Monday, September 24, 2012

Buy happiness for free

I have read quite a few books on “Happiness” and it has only brought unhappiness.
The reason is simple: Happiness cannot be forcibly induced. It is in-built. The soul is in perfect bliss. It’s like the ocean that is at total peace, while the waves (individuals) fret and flutter forgetting that they are part of the ocean. Human activities are also part of nature, just like the rose blooms and butterfly swings.
Are our actions formatted? Are we just enacting what is already scripted? “Yes,” insists my female colleague, “No,” screams my male teammate.  As for me, I am destined to believe in free will.
When I saw the elderly man on Delhi’s Karol Bagh roadside who just had clothes to cover and got his daily food needs from the neighbourhood, I realized money is not compulsory for joy. He was literally living on the streets, but the smile he flashed when I bade “goodbye” was blissful.
I can introduce a friend, Faiyaz, who earns a little money in the Gulf, quits the job, goes to Mumbai, takes a bicycle, gets railway pass, visits libraries and thinks of the next job only when the purse is almost empty. He eats from simple stalls and is contented with humble life.
Of course, the problem is, lack of money is a major source of unhappiness. The solution for this, as wonderful Socrates says, “Man with least needs is closest to God.”
So what’s my concept of happiness?
You sure must have seen a smiling child. The child’s beaming eyes and the smiley lips are delightful without a doubt.  
When confronted with a challenge, I shift to that format. Like an automatic camera adjusts its photo setting to the outside situation, a smile with those twinkling eyes dilutes anger and boosts confidence.
Hey, I have not won. I am just trying. And it is such fun boss.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cleaner's pressure tactic

I was thinking. (Hey, I do, at times).
How easy it is to provoke someone!
I was returning to my building after a morning walk, when the cleaner said “hello” and a stranger arrived.
The stranger started conversing with me and mentioned that he was from a particular place. The cleaner interrupted, “Oh that place? It has a bad reputation.”
With that one line, he picked up his bucket and broom and disappeared.
It took 20 minutes for me to convince the stranger that his place was famous for hard-working, intelligent people and that he should ignore stupid comments from crazy people. But the damage had been done. The stranger’s eye was red-shot and his blood pressure had clearly shot up.
A little later the cleaner again passed by and smilingly told the guy, “But I know someone from your place who is very good.”
The man looked flabbergasted and I rushed to the elevator.
Just remembered a joke:
“I do not argue with fools,” said one angrily.
“I do,” replied the other. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fires of hatred damaging

(This is a comment piece I wrote for The Gulf Today)
If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity,” famously spoke late US president John F. Kennedy once. He should have reserved the speech for present-day America. It is from this land that an irresponsible and senseless film denigrating the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has emerged. 
The Obama administration has clearly been stunned by the ferocity of the Sept.11 attack against the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed its ambassador and three other Americans. Washington has put all its diplomatic missions overseas on high alert and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered an explicit condemnation of the video. “The US government has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message. To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible,” she has said. 
But playing with people’s sentiments on matters of faith tantamounts to playing with fire. It takes one candle to set an entire forest on fire. It took one video to ignite anger and fury among the 1.5 billion followers of Islam, the second-largest and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, and also among the tolerant people from other sections of society. The violence is the latest manifestation of deep-rooted anger in the Muslim world.
Anti-US protests have already spread across the Middle East and further, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Iraq, Gaza Strip, Kuwait, Sudan and Tunisia. Protesters have smashed into the German Embassy in the Sudanese capital and security forces in Egypt and Yemen have fired teargas and clashed with protesters to keep them away from US embassies.
The Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a region in which various faiths existed. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others not affiliated with any religion. There were plenty of examples to portray the high level of tolerance shown to people of other faiths during those times. 
“To you be your religion, to me be mine,” says a verse in the Holy Quran. In other words, live and let live is a message that suits entire humanity. America’s anti-terror talk should begin with issues at home. One cannot ignore the fact that the film-maker is from California. The US cannot disclaim the responsibilities of its own citizens, while it preaches the values of democracy and tolerance across the globe on a daily basis.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Language connection

