passion is what fuels me…do you have one is my question? Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears…..and finally, we become what we believe.

Remain inspired, remain motivated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Road…For A Hat Full Of Sky

I was wondering what random thoughts I would write about now on my blog as I was talking to my man one night. I asked him and he said travel. That caught my attention…I do follow a couple of travel blogs and I find them fascinating. The writers pour their heart into their writings and manage to transport me to their world.   Travel 1

Travel has always fascinated and interested me. It fulfils a deep yearning of the wanderlust in me. The sheer joy of going to a different place, meeting new people, exploring the culture, the cuisine and the countryside…all give me an adrenalin rush. The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he wants to see. It’s a very profound statement that GK Chesterton made. And this only people who are travellers will understand. A mere vacation person will never know the pleasure of travelling to a destination to enjoy the travail. I know I may sound arrogant when I say something like that…however, I have experienced check list vacations and have hated every minute of it. I realised that I enjoy my travails more than quick holidays.

This prompted me to go down memory lane and think about all the travelling I have done and enjoyed. I have done my fair bit of domestic and international travel. What strikes me while the international travel has been fun, I want to share with all of you out there some of the places I have visited in India that have left a deep impact on me in terms of beauty and culture. I don’t think I will ever forget those experiences.

1. Sonamarg, Kashmir

The whole state of Jammu & Kashmir has been described as “heaven on earth”. I particularly fell in love with two places. Sonamarg or Sonamargliterally “meadow of gold” is one such place. Sonamarg is backed by the might Himalayas and the lovely Sindh river meanders through the valley. My first impression of Sonamarg was during autumn and the all the hues of the season against a bright cerulean sky, with fluffy white clouds…I will never forget!!! The crisp mountain air would keep me outdoors most of the day and I would love walking through the valley exploring different things locally. Many a times I had some food packed for me, with a couple of books and my music, I have spent blissful hours reading, gazing at Mother Nature’s marvels and just…day dreaming.

 

 

2. Ladakh, Kashmir

Two thing that struck me about Ladakh were – stark and crystal clear. The desert landscape is so stark that it touches your soul deep down yak-ladakhsomewhere and forces you to introspect about so many things in life. My first trip to Ladakh was a bikers trip with friends and the pristine beauty of the place left me wanting more. Which obviously meant I was going back for more…

My second trip was trekking and camping and discovering the place on foot…again with some friends. Ten days through Hemis, Latza Kongmaru, Tilut Sumdo and finally arriving at Padum through Zangla not only helped us bond as better human beings, but, also brought about clarity in so many things that I was doing in life. You see, while communing with nature, I had nothing to do but think of myself and my life :). It’s funny how the noise and pace of the city life keeps you superficially connected with yourself…one trip at 11,000 feet is enough to get you to listen to your heart more than your mind.

 

3. Pondicherry

What is that feeling when you are driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? That was the feeling I had when I left Shrikant and his family after my travail into Pondicherry. My first visit to this lovely state was purely business and theHotel Pondy Pondy first evening when I set out on foot to explore the city of Pondicherry I fell in love. So, I went back again…

I fell in love with the slice of France that co exists with varied slices of India. The time that I spent there was indeed “gimme a break” time and my friend Shrikant and his lovely wife Sharada, helped me take that break. The French part of the town, with its boulevards, white and ochre buildings, clean roads and inhabitants on cycles…all reminded me of my trip to the villages of Southern France. Auroville, the area where Aurobindo Ashram is situated is such a peaceful place. The silence and quiet calm of the Ashram once again plucked at my heart strings for this was the final resting place of a great soul who was not only a freedom fighter, but also a spiritual guru – Shree Aurobindo Ghosh.

 

4. Shivas, Cliffs & Kapu Beach Lighthouse, Karnataka

On a visit to Mangalore for my company’s recruitment drive, I met Prasanna Shetty who introduced me to the virgin coastline of Karnataka. His description of the 40 odd kilometres of drive along the Bhatkal coast piqued my curiosity enough to plan my exploration in that region. And I did not regret.

