Beating the Handwriting Woes

In this modern era, we seem to have delegated a large chunk of our writing chores to computers, tablets and mobiles. They are so efficient and handy that we are tempted to put our writing instruments (pens/pencils) tucked away in the safety of their pen holders alone. But is that fair, desirable? Aren’t we making ourselves too mechanical and dependent on machines? If we ignore the font preferences, don’t we all look alike when it comes to handwriting? Our handwriting, in fact, is supposed to be our identifying feature. That mark of individuality seems to be at stake now.

Well, in material terms, it hardly matters. With our writing gadgets, we are better equipped to undertake our writing jobs. But sometimes, somewhere, one would crave being a bit human, personal, manual, shunning away the zooming pace of life. Don’t forget, some of our greatest writings were produced when nobody had heard the names of the modern writing tools.

Handwriting is, in fact, a mirror of one’s personality. It reflects what kind of a person one is. That is revealed by the way one writes each letter in the script. Clarity of letters, their size and proportion, spacing between letters and words – all indicate one feature of the personality or the other. Handwriting thus showcases one’s inner self in an obvious manner. It reflects a person who takes things seriously, and pays attention to the minutest detail. A good handwriting is compared to a string of pearls and sets it’s writer apart from others.

That is not all. Today, handwriting has become quite a serious, scientific subject. Perhaps you know, calligraphy refers to a scientific study of handwriting. Through handwriting analysis, experts are also able to predict about one’s destiny. So by keeping a good handwriting, one can indirectly contribute to one’s own destiny even.

That brings us to the question, where do we acquire our handwriting from? The obvious answer seems, at school, the moment a kid learns to scribble the newly picked alphabets, single words and short sentences, our initiation to handwriting takes place. A child gets home work to fill up pages with the letters exactly as the teacher wrote in the first line. Each task done well is a reward in itself. Sincere efforts fetch the students teacher’s remarks, like, good/very good. Encouraged by the remarks and parents’ jubilation, kids strive to collect as many ‘goods’ as they can, and the handwriting keeps improving automatically. Once that happens, it gradually becomes a distinguishing feature of the girl/boy that goes up till the end.

When I was at school, Ramkrishna Mission, Kanpur, (India), we had to follow certain rules/directives in order to improve our handwriting. That was just about five decades ago. Ball point pens were yet to arrive on the scene. Fountain pens were taboo up to 8th. class. There were holders (nib-less pens) with a slot to fix a nib which had to be dipped in an ink pot (built in) at the right corner of the desk. There were different nibs for English (G nib) and Hindi scripts. In addition, there was a ‘kalam’ made from dry stem of some cane like plant. It had to be scraped with a knife or blade to give it a writing tip. The ‘kalam’ had a thicker tip as compared to the holder and was used to write headlines to make them look highlighted. Must seem pretty tardy and funny to the kids today, but like other tales, the tale of handwriting too would make an interesting read. And yes, quite often after the recess, the leftover ink in the pots was delightfully exhausted by frolicsome students to put blue designs on their mates’ white shirts. Holi was a special occasion for such creative pursuits.

Needless to say, anyone passing through such rigorous training had a visible advantage as compared to those who missed it. My handwriting remained fine enough all through my student days and even after. But coming to the middle age, I noticed a slight decline, the letters getting slightly wavy, rather wayward. I discovered with concern that my writing fingers were getting a bit stiff and shaky while writing. I was worried also because my father, an English professor and writer of repute, was already suffering from shaky fingers quite severely. He would usually take too long to sign a single cheque, and often would spoil a couple during the process. He once revealed to me that he had Parkinson’s disease ever since his younger days. But then it was mild and did not handicap him noticeably. Being his only son to join his profession, I happened to gradually inherit his pen too. He would often pass his writing assignments, which he did not want to do himself, over to me

Now, with signs of decline in my handwriting, I got slightly alarmed of that particular inheritance. But I did not panic. Instead, I said to myself, ‘Fear not – face up!’

I tried to rationalize a little bit and told myself, the body needs proper blood circulation to function normally, so do the fingers. May be, there is some obstruction in the blood flowing through my fingers, and they are turning a bit stiff, hampering their smooth movement with a pen on paper. I reasoned that maybe I needed some kind of exercise to keep flexibility in my fingers.

I do not know if that was medically prudent, but after my morning walks, I started the simple exercise of pressing my fingers and palms against stem of a tree in different positions. That worked. I duly included that in my morning routine and have been regularly following it. I am glad, even today, when I write, it comes quite smooth and readable. Thank god, I did not inherit my father’s affliction and managed to steer clear of it till date.

