Friday, August 14, 2015

40 on 40 - Lessons from 40 years

Yes, I just hit 40. Sounds like I hit a tow truck. 

We’ve been socially conditioned to treat it as some dead-end, or worse, a hill top. After this, it’s only downhill. The truth is its one of the most liberating milestones in your life. By 40, you are mostly wiser, professionally established, (hopefully) financially secure and personally surer about what you want in life. You are also still young enough to chase some new dreams, enjoy the fruits of your labors and reinvent yourself, if need be.
Running up to my 40th birthday, I started thinking of listing out all that I had learnt in the last decades. All those years had to count for wisdom, if nothing else. Some of the below lessons, I learnt myself. Some were taught to me by others. Some will make me sound profound, others plain stupid. If some sound familiar to you, give me a shout.
1.     If you want something in life, really, really want it, go get it yourself! If you are sitting around waiting for the universe to conspire in your favor, oh dear, it’s gonna be a long wait.

2.       A beautiful body can be acquired, for a price. Everything from good skin to hair to other physical assets can be purchased. You just need a good cosmetic surgeon and a bucket load of money.

3.       No amount of money can buy you a beautiful heart.

4.       Health is wealth. This will sound truer and truer as you grow older. But, as luck would have it, health will be on its way out when the wealth is on its way in. 

5.    Your car is your second home. Keep it well-stocked.

6.    Read the end of the book first. If you don’t like it, you could save yourself a lot of time by not returning to page 1. 

7.     Watch your words. Say ONLY what you mean. And please, for Heaven’s sake, please, DO NOT say what you do not mean.

8.    Nothing beats the blues as getting into your car, rolling up the windows, turning up the radio and singing along. Pretend you are Beyonce or worse, Justin Bieber.

9.    Keep your head in the clouds….but your feet firmly on the ground.

10.   Tennyson was right. ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ Love gives perspective in life.

11.   If you are going to show off by ordering salad at the team lunch, make sure you have eaten before stepping out of home.

12.  Orange is the new black. Basically, wear plenty of colors. Let that wardrobe reflect your every mood.

13.   That said, when in doubt, wear black.

14.   Live life with dignity. Chin up. Stand tall…even if you have to do it in high heels.

15.   Reading innumerable articles on exercise and watching Youtube videos of exercise will NOT help you lose weight. You have to actually, err, exercise.

16.   Be on good terms with your dentist. Seriously, nowhere else does one feel more helpless than while lying inclined in a monstrous chair with menacing drills and saws and pointy objects, all directed at your open jaw.

17.   Get everyone else in the family a regular dental appointment. Hee haa haa haa why should you suffer alone?

18.   Do NOT succumb to impulse haircuts. You know that crazy idea to get the same hairdo as the bleached biker chick in Fast and Furious? Probably not a good idea, if the ‘fastest’ your life has ever gone is to beat traffic at KR Puram bridge and get into office for 10am conf call.

19.    Do go an impulse holiday. Or holidays, if you can afford them. Some of my fondest memories are from holidays taken on an impulse, a fanciful whim. I have looked back and thought, wow, I can’t believe I did that.

20.    Don’t be a martyr. If you really want to be of any use to others, ‘put on your oxygen mask first’.

21.   Never shop on a hungry stomach or on pay day. Both ways, you’ll make purchase decisions that you may regret.

22.   Choose your battles. You have limited time and energy. It’s not worth expending energy over every autowallah who flouts lane discipline or demands one-and-half, but its worth fighting over your next pay hike or female infanticide or deforestation. Choose your fights.

23.   Keep the past firmly in the past.

24.   Indulge eccentricities – in yourself as well as in others. Like, wearing a purple hat, speaking in alliterative sentences or arranging notes denomination-wise in a wallet, all Gandhi’s facing up. 

25.    Beg, borrow, steal but pay off your credit card bill every month. Okay, don’t steal please.

26.   People change. Accept it.

27.   Om Googlaaya namah. The search engine has transformed our lives. Respect.

28.   When it comes to crucial life decisions, everyone makes them at their own paced time. Allow them. You can take the horse to the water; you cannot make it drink.

29.   ‘Wash your hair. Clip your nails. Don’t wear heels. Be an engineer. Be a doctor.’ Say these words over and over again to your children to successfully sound like your parents.

