Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Freedom to BE

This post was actually written for my friend’s dauther, but in hindsight, I was able to learn much from it too.

Many of our children want to take paths that are, to put it mildly, “OFF the beaten path”. Some of them want to discontinue studies and travel the world. Many of them want to quit corporate careers and move to farming. As parents, obviously, our reactions range from quiet acceptance to being appalled. We’d like to blame “The times” , “Technology” or anything else that’s handy - like the white handkerchief that the mother always used to press into their hands as they left for school, or the said second cousin of the spouse who you “always knew” was a bad influence.

This post is for those children - and parents.

Dear Person (Because, as you know, I firmly believe in the right of the child to be recognised as an equal stakeholder in the world), you are FREE to make a decision about the future course of your life -both short term and long term.

But that decision must be taken from a place of freedom. Not from a place of slavery. Slavery is a strong word to use, but from where I stand, there is so much of it all around!

What does that even mean? Being free and taking a decision from place of freedom?

Here is what I think it means:

Freedom is not a linear thing. It is multi dimensional. And these are the most important dimensions.

 To be truly free, you need to be:

A. Physically Free
The first, and one of the most important dimensions of freedom, is physical independence. Are you able to take care of your physical needs yourself? Are you in a situation where you are physically safe and reasonably free to move around? If we are not able to take care of our simple physical needs like hygiene, safety, health and even basic physical movement, then our decisions will always be based on that dependence. Of all dimensions of freedom, this is the most fundamental.

B. Financially Free
If you lead a life that is physically free, the next freedom that you must have is financial freedom. The ability to get up and not have to worry about the next meal frees you up in an incredible way. And the converse is even more true - lack of financial freedom gnaws at your ability to take independent decisions progressively - until it destroys all your relationships, connections, work and even day to day actions. No decision taken in this state of existence is a decision connected to “freedom.”

C. Emotionally Free
Vivekananda explained this beautifully. In a single, simple sentence, he solved the world’s most difficult question for me - Love never brings pain. Love can only bring joy. Attachment brings pain.
Take a minute to think about that. Remember the time when you felt absolute, pure love. The object of that love is not important. The joy that you experienced at that moment - that is.

But love is not the only emotional dependence that we need to break. If we are emotionally dependent - on anything - another person, a place, even an emotion (if all our actions come from anger, for instance, or, as is more common, an emotional need to be accepted by those we want to align with), then we cannot experience the freedom of our decisions. Those decisions are basically slave reactions to our emotional needs.

If you have not tried it yet, try loving for its own sake. Not because you expect acceptance from them, or approval. Just because you find it in your heart to give love, and therefore you want to. That is when you will know emotional freedom - when you connect with someone because you want to - not because you need to.

D. Spiritually Free
We are not bodies with a soul. We are souls in a body.

Of all our freedoms, this should be held dearest. Let no one sabotage your spiritual journey.

There is a reason that a lot of followers of spiritual leaders do not experience the same peace and spiritual progression as the guru. It is because they are following the path of the Guru, not their own.

Remember that a guru is like the runner who holds the baton in a relay race.

It is the baton that has to reach the cross line - not the runner. The runner puts their best into helping the baton on that journey - holding it safely and taking it as best as is possible for them. But the journey belongs to the baton. Not the runner. If you make someone else the custodian of your spiritual journey, then it isnt yours any more. A guru is to learn from, and we surrender to them for the learning. But the responsibility of the journey rests with us.

To be spiritually free is to own this journey for ourselves. If your decisions are coming from a dependence on someone or something or a group and if you cannot imagine your spiritual journey without them, you are acting from a place of belonging, but not from a place of freedom. When you act with spiritual freedom, you will take control of your own journey and you will then take decisions based on what your journey needs at that moment.

And finally, lets talk about the image attached to this note. Radha Krishna, even if they are in the middle of the circle, surrounded by a thousand gopis, are free. The gopis, even though they surround the love struck couple, are not.

When you reach a place of freedom, you will know. And at that time, you will yourself observe a difference in the quality of your decisions, and the satisfaction you get from taking those decisions and acting on them.