Stepping out of the flash back and returning to the present moment, I feel it has become imperative to keep the handwriting tradition alive and running. The key to success lies in waking up to the problem, consciously facing it and keeping in constant practice. So take care, have an eye on what you write, and how. If you wish to write beautifully, perfectly, just keep writing. Remember, practice makes perfect.

———-Ashok Misra

A Job and A Career

Recently, one of my ex-students posted a message on his facebook wall, informing about his first appointment with a fertilizer company. Naturally, that was followed by many congratulatory messages, especially from peers. I too posted my own, adding, “…you’re on way to a golden career and a happy life! Blessings !” All said and done, I had an afterthought, that he had joined a job, and I wished him a golden career. Job and career ! There is obviously a close connection between the two. But is that known to those who are most immediately concerned by these?

The teacher in me sprang into action. I promptly drafted a message and posted it on my fb wall, addressing all my friends on the site, inviting their views on this relevant topic. It went as follows:

Hello my fb friends, Most of you (my ex-students) are in jobs all over India. A couple of you, abroad too. All are busy making a glorious career. Have you ever tried to understand the difference between a job and career? If not, it is high time you started reflecting over it. Whatever you think of it, please share here with me and all your friend circle. The brilliant ones may be incorporated in my forthcoming blog dealing with this crucial issue.

Anticipating their insightful views on the issue, the next evening when I accessed my wall, I was amazed at their response. There were more than 30 ‘likes’, but not a single comment/opinion on my query. So, that was that! I quickly figured out that most probably, they are yet to give this crucial point a serious thought. I decided to do something, to rake up the issue a little bit to clear the air around it.

At the very outset, it appears that the terms “job” and “career” are often used to mean the same thing, rather confusingly. But are they really conceptually similar or different? They are neither exactly similar nor different. However, they are actually complementary.

Looking at the job, we can say that it is something one takes up to earn money. It is simply work done in exchange for money and usually starts as a short term assignment. It is rather a single pursuit/unit. Later on one may continue with it or move on to the next stage.

Career on the other hand, is built up in the long run. It is like a sequence of jobs related to the same field or profile. A successful career is attained through one’s growth in job skills, knowledge, and experience during one or more job(s). Careers are usually vocations, such as in teaching, research, medicine, law, management, civil services etc. People often see personal goals as a part of their career. As one advances in ones career, one also derives benefits of networking in the area of activity.

So you can see, while one can work very hard at a job and even be paid well to work sincerely and competently, a career takes much more. It involves motivation, planning as well as effort than in a mere job. Due to that it becomes imperative for one to pursue ones career more consciously and carefully than as one usually does for a job.

The youth today is quite aware, conscious and equipped regarding his/her career. Career consciousness is in the air. Students usually make their choices even before writing their first Board examination. They know what they wish to become in life and opt for the respective streams they wish to pursue.

By the time they complete their education, they are ready for a job hunt of their choice. If it is in their chosen direction, the first job turns out to be their first step towards their goal, i.e., career. From then on, they have to keep to that very field, moving on diligently, persistently. Ultimately, slowly but surely, they reach their target, a sound career of their dream, to carry them through their lives.

Remember, you can apply for a job, but can’t apply for a career. A job may be given to you; but a career is made by you, bit by bit. You have to plan in advance, take a plunge into it and wade through, until you hit the goal post of your dream career.

———Ashok Misra

Voices of Silences  

 

 Ever seen,

some solitary dawn or dusk,

the silence of a lake?

Tranquil, cool, transparent,

beneath the surface

deep somewhere,

ever had a peep, to see

what goes on within?

Just put your ear for a while.

You will find, if you strain a little harder,

hear closely and sympathetically,

they almost speak, yes, those silences,i

but what do they voice, how?

Silences too have voices,

they are not tongueless

as they appear,

they do strive to speak,

in their own style, manner.

Sometimes in a low tone, murmuring,

sometimes in a sad tone, lamenting

or sometimes in a scream

full of desperate frenzy,

for someone to listen, understand.

Silences are not that silent even,

as people assume themselves.

They are just an attitude, meaning,

‘Oh, let go of it, just no use

saying anything at all.’

———Ashok Misra

 

 

 

 

Be Pen Friendly !  

Small world of a writer

The small world of a writer

Be pen friendly ! Make pen your friend ! Not just by going for all those expensive brands circulating in the market, and making your shirt pocket their showcase, but by writing and being a writer. I would wish everyone who reads this blog make it his/her tagline, and if not already a writer, then become one as fast as possible.

