Mango Trees

There are three mango trees right outside my window.

CornerThis one is at the left corner and its branches intermingle with the middle one – almost as if they were one. If you visited my earlier post here you would remember that I commented on their apparent overnight transformation. One fine day I noticed that the leaves were no longer dark or stiff and dusty. They were lush, tender green, brown and yellow shiny leaves! No striptease, shedding old leaves, baring arms and all that – just a magical instant make over. I promised to catch them in the act the next time. But that was a whole year away. That’s when it struck me – there was no need to wait for so long.

MtreesThey were both here, right under my nose. That’s the middle mango tree on the left and the third one on the right. I don’t need to ask you if you can see the difference between the two mango trees.

Mango treeOne is lush green and yellow, overloaded with fresh luscious leaves, heavily pregnant so to speak, just waiting to pop out mangoes. And the other, stuck in a time warp with its dark sparse leaves, stagnant and unchanging through the seasons. As if it had given up on life, barely hanging on – a gust of wind would be enough to snap it, end it all.

I looked once more at the dying tree and blinked.

What was that?

MangoWithin the dry hard winter leaves nestled tender, fresh shiny leaves, lime and brown. Can you see?

By the way, how many mangoes did you count?

It’s never over until you say it is over – and sometimes not even then.

For Becca’s Sunday Trees 283

CFFC: Kolam

If you are a regular visitor to my blog you may have noticed that I have already published my photos for this week’s fun foto challenge hosted by Cee on Looking Down on Things. But as I mentioned, I have a few more photos to share on this topic.

I opted for a separate post for these photos because they are an insight into Indian art, thought, philosophy and way of life.


In many parts of India (and Asia), patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. Usually these patterns (rangoli or alpana) are made on the occasion of religious festivals and auspicious functions such as weddings. But in South India, these drawings called kolam (among other things depending on region) are made in front of the house, every morning.

rangoli2Kolams are not only decorative but are also believed to bring prosperity. Kolams were traditionally made of coarse rice flour – it serves as food for ants so that they don’t have to walk too far for a decent meal. It is also an invitation to birds and other smaller creatures. Kolams symbolize thinking beyond the self; the philosophy that the greatest joy is in giving rather than receiving. Only if you give, will you receive.And no one is too poor to feed another or welcome another.

rangoli4Every morning, women of the house clean their homes, courtyard, road and draw patterns with rice flour. The kolams are generally drawn while the surface is still damp so the design will hold better. As a child I remember watching Aunty as she drew bigger and bigger patterns without moving from her crouched position on the floor with just a flick of her wrist holding the rice powder between her thumb and forefinger. It was like magic.

rangoli1Walking back from the beach after witnessing a breathtaking sunrise, I was taken aback to see kolams on the road. The streets were deserted now but soon they would be bustling with activity. The patterns were sure to be trampled upon – why would anyone deliberately let their work of art be destroyed?

It was only later that I began to see the glimmerings of the deeper philosophy behind this tradition. Kolams on the road symbolize the impermanence of life and everything in it. It is a daily reminder to go ahead with our tasks without being attached to it.

Today’s work won’t last forever, be prepared to do it over and over again, all the days of your life. Be grateful for the new day, this life and another opportunity to create a new kolam, once again.

More Training

Good morning all! Here’s wishing you all a Happy International Happiness Day in advance (March 20th).

By the way, anyone training to be happy? Time to take out your happiness scales and rate yourselves. Hope you find remarkable improvement in happiness levels! Care to share your results? But even if there is no improvement, there’s no need to be unhappy. We can start all over again. And again and again – after all practice makes one perfect. J And to help you in this happy venture, log on to this site and download a free Happiness Guidebook.

And while you are at it, how about some more training? Apparently one can even train to be resilient. Apparently, the key to resilience or the capacity to bounce back from difficulties is, by changing our attitude towards things. Just as Shakespeare famously wrote, “Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so.”