For the parents: As guardians, we can only help our children reach that place of freedom. Because we have seen more slavery than they have, and can make an effort to recognise it. Once our children are truly in a place of freedom, will find them taking decisions that are not temporary.

We will see a difference in the peace on their faces. Instead of wondering if it is, in our terms, “a good decision”, lets try to see whether it is coming from a place of freedom. Because the accompaniment of freedom is wisdom. Freedom is not easily got.

Monday, August 27, 2018

On Childhood Sexual Abuse

The only difference
between scholars
and survivors
is that
in sermons
and survivors
in monosyllables.

A sketch, and then a note to go with it..

माँ का 
सर नहीं होता।

होते हैं 
केवल हाथ 
बड़ा सा ह्रदय 

एक गोद भी होती है 
सारी उम्र 
रहती हैं। 

माँ का बस 
सर नहीं होता।

Monday, August 20, 2018

Qotd: Stand-up comedians

Dear Stand-up comedians of India: Fucking is a verb. Please stop using it as an adjective.


Ppl who don't want to imagine the #PoT : Porn of things.

# FuckingShoes , Fuckingtubelight, FuckingClassroom ..

Seriously, none of these things are capable of actions you're ascribing to them.

Mahi Ve - Episode 25

WHY??? Like, WHY???

After salivating over Shiv Whatever-his-last-name-is, after fervently, fervently hoping and praying that she marries Shiv and not Ishaan... after watching the last 3 episodes jaise mere hi ghar mein koi galti kar raha hai (as if I am personally sad) , as they prepare to marry Mahi and Ishaan (who is not bad, but God, he is not Shiv)

WHY, Yash Raj TV, would u do the most cliched, hackneyed, boring thing possible and make her run away from the mandap, and NOT into Shiv? (better still, Shiv's arms, but Shiv will do just fine).

Shiv... after turning in up in the most unexpected way at all times, after creating a character so lovely (and unreal, but lovely), would you NOT be present at that Wimpy's outlet in some way?

Dear Yash Raj TV, next time:
A. Make her run away faster. That runaway bride thingie is so not cool.
B. Let her see sense sooner. Much, much sooner. Can you imagine how much we wanted to see romance between Shiv and Mahi? (OK, Shiv and Anyone! Just put Shiv in the frame please)
C. End it in a logical marriage.. even Mahi's intelligence was insulted in this ending. Like, Seriously!!! (I'm not a big fan of Mahi's EQ or IQ, but this!!!!)

And I have officially grown old. The sweet character gets the crush, not the hot ones. Ufff!!

PS: I know its a really old serial, but no one else has spilled the beans online, and I want to help future viewers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Deemak / Termite

लकड़ी खा जाते हैं
और गाड़ियां
बच्चों के पार्क। 

destroy wood
And cars
children's parks.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

2 songs, decades apart, yet so alike..

Isi liye.. navras atal hai.. bcs the basic human emotions.. they don't change..

ESPECIALLY the one where you say you don't love. and you love.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Towards Respectful Parenting - II

In this post, we laid a foundation. Lets understand the idea of Respectful Parenting.

Respectful Parenting is a idea that a child is an equal participant in the family unit. That a child deserves respect as an individual. But most importantly, perhaps, Respectful Parenting is the idea that children are sentient, thinking, feeling beings who are able to hold up their own end of a conversation. That they are not blind particles waiting to be led. They are, in fact, the ansh(element) of the same cosmic consciousness that resides in you and me and makes us intelligent units of existence.

I have tried to find ways to put Respectful Parenting in words, and I think, that the following positive affirmations for the parent, will help us internalise Respectful Parenting in the best way:

1. The child comes through us, but not to us.
2. Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which we cannot visit, even in our dreams.
3. My child has the same conscious existence that I do and is, to the same degree, a spiritual, sentient and aware being.
4. My child may know less, but is not less intelligent or less conscious.
5. The child deserves respect in all aspects of life.