Starting as toddlers, at school or even before that, we all have been writers. We have been writing our class notes and test/examination papers; official letters and business communications and so on. Some of us even stray into the fascinating zone of writing poems, stories, and plays and even feature articles. But, the number of people joining the latter group is considerably low. That prompted me to write this blog. It states that one should befriend the pen and get into writing non-routine things, especially, literary.

Talking of routine or non-routine types, let us say that all we write as part of our studies, job or other such purposes is the routine writing; while that which we do as expression of our thoughts, feelings and emotions, with a touch of creativity, is the creative writing. It is called creative literature.

Writers, I have found, enjoy a high reputation in the society. They are viewed with considerable respect, even awe, by those who come in their contact. Why? Somebody once said, ‘Those who read good books are in company of the greatest minds. I entirely agree with this view. Their greatness reflects in their body language.

That is not all. Noted English essayist, Sir Francis Bacon said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference, a ready man; and writing an exact man.” In other words, writers are the most exact, correct of all people. (‘Of Studies’. Sir Francis Bacon). So it would not be a bad idea to go for it.

While starting my blog, ‘Creative Expressions’, I had this aspect in mind. After uploading a couple of posts, I got some followers, and I too started following many. Going through their blogs, I discovered how fast has this network of writers spread, far and wide. People are reading and writing a lot. There is no dearth of good writers, and readers too. Happily, this is a global phenomena, encompassing all lands and categories of people, from youth to the aged. But, there is scope for a lot more. A large number of aspiring writers are waiting hesitatingly there in the wings, to get on to the centre-stage and showcase their talent. The big question haunting them is, how? How to go about that? How to take the first step?

First of all, one has to get free from hesitation. Easy, one should say to oneself. ’Yes! Yes, I want to be a writer! I can write! I shall write! I’m going to be a great writer!” Once this declaration is made, one would instantly jump to the next point, how? And the mind would start racing in that direction.

If you happen to be an aspiring writer, you have to tell yourself many things, like, reminding yourself about your earliest forays into creative writing. Remember the poems and stories you wrote for recitation or narration, or even for school magazines. Try to recollect how you put together those early attempts, and also some glorious moments, how elated you felt at that moment, and especially the applause you got from your teachers, friends and parents. Make that moment your diving board from where to take plunge into the deep ocean of creative writing. Make a firm resolution to yourself, I am going to write, daily.

Next, the writing skills! You have to take stock of your arsenal of writing skills. Think of that in terms of two aspects, content and form. Content is the ‘what’ and ‘form’ the ‘how’ of the writing. Form mainly includes language skills, e.g., vocabulary, idioms and phrases, figures of speech, grammar, syntax, etc. Remember, a writer ought to possess all those linguistic skills to the level of expertise, because any error is unpardonable in the printed form. But again tell yourself, problems are challenges which an aspiring writer has to accept and overcome. It is interesting to note that no writer wrote the finished piece at first go. He/she had to do many drafts to give it the perfection a publication requires.

Speaking of perfection, one would do well to read successful, popular writers to learn the tricks of the trade. Remember, voracious readers make better and more successful writers as they have more idea about selection of themes, weaving plots and creating the whole thing.

Many writers are too shy to share their writings with others. But writing, unless it is a personal diary/journal, is meant to be shared with readers all over. When you realize that your writing is fit enough to see the light of the day, go out and find yourself a publisher. Of course, that is the toughest job, sometimes even harder than writing itself, but that has to be faced in order to reach out to the readers. Each successful publication carries an incentive for the next one. That is the how bestsellers are produced. Who knows, it could be you too.

And finally, perhaps you know, you learn swimming by swimming; driving by driving; singing by singing and dancing by dancing. So why not learn writing by writing? That is the sure shot mantra the aspiring writer has to chant and work upon. Yes, write daily. Spare a slot for writing in your daily routine. Get yourself a writing table and a comfortable chair, a table lamp and a computer, some leaves of paper and off course a pen. And start your affair with the pen. By and by, taking one step after another, you would surely be successful in joining the elite band of writers one day.

Ashok Misra

The Window Within

There’s a window, somewhere within

each one of us.

Window

that always fetches

fresh air and light,

cheer and life,

but only

if opened,

and kept opened long enough,

or forever.

Most people are fully aware, and

like to keep

their life supporting windows

opened always,

they always live

as long as they’re alive.

but a few, hardly ever do that,

and are too unbothered, whether they live or not.

damn care, isn’t it the attitude?

do they live at all?

Don’t know why,

probably ignorance,

they are too ignorant,

to know of

the very existence of any such window,

Maybe, unaware totally of the boons it offers.

Wonder how people manage

to breathe, live and even survive

with the inner windows shut forever.

——Ashok Misra

When the world gets too much with us!