30.   Values are subjective. What’s sacrosanct to you could mean squat to someone else. It’s okay.

31.   Forgive. But never forget.

32.   When someone’s making you angry, smile. Hold your breath, suck your stomach in and smile hard.

33.   “If the eyes were without tears, the heart would have no rainbow.” One is truly alive only when one empathizes with life and people around us.

34.   Save for a rainy day. Oh BTW, when it rains, it usually pours.

35.   Don’t play the victim card. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

36.   This too shall pass.

37.   It’s okay to be a sentimental fool.

38.   That point in the middle of a vociferous argument when you realize you are wrong, that’s the perfect point to pretend you have a call from your mother.

39.   Never add your boss to your Facebook friend list.

40.   Make your own lists. Business Insider may tell you to complete the Ironman Triathlon before you turn 40, but they can go take a walk (pun intended!).  Stick to lists that enrich your own life on your own terms.  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Too much India in New Jersey

Time Magazine apologized earlier this week to Indian-Americans for publishing an article by Joel Stein that was offensive and derogatory to the community.

I agree, the article IS offensive in parts. Its like Mr Stein started out writing a humor column but somewhere midway he gave in to the strands of subconcious racism that he can't deny have woven themselves into his diatribe against the Indian onslaught in his precious New Jersey hometown. Come on, "dotheads"?!! You cant imagine you'll get away with language like that in a magazine like Time. Celebrities get flak for using politically-incorrect terms all the time. Mel Gibson was in trouble for using the 'N' word recently. Public figures are made to apologize for using the 'F' word. So, I am glad Joel Stein was required to tender an apology for using the 'D' word.

Not that the apology sounds sincere to me. He says "I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people." What? He didn' realize how much the below sentences would pinch.

"Edison's first Indian generation didn't quickly assimilate (and give their kids Western names). But if you look at the current Facebook photos of students at my old high school, J.P. Stevens, which would be very creepy of you, you'll see that, while the population seems at least half Indian, a lot of them look like the Italian Guidos I grew up with in the 1980s: gold chains, gelled hair, unbuttoned shirts. In fact, they are called Guindians. Their assimilation is so wonderfully American that if the Statue of Liberty could shed a tear, she would. Because of the amount of cologne they wear."

Frankly, he doesnt spare the Italians too.

In his apology, Mr Stein says that he is "someone who believes that immigration has enriched American life and my hometown in particular..." but I really doubt it. He is mighty caustic for a believer. Perhaps, I would have respected him more for his honesty if he had only admitted frankly that he is not particularly excited by the Indian- Americans taking over Edison. At least, that way, there might have been healthy debates on the immigration issue.

I have read comments on this controversy in which people have expressed that perhaps we Indians can't take a joke on ourselves. Maybe, we are being over-sensitive. Its just another columnist spilling his guts about how left-out he feels when he goes back home. Big deal if our food is too spicy or our cousins are not too smart. So what if we love our Bollywood dramas and are generous with our samosas. If Mr Stein has figured out why "India is so damn poor", then perhaps the Planning Commission could consult with him.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You see, he didnt know corporal punishment was illegal!

And, as if that justifies everything.

As if it justifies that 12-year old Rouvan Rawla was repeatedly rebuked, harrassed, humiliated and finally caned by Principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi of Le Martinere school in Kolkata. He was caned so hard that the cane snapped in two. Worse, it broke the spirit of the boy so badly that he hung himself in his room four days later.

In response to the protests and outcry, the Principal has now "apologized". He said, ""I have to admit that when I caned this boy, I made a mistake and am willing to face consequences of that. But to link the caning of this boy to his death 4-5 days later is stretching it."

Really?!! Is it really such a stretch to understand the connection between a 12-year-old's fragile, impressionable psyche and the emotional trauma caused by physical and public humiliation? Hmmm, doesnt sound like rocket science to me. And the Principal is supposed to be the expert of children's education, personality development and wellbeing.

There was another part of his statement that leaves me stupefied. I actually hadnt realized that there are schools with overt policies in favour of corporal punishment.

Apparently, this school does believe that to "correct children, we need to punish them". This will probably stir the hornet's nest, but I cant help screaming out loud - NO. One doesnt need to punish in order to correct a child. And, one definitely doesnt need to punish physically.