These affirmations are incremental - in the first 2, we slowly let go of our inherent sense of ownership and belonging over the child. In these affirmations, we become what Gibran has said that we are - caretakers of a luminous soul, not its owners. Our focus shifts from that of the owner, to that of the teacher or gardener or nurturer. In doing this, not only do we free the child, but we also (more importantly) free ourselves of the attachment that comes from owning. To know that we are just agents of growth allows us to give more freely of our love, and removes us from the attachment that must necessarily come from ownership or belonging.

In these 2 affirmations, the child also shifts from being "It" to being "He" or "She". I find the use of "it" for the child just..wrong. To call a child "it" is to deny its conscious existence.

When we open these 2 paths - that of thinking of the child as an "it" and the attachment of viewing the child as something that belongs to us (is 'ours'), we are ready to move to the next stage of this acceptance of the child's divinity:

The Child is a sentient, aware, conscious being.

Inside all of us is an element of the spiritual presence. We acknowledge it in each other when we say "Namaste" - the Divine in me, bows to the divine in you. It is now time to acknowledge and respect the divine in the child. The child is a sentient, aware, conscious being.

My child may know less, but is not less intelligent or less conscious.
This affirmation is to fight one of our strongest cognitive biases. We are all brought up with the idea that "Parents know what is best for us".
That may be true, they may know more. But they do not know what is best for us. Look back at your life. Can you think of times when you really, really wanted something, but your parents told you that that wish was unwise, and that you'd end up a fool? Or worse, hurt?  How do you feel about that decision now? 20 years later?

Here is one way to view this - our parents know a LOT more about this world and how it works. What they do not know enough of, is what is important for US. It is the same for our children and us. They know less, but they are not less intelligent. Nor are they any less capable of processing information.

We can, as parents, acknowledge that their "What" knowledge is limited. But so is ours. If we do not stop ourselves from taking decisions because our conscious knowledge is limited, what right do we have to stop them? Have we taken all our decisions in a state of perfect knowledge?

This affirmation will change A LOT of your relationship with your child. It will shift the onus of decision making from you to the child. All those queries of "What books can I get for a 9 year old avid reader?" OR "What is the best career for a science graduate?" All those times when you take a decision on behalf of your child because they "don't know enough" will change. You may provide information, but the processing has to be theirs.

It will dramatically change the way they view themselves. They will start to see themselves as people who are responsible for the results of their actions. They will start to take control of their decisions, and take ownership of the consequences of those actions.

You have no idea how that will free you up. Didn't study? Poor Marks. Your problem! Don't read? Can't do quiz. Too bad! Don't practice? Wont make it to the school team. Your call!

The sheer amount of nagging that will simply poof! Vanish from your life once you hold the children responsible for their actions (and make yourself responsible only for the information) is incredible. You have to experience it to know what I mean.

The child deserves respect in all aspects of life.
This is easily the most important affirmation of all. Because it completely changes the way that we view the universe around us. Respecting a child as an equal human being is a very important part of nurturing them. I had a father tell me recently - I have decided to split from my wife. I asked, "What about your child? How will it affect them?"
"Oh, he is a child. He will just have to deal with it."
When you have internalised this affirmation, "He is just a child" are words that you will not understand any more. The child is an equal participant in your family.

Does Respectful Parenting mean that we let our children run amuck and take decisions on behalf of grown ups?

No. In fact, it means the exact opposite. It means that we eliminate the idea that if they take their own decisions, they will run amuck and take wrong decisions (remember affirmation 4). When you do Respectful Parenting, you will not understand where this desire to control children is coming from. You will experience the child as a perfectly conscious person who has much to learn and much to teach. Your interactions with the child will become mindful, intelligent and full of new learning everyday. You will find yourself having access to the inner world of the child and you will probably discover what a wonderful world it is.

This is perhaps one of the most heartfelt posts that I have written on the subject.

Towards Respectful Parenting

Honestly, I don't know how to start this post. Or why. What I am about to say is pretty explosive and is going to be very unpopular. But then, when have I ever said anything that is popular?

I am going to present and defend the radical notion that children are people - not "mini-me's" - full people. They are people with an ability to think. And they deserve respect.