Or, as researchers like George Bonanno, a clinical psychologist, put it – “Perception – Do you conceptualize an event as traumatic, or as an opportunity to learn and grow? Events are not traumatic until we experience them as traumatic.” In this article, posted by Maria Konnikova, he speaks of a different term: PTE, or potentially traumatic event. He suggests that every frightening event, no matter how negative it might seem from the sidelines, has the potential to be traumatic or not to the person experiencing it.

Therefore, it is how one views an event makes it stressful or not. For instance, suppose I have a massive (or minor) argument with my husband (err well no need to suppose I guess!) I could fret and fume, expect and demand instant resolution of the conflict. Which of course could lead to amicable solution (in my dreams) or just escalate the conflict.

Or, I could utilize the unexpected (and much needed) bonus time to write Chapter 45 or browse through Calvin for a few laughs, or draw hope and succor from quotes on life in general or annoying ‘better’ halves, in particular. Psst – sometimes, I am tempted to provoke a confrontation just so that…hushhh (who knows he may just be reading this – well I live both in hope and dread)

Going back to the topic at hand, research has shown that people can be trained to think of and react to unpleasant events and situations in a less emotional way, or one that is less negative. And the good news is, training seems to have lasting effects.

On the flip side, the mind can also lead us to exaggerate or blow out of proportions the myriad events that occur in our humdrum lives. Often, an event is dissected, analyzed, hashed and rehashed ad nauseam until it becomes bigger than it really is. It works sort of like a bubble gum – diligently chewed upon until it spreads out thin and can be blown into a gigantic balloon. The bigger the better until it blows up right into our faces.

The ideal approach would probably be to chew on the event, absorb the juice and then spit out the tasteless pointless remnants.

Only when we acknowledge the addictive and pointless nature of this negative circle of thoughts and make a determined effort to put a full stop (or even a semi-colon) can we hope to emerge a better, stronger person to take on the challenges of life, heads on. It is a slow painstaking process, often one-step forward and two steps backwards. Nevertheless, it can be done.

Trust me – been there, done that (err… doing it)!

Happy training and wish you all tons and tons of happiness – not just on 20th March but ‘hamesha

Just look at Calvin – even he knows how the mind can trick you, perhaps even kill you.


Thought for the day

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
Maya Angelou

“What’s the use of complaining about something you have no intentions of changing?”
Mario L Castellanos

“If you can quit, quit. If you can’t quit, stop complaining – this is what you chose.”
J.A. Konrath

“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
Randy Pausch

Have a super weekend people and catch you all on Monday – hopefully with loads for me to read 😉

Where there is a Will…

I finally did it – I stopped reading the newspaper! Do I miss the news? Not at all, in fact I no longer dread mornings. Instead I feel free and have a couple of hours to spare. And guess what I found – better news. An online newspaper – The Better India – that makes it a point to focus only on positive news.

Reading it, one cannot help but be inspired and marvel at the resilience and capabilities of mere mortals. If only one has the will and determination – anything, and I do mean anything, is possible. Just a glimpse into the lives of three remarkable people has given new life to the adage – where there is a will there is a way.

Let’s talk about Sparsh Shah first who lives in the US. He suffers from a condition known as Osteogenesis imperfecta as a result of which he was born with 40 fractures, give or take a few. This incurable condition makes his bones very fragile – even a handshake can cause a fracture. In 12 years of his life, he has already suffered more than 125 fractures and has undergone multiple surgeries. One can only imagine the agony and pain that has been his constant companion right from birth.

But he has no time for pain – only for music. He has already  raised half a million dollars for various charitable organizations through his singing talent and unbreakable indomitable spirit. His singing and joie de vivre is enough to give anybody the goosebumps – do listen to it and read more about him here.

When asked how he deals with the pain, he says: “There is not much you can do about pain…isn’t it? Crying is just a natural response to pain but you need to smile. This is what my Papa taught me since I was small. He said that I should tell my bones to smile whenever there is a fracture. If I don’t smile at them, they won’t respond to me with a smile. And so, whenever there is an x-ray after a fracture, I look at my bones and say – Smile please bones.”