Photo Credit: The pic on top is from here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Thousand Awesome Things

There's this guy who decided to focus on a bright twinkle in a dark sky. Everyday. For a thousand weekdays.

I stumbled upon an online write-up in The Huffington Post on Neil Pasricha's book The Book of Awesome. He had started it as a website 1000 Awesome Things back in 2008. In each post, he writes about "one simple, universal little joy" like "snow days, bakery air, or cashiers opening up new lanes at the grocery store, the smell of rain on a hot sidewalk, and waking up and realizing it's Saturday."

Most of the posts are bang-on and just about everybody, from every part of the world, could relate to them. He also peppers the post with personal vignettes and that makes them all the more endearing. They are well-written and that's probably the reason why the book works.

"Awesome!" is not usually my chosen exclaimation of sheer delight, but were I to use it, what would be my top 10 instances? Its actually tough to shortlist ten, leave alone identify the top ten. So, the below ten are in no order of priority, neither are they the only ten.

#) Getting home from work just in time before the evening rain pours down and then settling down by the window with a hot cup of tea.

#) Finding money in an inner pocket of an old handbag.

#) The warm, snug feel of a baby's little fist curling instinctively around your finger when you nudge them.

#) The smell of a new book just bought from the bookshop.

#) The high of a chocolate pastry after an emotionally stressful event.

#) Winning a full-house in a game of Housie Housie at the local club's Diwali gala.

#) Waking up just before dawn and realizing you still have a couple of hours of (guilt-free) sleep available to you.

#) That rare, once-in-a-blue-moon, bewildering bliss sometime mid-afternoon on a Monday when you realize you have absolutely no work that needs to be done. You are free for the day. And even if you have nowhere to go and none of your friends have the time, you feel AWESOME!

#) The slight weight of your young child's body as he/she lies soundly asleep in your arms.

#) Listening to the tinkling of a windchime.

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Neighborly Relations

How does one say "India should be more generous" and also say "I can't change anti-India sentiments", both in the same breath?

Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina's statement, in a most I-am-helpless-what-can-I-do manner, puzzles me. She also implied that the anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh has been festering since the 1950s. The soundbite is here.

Lunch-hour conversation over Sheikh Hasina's stuttered remark brought India's relations with our other (dare I say, angrier) neighbor to the table. Someone mentioned the recently launched The Times of India initiative Aman ki Aasha. Its hogwash, he said. The anti-India sentiment in Pakistan is so deeply embedded that its not going to change for several generations to come.

So, let me get this right. Because you believe that your neighbor hates you from the core of his being, you are never going to do anything about the situation. Never take any initiative, never try to understand, never make overtures or for that matter, war. Just continue to live in status quo? Continue to live in a world of terror attacks and hopelessness?

I dont think I could die in peace if I were to bequeth such a world to my child.

Photo Credit: The pic above is from here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Telangana Effect - To create a new state, go on a fast

If Telangana can, we will too.

So says Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha (for a separate Bundelkhand) and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (for Gorkhaland). Following soon will be Saurashtra, Vidharbha, and even a Mithilanchal. Why, even Coorg region in Karnataka wants to become a state!

India is sure going to see a number of high-profile fasts-unto-death on the evening news in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

President Patil should say more

President Pratibha Patil was addressing the press conference after her history-making sortie in the Sukhoi-30MKI. Without meaning any disrespect, I must say she looked real cute in that G-suit and cap. Like with her usual outfit of saree (draped over her head) and full-sleeve blouse, the suit was buttoned up to her throat. I do feel it makes her look rather uptight, though.

Anyway, what she said was interesting. Forget the "it was an interesting and unique experience..." blah blah. Commenting on women in combat roles, she said that "decision was left to the experts". Given that this 74-year-old woman had just made a half-hour sortie in an Indian Air Force Fighter Jet (a combat aircraft), I wondered who was the 'expert' who had certified her eligible and why weren’t those experts allowing other women into combat roles. I believe, the IAF currently has 784 women officers working in different branches, but at present they are barred from the fighter stream.

I get it, the Presidential sortie was just a promotional gesture to probably do some brand building for the Indian defense forces. If so, then I wish she had taken a stronger stance on women in combat roles, when asked that question. A Presidential opinion could carry a lot of weight, you know. She doesn’t voice it as often as I would like.

All said and done, hats off to the President. She actually ventured to take the flight at age 74. That's an achievement.