When someone gets pregnant, in my circle, I hand calligraph and send them 2 posters - the first is this poem:

And the second is this:

Pay special attention to the second one, because this whole post is about that second poem.

"They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."

They are with you, but they belong not to you. They come through you but not from you. Every single day, and every single time that we try to call them "our" children, it is time to remember that. We are channels, we are conduits and caretakers. But they are the children of destiny.

"You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."

When my son was in Nursery, Mark Parkinson, the Director of the group of schools, stood on the podium and said, "60 percent of these children are going to be in professions that have not been imagined yet. Do not think that you can prepare them for the future." Look around you - standup comic, SEO, Information Security, Digital Marketing, Customer Experience Designer, Image Consultant, Graphic Designer - professions that were not imagined a decade ago and are the highest paying today. And the list of these professions only grows larger every day. We cannot prepare these children for their future because we have no idea what that future will look like. And that has always been the case.

So, now that we have established 2 basic things:
1. That we do not own our children.
2. That we are not equipped to "prepare" them for a future that we cannot understand or imagine

Let's move to the core of the idea of  Respectful Parenting. (Next Post)

Friday, August 03, 2018

Os Ke Rang by Viki Arya - Book Review

If I had the words to praise this book enough, I would do just that. If I had to point out the best pieces in the book, I'd just have to reprint the whole book. Every page leaves u breathless (and I read a LOT of poetry every week), and every single piece is a universe unto itself.
If Brevity is your thing, and if you like poetry that says a lot in a very few words, make Viky Arya a must have in your library.

While the words themselves are beautiful, the composition of the book is also fantastic. The colors, images and the overall "feel" of the book goes so well. This is the perfect book to lose oneself with on a rainy day, high up in the mountains, looking out of a window. As the rain soaks the mountains, the words in the book will soak your soul.

In our library, there is a section of books which are so precious that they are never lent out. Viky Arya's Os ke Rang is the latest entrant to that section.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

On Fake News

आवश्यकता है: हंस की 

जो जीवन में 
दूध का दूध 
और पानी का पानी कर जाए

पर उस से भी आवश्यक 
ये है कि 
वह दिखा कर 
विश्वास दिलाये 
दूध का दूध 
और पानी का पानी 
होता है. 
सच, और 
सचमुच फर्क होता है.

ਲੋੜ ਹੈ: ਹੰਸ ਦੀ
ਦੂਧ ਦਾ ਦੂਧ
 ਤੇ ਪਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਪਾਣੀ
ਕਰ ਕੇ ਦਿਖਾਏ
ਤਸੱਲੀ ਦੁਵਾਏ
ਕੇ ਸੱਚੀ
ਸੱਚ ਤੇ ਝੂਠ ਵਿਚ
ਵਿਥ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ

Meena Kumari Ji - Happy Birthday

It is her birthday today. She is known as the tragedy queen. But she was so, so much more than that single story.

Today, I found myself humming Nanhi Kali, sone chali. and for some reason, I thot this was picturised on Meena Kumari.

But the song I remember when I think of Meena Kumari is not a sad song. It is one of my all time favorite love songs. Bcs I think, that while she knew how to be sad, she knew even better, how to love:

In the book, because he is, Meghna Gulzar shares a copy of a portrait of Meena Kumari that Gulzar had in his office for ever. I think that that portrait defines her better than anything else that we have seen. That remains my favorite portrait of her. Will post it soon.

In the meantime, this is what the potpourri of her memory looks like, in my head:

Chalte Chalte… cannot, cannot, get over that song:

Ajeeb Dastaan hai ye... because only she could have been Kalpana..

Another from Pakeeza: Aaj hum apni.. there is incredible strength in this song...

The way she runs after Raj Kumar says - Inka Naam Hai 'Pakeeza'

You might think of Sahib, Biwi aur Gulaam. But that's not her best work. That's not who she was. She was so much more. She had so much more strength than that. I cannot imagine her that way.

Happy Birthday.... to the woman who was strong enough to know what she wanted, and wouldn't settle for less.