Renowned English poet William Wordsworth once observed, rather lamented, ages ago, The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The very opening words hint at the world, the material world, which has got into us too much. We are so deeply engrossed in it that we see little in nature that is ours. In his impotent fury, the poet calls all our materialistic achievements a sordid boon, to which we have given away our hearts.   daffodils 1

“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”  ― Vincent van Gogh

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent van Gogh

Poets are indeed visionaries. They sometimes utter universal truths, like the current one. The world has long since moved on, and has transformed into an entirely different place from the old one. But certain things have stubbornly refused to change, and unhappily, are taking a heavy toll on the mankind. Wondering what those stubborn things are? Well, have a look around you, and you will know what I am hinting at.

In this world of material progress and achievements, man is caught in a rat race, furiously chasing illusive dreams, and in the process, giving oneself away to debilitating consequences, e.g., gross neglect of our spirit, soul. We have moved too far away from the nature which has been our lifeline in this world. On the concrete, material side, we have been laying waste our powers, energies, especially mental. In long run, that shows up. It starts with fatigue (mental) and if not taken care of timely, grows into a burnout, impacting both, body and mind. Once the burnout manifests, the victim goes into an alarm. Health both physical as well as mental suffers considerably. Performance starts taking a toll and in that proportion, achievements too.

Depending on the degree of ailment, one starts pressing various types of panic buttons, seeking relief and cure. All sorts of modern medical and other therapies are explored and tried. But solution still seems a remote possibility. Why? Why me? And a lot other anxieties seem to overwhelm the suffering soul with no solution in sight. We need to find a treatment for mental health and thereby, the spirit. We need to have the nerves relaxed a little bit. But how?

While dealing with such a crisis, the ancient traditional wisdom seems to show a light. It says, “Strike at the root of the ailment.” And the root in the present crisis invariably happens to be an overdose of materialism, That carries its unhealthy products like lust for money and luxuries. If one really wants a cure, one has to apply the antidote. Obviously, the opposite of materialistic world is the world of nature, and the cure for materialism is spiritualism. One needs a proper initiation into spiritual practices too to take care of the spirit.

There could be numerous approaches to that. One significant hint for a healthy solution comes up from Wordsworth himself. The Nature’s Priest gives a call for ‘back to nature.’ In his desperation, Wordsworth prays and wishes, even at the cost of being dubbed a ‘Pagan’, for – …standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; The poet is sure that once back to the nature, man would automatically get back into tune with his life and the world. He would regain the crucial balance between the two and would be able to enjoy the pleasure of both.

Remember, ‘prevention,’ as the axiom goes, ‘is better than cure.’ The sooner in life one gets to discover this wisdom and adopts it, the greater would the advantages be, and above all, one would be saved the misery of burnouts and the tragic consequences following it.

Dust

Sometimes,

I feel strangely oppressed

by the dust

sitting comfortably on

all things in my room

covering them in a hazy layer. 

Dust,

that insignificant, harmless looking

residual,

left behind by the speeding time,

reminds me of my own laziness. 

As I try to routinely dust it off,

it flies up – tiny particles

filling the nostrils, choking,

eyes going red, smarting and teary.

Thankfully, for a moment,

it seems to obey,

only to come back, stealthily,

later sometime. 

What if I don’t frequently displace it,

allowing it the freedom

to settle on its own, anywhere, everywhere?

It has, I’m afraid, vast potential

to engulf,

bury all it lays its dusty hands upon,

even civilizations.

Harappa and Mohenjodaro bear

the testimony.

 

************

 

Ashok Misra

Keeping Updated

While I was engrossed in typing out an article for my next blog, I noticed a small box very stealthily popping up to the right bottom corner of the screen, announcing ‘successful update’ by the antivirus. It said that my system was completely secure. After a short while, it vanished as silently as it had arrived.

Update, the very word sent my mind flying off to another version of it. Update to me seemed the acronym of the phrase up to date, which was in popular use in earlier times. It refers to the act of keeping oneself informed, thereby being in tune with the current times. A very dynamic and dignified idea, which enables one to move with the times and achieve success in one’s pursuits.

Coming back to update, I reasoned that when our computer keeps updating itself at regular intervals, why can’t we human beings? We need it especially to increase our efficiency and potential to perform our job well and to our best advantage.

On a closer look, it dawned upon me that we have already been doing so, i.e., performing updates for ourselves. How? Very simple, you must have noticed that each one of us, in every walk of life, keeps upgrading him/her- self. Be it a teacher or doctor, a businessman or lawyer, a farmer or labourer, everybody keeps acquiring latest knowledge, information, wisdom, skill etc. concerning his/her field. Thus, knowingly or unknowingly, the process goes on and on.