Kiran surfingThe three places I have mentioned, Shivas, Cliffs and Kapu Beach Lighthouse are relatively unheard of for a regular tourist or vacation person. I also discovered that these three places are a surfer’s paradise in India. I know, I know…a lot of people will say…”surfing? here?”. It’s true…I got to meet surfers from France, US & UK while I was beach combing for crabs, shells and other oddities that you can find only in such places.

The small town of Maravanthe where I stayed at a homestay, has one stretch of the beach where a two lane highway runs parallel to the ocean within 15 meters of the water’s edge and on the opposite side of the highway is a big fresh water lake. In the lake are several islands with villages on them and there is an ancient 2,000 year old temple. The entire stretch along the sea reminded me of one of my favourite book series – Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. The five friends who go from cove to cove, discover adventures and solve mysteries…while I didnt solve any mysteries, I went from cove to cove, discovered white sand beaches, stretches of water that made me realise what a small place I occupy in the world.

 

5. Harsil, Uttarakhandharsil-sunrise

Situated in the lap of the Himalayas, on the banks of the river Bhagirathi, I discovered Harsil on my way to Gangotri. While the world hears of Gangotri as a one of the pilgrimage and tourist attractions in Uttarakhand, Harsil is the poor but beautiful cousin no one has heard of.

The place is a nature lover’s paradise, with dense deodar forests, chirping birds, gushing waters of the river, salubrious & serene environment. It also offers innumerable trekking routes that allow you to explore the mountainside and experience beauty like never before. I fell in love with the state of Uttarakhand…but Harsil remains a never ending passion. During the 70 odd kilometres of drive from Uttarkashi to Harsil, the green mountains were dotted with an occasional spot of orange. I later realised that these trees were called flames ofHarsil bridge the forest. The roads are dotted with apple trees and during the harvesting season the air is heavy with the smell of apples – quite intoxicating is all I can say.

An unexplored territory, Harsil was however featured in a Bollywood movie I was told by the locals…a movie called Ram Teri Ganga Maili!  I thought to myself a career as a location hunter in a movie production house is a good option if it allows me to travel, discover & explore.

 

6. Forts in MaharashtraJanjira

I love history…I love the romance associated with the stories of yore. A road journey to some of the lovely forts in Maharashtra allowed me to soak in Maratha history in such a way that no classroom had done in all those years of studying the subject. Maharashtra alone boasts of 350 forts of varied sizes…a treasure house I can say. I haven’t visited all of them…the ones I have, left me with echoes of the past and the impact it has had on generations after.

Starting with Shivner Fort, the place of  the Maratha emperoor Shivaji’s birth, we travelled to Sinhagad Fort where he lost is trusted and most brave commander in chief, Tanaji. Purandar Fort, the capital of the Maratha kingdom has a quaint charm of its own and is about 40 kilometres from Pune, the culture capital of Maharshtra. Shivneri

The twin forts of Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg off the coast of Mumbai were built by Shivaji in the 1660s to protect the land from coastal invasion. The Mumbai Fort is also part of the same vintage and today has only parts remaining in the business district of Colaba in Mumbai.

The fort of Murud Janjira, near the small fishing town of Alibaug was also constructed for the same reason by the rulers of Ahemdnagar. Ahemndnagar itself boasts of a lovely fort, which falls into the old fort category – more than 600 years old. Our journey then took us to Lohagad and Visapur Forts, near Malavalli, Pune. These two forts that are separated by a ridge are relatively newer – constructed in mid 18th century.

Sometime in the future I will write about some of the other places I have travelled to in India. To me India is a cornucopia of delight where you Travel 2discover something new every minute, at every turn and bend and never get disappointed with what you discover!!! My restless roaming spirit does not allow me to stay home very long…a wanderlust at heart. I realise that the best journeys answer the questions that in the beginning you don’t even think to ask. I want to travel far & wide and one day when I sit and recount my travails to people around me, I would like to say “I have left my heart print on the world map”

The icing on the cake is when you have a family that loves to travel as much as you do. I am lucky that way. The man in my life loves it as much as I do…if not more! In fact, one of the things that keeps our relationship going is our love for discovering new places, new experiences. That the children love to indulge in this with us is an added joy. The one thing I keep sharing with him is,”I want to make memories with you all over the world”…and do that we will!