It is fun to talk to someone in his/her own language. It brings a sense of closeness. I am always eager to learn at least a couple of words in different languages.
At a restaurant in New Delhi, a group of Europeans were finishing their dinner and we were waiting for our turn. When they got up, I told one of them “Auf Wiedersehen” (Good-bye in German). Surprised, she shook hands saying “Danke” (Thanks).
When we entered the Forum mall in Bangalore, I noticed a European promoting a hair-straightening product for women. My daughter looked at it with excitement and I asked him the price. He mentioned it, and thankfully, I did not faint.
I asked him where he was from and he replied Hungary.
My daughter and I chorused, “Bochanot” (Hungarian word for Excuse me). We had heard the word in a famous English serial.
He was so touched he gave a free demonstration and my daughter was thrilled with her new look. 
Talking about looks, you might have heard this joke.
A woman leaving a beauty parlour tried to dial her hubby, “I am ready, come and pick me up.”
“Wrong number, ma’am,” came the reply. “This is a cemetery.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Joys of travel

Striking conversations with strangers has never been a problem for me.
During a recent one-day bus trip to Agra from Delhi to see Taj Mahal, I had made friends with almost all co-passengers by noon. Young Mohammed told me he was a farmer from Gujarat and I hugged him. I have huge respect for farmers. “How come you speak fluent English in western style?” I asked and his wife replied, “We studied in Britain.”
One Nair of Kerala took the role of a guide and explained all he knew about Delhi. An engineer’s family wanted me to click photos repeatedly and my irritated wife gave me a sly look.
We noticed two young western girls sticking to themselves. When the driver announced a short break for purchases, I casually told one of them, “Return fast or we will leave you here.” They giggled and we introduced each other while entering a shop. Both were Americans, one of Indian origin. “I am a nutrition specialist,” said Jennifer, while Renuka said she was a media student. “Hey mediaaa! Join my gang,” I screamed in excitement prompting a shopkeeper to give a “get out” look. Plain jealousy seeing three youngsters chatting merrily!
Air passengers are perceived as unfriendly, but I had a different experience. On my flight from Delhi to Mumbai, the plane experienced turbulence. I was stunned by the shaking of the plane. An old woman sitting next consoled me, “Don’t worry, we will not die.” I reacted, “I have seen more turbulence at home,” only to get a painful pinch from my wife.
A passenger on the front seat turned and I asked him, “Are you worried too?”
He smiled and replied: “I just remembered my mother-in-law was supposed to accompany me.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Window wisdom

I love windows. The world would have become a boring place without them. A house that does not have a window is as good as a concrete prison.
While visiting three major cities in India, I opened the windows at my place of stay and this is what I observed.
From the second floor window at Karol Bagh in Delhi, I noticed an elderly man who lived opposite the road under a thatched roof. Visibly an Alzheimer’s patient, his body was shaking most of the time. Dressed in simple, holy man’s clothes, he looked at peace with himself. All he did the entire day was to lie on the bed inside or crawl on to the tricycle he had parked outside his hut on the road.
I learnt that he was an autorickshaw driver who stopped working after he got the disease, but never begged for livelihood. “He is noble. People consider him a holy man and offer food and money and also seek blessings,” explained my relative. While leaving Delhi, I smiled and waved at him. He returned the greeting with a wide smile. That’s all we communicated in an entire week.
When I opened the window of the first-floor Bangalore apartment belonging to my sister-in-law, I saw a two-storey building across the road. I gathered that the owner lived on the first floor and ran a shop on the ground floor, while the second-storey apartment was rented out. He sold vegetables at the shop whenever he felt like. What a cosy life!
When I opened one of the windows of a luxurious apartment owned by a relative in Khargar, Mumbai, I noticed a guy answering nature’s call on the footpath opposite the road. But then Mumbai, which indeed is a dynamic city, is also known for such complexities.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Clicks with friends

It was a pleasure meeting Lawyer-Journalist blog friends, Sanands, in Delhi. It was a wonderful get-together. The hero of the evening was junior Sanand, Aditya.
Met journalist friend Sudha in Chennai after years.

Dinner with BB Nayak (7-times Guinness winner) family in Navi Mumbai.

Will try to post more pictures ASAP.