Although, most of the time, people do it automatically, like a natural action, but probably without labeling it as update. Consciously or sub-consciously, every human being keeps updating himself.

Looking deeply, we find that there are two main aspects to updating. The first involves obtaining latest information and knowledge; and the second, acquiring additional skills related to one’s field.

There are different ways in which people do all those things. The most important being, reading all sorts of current stuff; visiting the electronic media; interacting among peers; and of course, by practicing the skills thus gained.

Interestingly, the youth acts especially as a motivating factor for the senior generation and the harbinger of a new wave into the atmosphere. For instance so many seniors have learnt the use of modern technology, e.g., smart phones and computers, from their juniors.

Thus, after awareness about the significance of updating oneself, one has to adopt and practice it consciously, as a habit. The rich dividends it would fetch would be something to feel happy about it.

—-Ashok Misra

The magic of saying ‘yes’

One evening, while having a chat over a cup of tea, an ex-colleague suddenly turned emotional. He grew silent for a while and sad. After a few moments, he lamented, “I could never build a house for myself. I was too unfortunate…” Through our long association, I had some idea as to what stood between him and his dream house. But since it would make no difference to him at that stage, I chose to keep mum.

However the issue would not leave my mind. It kept me wondering why some people live their entire lives through a lack of significant achievements, carrying a huge bundle of unfulfilled dreams and laments.

Do you know, why some people are able to achieve so much in life, while others don’t?

Many people, even starting from a scratch, pursuing a modest career, are able to live their lives more or less the way they desire. In due course, they are able to fulfill their reasonable requirements, like a good career, conveyance of their choice, a modest home and so on. Such people live a happy, contented life.

But so many others, live with a bundle of regrets, complaints against everybody and even from life. They live a somewhat detached, uninvolved existence, and by and large, unhappy. Why? They certainly lack something. What is that crucial something? Perhaps they fail to make right choices at the right time and take effective decisions. They fail to say yes to a thing they want very urgently.

Making a decision about something amounts to saying ‘yes’ to doing it. The moment you say ‘yes’ to it, it becomes your target, and once you have a target set, your mind turns to ‘how’, i.e., how to do it.

Nevertheless, many people have desires and dreams and ambitions, but they shirk from setting targets. They choose to follow in the footsteps of Shakespeare’s Hamlet who would think and wish and desire, but won’t act. That is why their dreams remain unfulfilled and mere wishful thinking.

In fact, such people do not know how to go about what they want. The moment they have to make a decision, they seem to press the panic button. They immediately get overwhelmed by fear of obstacles, failures criticism ridicule and so on. Their most natural reaction is usually some excuse, i.e., why this cannot be done. That amounts to saying ‘no’ to an opportunity and shutting the window at it’s face. Their life becomes a pathetic tale of regrets and laments. The most worrisome part of it all is that as they advance in age, their accumulated disappointments turn to frustrations and finally they plunge into the deep pool of depression.

But time passes on. And as it passes, such people are left behind in life, often regretting what they could not do or achieve. Dwelling longer upon their own shortcoming and failures leads to a certain blankness within their mind, an unsatisfying feeling, frustration and so on, which after some time starts showing in their behavior. They turn critical, sometimes jealous of others, especially their achievements. In order to keep themselves up, in the eyes of others, they flaunt their ego. They resort to pompous show offs, being critical, judgmental of others, and such other negative behavioural traits.

As a result, people at large start avoiding such bores which leaves them further isolated, confined to their own selves. They become lonely and loneliness is the cause of many a maladies of mind.

The remedy lies in accepting a thing and saying yes to it rather than no. In the beginning, it may seem impracticable, but conscious effort can certainly make it a reality. To keep track of it, one may practice counting the number of ‘yes’ as well as ‘no’ uttered during the day. That could turn out an eye-opener and provide an opportunity to correct one’s approach towards things crucial to one’s life.

And once a person gets into the right mould and starts saying yes to opportunities, I am dead sure, there would be no looking back in life. Mind you, by conditioning yourself to saying ‘yes’ you open the doors to your happiness, and live your life as you really wish.

Therein lies the magic of saying ‘yes’, isn’t it?

  • Ashok Misra

His First Cake

At the stroke of the midnight a birthday chocolate cake was dished from the box in which it had arrived. It was then carefully transferred on to a tray and placed on the center table. Everyone in the house gathered around and marvelled at its smooth velvety texture. It was a special day for all us but particularly for one for whom the cake had arrived.

My Pa-in-law has turned 83, to be exact. And guess what – it was the first cake of his life.

Family members from India and overseas had all descended in Mumbai for the grand occasion. It included all his five daughters, a son, a niece, a nephew, plus one of the sons-in laws of the couple, arriving from distant places like Kanpur, Hyderabad and Dubai. The rest, were from Mumbai itself. On one such occasion, I had named this association – All India Sisters’ Conference, which gained popularity, and later on with one of the member moving out to Dubai, it turned into International Conference of Sisters. So, it happened to be the 2014 session of the conference.

Coming back to the main event, i.e., the musical evening, by six. It was lovely to see everyone dressed up in their finest attire, especially the ladies who by the look of it had planned all their wardrobe for the evening well in advance. Deciding to capture the mood of the evening, I could not help myself but go and fetch my digital camera.

The guests had started to come in and greet the grand old man of our family. As I was busy clicking away to glory, I could hear the musicians arrive and to my utter surprise the living room soon resembled and sounded more like a thriving beehive, buzzing with excitement and laughter and punctuated by the notes that were originating from the musical instruments that were being getting all tuned up for the show to begin.

Meanwhile snack plates and trays were also making their usual rounds. On the menu were potato wafers with light sprinkle of salt, cashew nuts and fired stuffed (sindhi) spicy khasta and of course there was the usual party hopper – the kaju barfi which came in diamond shapes.

And then, all of a sudden without any prior notice to all those gathered, the musicians decided to get their harmonium into action, accompanied by the table. Time to get in the shoes of the photographer I thought and switched my camera on.

And mind you …the “Happy Birthday to You” was a chorus in Hindi and not in English as it is usually the norm. The mood was all set and I could see cheerful faces lit with excitement. What followed next was various melodies numbers that got the audience to tune up their individual vocal cords.

Personally, many of those numbers that were being sung got me nostalgic, as I myself had sang them in numerous musical evenings that me and my wife often attend in our hometown in Kanpur.

Every single person in that room was enjoying thoroughly, clapping to the rhythm, but the star of the evening turned out to be my Mom-in-law who is 81 years old and who seemed to have failed to resist the temptation of shaking a leg or two (Indian folk style), sprang up on her feet and broke into a rapturous dance. Unmindful of those present, the lady swayed to the lilting music with so much grace, her face radiating like that of a young girl.

For me the lady (Mom-in-law) carries a style, reminiscent of the golden era of the black and white films. It was so sweet to see her trying to get the eye of her husband with a rather mischievous glint in eyes, patting/tapping on his hands and sometimes on to his shoulder. I could see emotions running riot on his face making his eyes moist.

All those gathered were touched by the spirit of the moment. And after about more than three hours of non-stop music, it was about time to wind up and gather around the dinner table.

On the menu were peas with cottage cheese, pumpkin cooked in a special recipe, fried small Indian bread called pooris. And yes, my wife’s famous Dahi bada that were laced with mouth-watering spices, easily seemed to play the showstopper. She had prepared them especially for this particular occasion.

With dinner done, the guests started trickling out one-by-one into the night. As the last guest bid his adieu the family members also decided to call it a day, but not before wishing our 83 year-old birthday boy many more birthday cakes in the coming years.

But for him this chocolate cake, his first ever birthday cake in 83 years, will remain etched in his mind and soul for as long as he lives.

Happy Birthday Pa-in-Law !

——-Ashok Misra

Keeping Ones Spirits Up

Life is full of ups and downs. Depending on the situation we find ourselves in, we feel upbeat or low, elated or depressed. Whatever it is, we have to keep going, keeping our spirits up. But the pertinent question that one asks oneself is, how? how to do that? How to keep one’s spirits up?

Recently, in an interview, Gyalwang Drupka, a Buddhist monk, revealed his own mantra for keeping his spirits up. That mainly includes two things – meditation and being useful to others, i.e., doing something for others, however small it may be, everyday.

Meditation is the conscious activity to train the mind. It does so by energizing the nerves and cells of the brain, activating them, and training the mind to focus itself on a thing. That is a unique neuro-spiritual process and goes a long way to look after our mental health.

Then, the other part, i.e.,doing something for others. For that, one has to step out from I to you, and look around for people/beings, one can be useful to. Charity, they say, starts at home. So why not follow the axiom. The closest one would find around may be the spouse or kids or parents and so on. One may put someone’s mobile for charging, or tenderly try to wake up a sleepy child to a slow rising, or pick the newpaper or milk pouches from the doorstep, voluntarily without fuss. The list may go endlessly, depending on one’s situations and circumstances. The underlying idea being, trying to be useful to others.

The list nevertheless does not stop there. Outside, one may offer surplus food things to stray cows or dogs. One thing I particularly enjoy doing is, at a dangerous crossing at the Moti Jheel (Kanpur) gate, offering help to some old person, standing confused, rather too scared to venture the few steps across to the other side. Guiding patiently unknown people looking for a certain place/destination is also one of my favourite activities.

That must suffice to suggest how to go about the act of being useful to others. Each one of us has our own acts of humanity we habitually do for others. You must certainly have experienced the sweet taste followed by such acts, which ultimately translate themselves into a blueprint for keeping the spirits up.

 

  • Ashok Misra

 

Quotes n’ Notes : Jeanne Calment # …but everything is fine

“I see badly, I hear badly and I feel bad, but everything is fine.”                                                      # Jeanne Calment, (a Japanese super-centenarian, on her 120th. birthday.)

Notes: The quote sums up the key to longevity – positivity and…humour. Body grows old. As it goes into ageing, it’s crucial systems start losing their effectiveness and perfection. Thenceforth starts a greater role for the spirit, which operates through the mind. It says, ‘The soul never grows old, nor dies.’ If we think healthy and act healthy, we keep going, living on and on, longer and happier than the one who measures life in years, feeling older, feebler and sadder each passing year.

The last three words in Jeanne Calment’s above quote state her golden mantra for longevity. They say – ‘…but everything is fine’.

                                                                   * * * * *  

Enlightenment is Bliss – 080 # Holy Gita # Karma yoga

Right to work alone…free from desire for fruits*

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“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.” 

*कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन ।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भुर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥
अर्थात्, तेरा कर्म करने में ही अधिकार है, उसके फल में कभी नहीं। इसलिए तू फल की दृष्टि से कर्म मत कर और न ही ऐसा सोच की फल की आशा के बिना कर्म क्यों करूं।

My Reflections: On Life’s basic elements

My Reflections: On Basic Elements of Life

As we grow up, our mind too grows, in maturity. A new kind of curiosity gets into us and we start asking basic questions about – ourselves, life, cosmos, divinity, and so on. Faced with life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, gains and losses etc., we try to find crucial answers.

We crave for love, happiness and …peace. This quest has become more pronounced now-a-days. The media, consequently, is flooded with spiritual philosophical contents coming from sages and spiritual gurus, and motivational leaders.

Through our quest, we realize that life happens to be one of the foremost mystic topics attracting curiosity. ‘What is life and its origin?’ ‘Who creates it and how?’ ‘How it ends and…what happens after it passes away?’ We start asking ourselves and go pondering over. To begin with, life and its origin come first and foremost.

At the outset, we find that life is composed of many constituents/ aspects. They are – body, mind, emotions and soul. They represent the – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. But that is not all. Our craving does not stop there but grows more intense. We start looking around for deeper gyan in the true sense.

Books usually come up as a good source for learners in this vast field. Through them, they can at least pick up the basic vocabulary to decipher the mystic script. In this era of Google and Wikipedia  as you know,  there is no dearth of basic contents online on this crucial topic. Almost every spiritual guru and leader is online in LIVE or recorded form.

Basic Elements or Panchamahabhootas: Life, as the theory goes, is composed of five basic elements. According to Hindu philosophy, the entire cosmos, that is, srishti, is made up of them. They are – Earth (Prithvi), Water (Jal), Fire (Agni) , Space (Akash) and Air (Vayu). Ayurveda refers to these Five Elements as Panchabhootas, and calls them – Khshiti, jal, pawak, gagan and sameera.

Each of these elements has its own character and characteristics, which it lends to create a life. Their energies flow in a living being and perform various roles. Together they combine to form life reflecting their respective characteristics. If they act in harmony, one is able to live a perfect life.

Gross and Subtle Elements: Out of the five elements, three, i.e., earth, air and water are gross and are responsible for creation of the gross body. The rest two – fire and sky are subtle. Fire is energy which runs the thought and emotion system. And both are located in the sky, which is vast, open and untouched.

Material body is created by earth, air and water. Fire is the energy that fuels the mental or thought producing system. That is located in the sky. According to scripures, God is in the form of the sky. Being with Him implies that we become sky-like. Sky is infinite. Nothing touches it. Nor does it contradict with any person or thing.

If our mind becomes infinite, untouched by petty worldly things, benign and empathizing with everyone, we can experience closeness with life and God. Open-mindeness has a direct impact on the body. Despite being based in the self, it can remain healthy  being free from contradictions gives a sense of satisfaction and contentment to a person.

Basic Traits of the Elements: Let us try to have some basic idea about the traits various elements carry and which we acquire from –

Element/Bhoota Trait
Earth/Prithvi/Khshiti Stability, support
Water/Jal Joy, well being
Fire/Agni/Pawak Wisdom, power
Sky/Aakaash/Gagan Oneness, knowledge, intuition, dignity, trust and creativity
Air/Vaayu/Sameera Compassion

 

Importance of the Elements: As mentioned earlier, each element plays some important, rather crucial role in creating and running the cosmos and all its beings. Let us have a quick look at what each does:

Sky is the origin of light, heat, gravitation etc. It produces waves/rays which affect the life on earth. It also gives the man qualities like – openness, generosity, enthusiasm and hope.

Air is the source of oxygen we use for breathing. Thus our breathing system is entirely supported and fed by the air. Without that life on earth cannot even be imagined.

Fire is the provider of light and heat, so cruicial for existence.  Sun and Mars are regarded as the sources of fire. Fire from the sun is the force behind the system of the life cycle on the earth.

Water: Life on earth cannot exist without water. It helps in blood circulation as well as digestive and cleansing systems of the body. So the entire plant as well as animal life is wholly dependent on water.

Earth: The entire life in the universe is basically supported, nourished and regulated by the earth.

However, the material body composed of the five elements is inanimate or lifeless. To bring it to life, it requires the life force – the soul, which complements it. The soul activates the body and makes it start on the journey called the life.

The Five Elements and Yoga  

The entire creation, inanimate as well as animate, can exist only when all the five elements combine in appropriate balance and function in harmony.  Among the living beings, that is, plants and animals, any disturbance has a direct impact on life. It could produce setbacks like illness and other problems. Life becomes full of hardships and misery.

To live a smooth and successful life, we need to have mastery and control over ourselves. That comes by adequate understanding of our basic elements and having them in harmony. Yoga is one option. It trains us to acquire mastery over ourselves. That is achieved through yogic practices or sadhana of individual elements. For   instance, activation of chakras. The process is known as Bhoota Shuddhi. There are specialized temples for sadhana of individual elements in India.

In Hindu system, it is customary to regard, offer prayers and worship to all those who give them something, as Gods. Since the five elements happen to be the very genesis of life, they too are their Gods. That is why, before any auspicious ceremony (puja) starts, they invoke each individual element, offer prayers and worship to have their blessings. So that, there may be peace, harmony, love and happiness all around. Amen!

 

 

 

Alive…until the last breath

Growth – the sign of life…living

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Growth is the sign of life…living!
Anything, they say, that stops growing
is dead…or dying –
literally or virtually.
So keep growing, bit by bit,
in whatever ways you can, and
you’ll keep living…alive,                           until your last breath.
Remember, the body ages, gets feeble, and dies, but                                                the soul…spirit doesn’t.
* * * * *
# Ashok Misra 

Quotes n’ Notes : W. Wordsworth # The World is…

The world is too much with us

– William Wordsworth
(excerpts)

The world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

* * *      * * * *     * * * *.   * * * *
I’d rather be
A pagan
suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton*** blow his wreathèd horn.

Notes: Wordsworth has been one of the most prominent English poets of the 18th. century Romantic era. Romanticism was firmly grounded in Love of Nature and Wordsworth was known as the Nature’s Priest. He was deeply upset to find material progress overwhelming the simplicity of life spent in the nature’s benign lap. Wordsworth wrote many poems expressing his deep anguish, and in this poem, in the opening lines, he laments that –

The world, i.e., materialism has too much occupied us. We are all the time engaged in in the rat race of earning wealth and spending it on our materialistic requirements and desires. We do not see in the nature what was always ours, and have given away our hearts to materialistic accomplishments which seem a boon to us but in reality, are sordid. They in fact, spoil our lives and happiness.

By the time Wordsworth reaches the last stanza, he gets so disenchanted and detached from the current scenario that he is ready to quit, even his own creed, and go back to some outworn or old-fashioned one which entirely belonged to forests, i.e., nature, so that he could stand at that pleasant lea, gaze at nature’s beauty that would make him feel less lonely. He would be in an exclusive world of mythology only poets can join. Oh how he would love to have a sight of Proteus, the sea-god rising from the sea; Or hear the old Triton, the Greek god of the sea, blowing his wreathèd horn.


# Ashok Misra

P.S. : Ages have come and gone since Wordsworth poured out his deep anguish. Don’t the current global catastrophe and chaos evoke the same gloomy thoughts within your heart? Well, his words still seem to echo in our ears.

References: *a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.
** In Greek mythology, an early prophetic sea-god or god of rivers and oceanic bodies of water.
***Triton, a Greek god of the sea, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, god and goddess of the sea respectively. Triton lived with his parents, in a golden palace on the bottom of the sea. Later he was often depicted as having a conch shell he would blow like a trumpet.