Not just his bones, his smile tells us all to smile and just smile –where is the time or need for tears?

Moving back to India, let’s meet Amir Hussain from Kashmir, a diehard cricket fan, who lost both his arms in an accident when he was just 8 years old. His father had to sell off everything to pay for his treatment, which took almost 3 years. When he tried to join school, his teachers sent him back home, believing him to be a useless cripple. And today at 26 years of age, Amir Hussain is the captain of Jammu and Kashmir para-cricket team. He bowls with his foot and bats with his shoulder and chin and is completely self-reliant. Don’t believe me? See the video. All this didn’t happen overnight – 18 years of single-minded struggle amidst societal boos and jeers. But he made it happen through sheer grit and determination.

Last, but definitely not the least, is Mahananda Metri, a woman from Karnataka. She was sold off into the flesh trade at 13 years of age to repay her mother’s debt. “Bahut dukhta tha madam.. din me kam se kam 10-12 aadmi aate the. Par kya karti.. Maa bimar thi aur karza chukana tha (It used to hurt a lot, madam. About 10-12 men used to visit me daily. But what could I do? My mother was sick and I had to repay a debt).” She either bled continuously for months or was pregnant. She underwent two abortions, one at 14 and one at 16. Illiterate and too weak to work farms as a laborer there appeared to be no hope for her but the flesh trade even after the loan was repaid. But she didn’t give up her struggle. She broke free of the flesh trade and worked as a laborer in farms. She learned tailoring to supplement her income and pay for her daughters education. One is studying BAMS and the other is in class 10 while she takes tailoring classes. No one can tell by looking at the beautiful innocent shy smile on her face what unimaginable horrors she has undergone. Yet, gritty strength and steely determination is very much evident in her wiry frame.

What is it that gave these individuals the strength to defy fate? One can only conjecture and perhaps write reams. But I do believe it’s one crucial ingredient (or rather absence of it) – self-pity. They didn’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. They just picked themselves up and did whatever had to be done to rise above the situation they found themselves in.

I can only salute their spirit and hope for a fraction of their courage, strength and determination.

My heartfelt thanks to the TBI team for bringing out these people and their stories from obscurity and giving them the platform and the recognition that they so richly deserve.

And also for bringing positivity back into our lives as well as reaffirming faith in our own selves – for that is the only thing we need to move ahead.

Thought for the day:

“We are going to fight. We are going to be hurt. And in the end, we will stand.”
Stephen King, The Drawing of the Three

PS: Here’s the link to Chapter 40 and of course Calvin – risking life and limb to live it up.

Calvin and Hobbes


Train to be Happy

Happiness has been defined (by Wikipedia) as a mental or emotional state of well being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happiness is so elusive in today’s world that there is a day dedicated to happiness. Just like Women’s day, one day in a year -20th March- has been declared the International Day of Happiness – how tragic is that?

Everyone wants to be happy – yet we never think of aiming for happiness. We somehow expect to be happy as a by-product of our activities and achievements. I shall earn money, spend money, be rich, be famous, get married (or divorced!) and then be happy. Yet, I do believe that if one can’t be happy in the present situation, it is very likely that some other situation is highly unlikely to be changing ‘happiness’ levels any time soon. So how can one get happiness?

Once a man asked Lord Buddha, “I want happiness. How can I get it?”

The Enlightened One said, “Remove ‘I’, that’s ego. Remove ‘want’, that’s desire. All that remains is ‘Happiness.’

Here are some more secrets to happiness unveiled by Lord Buddha

A disciplined mind brings happiness

No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.

Learn to let go, that’s the secret of happiness

The mind is the source of happiness and unhappiness

There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.

Tough to follow (or even grasp) one would think, especially in today’s modern times. So how about some tips from the happiest person in the world? Do you even know who the world’s happiest man is?

It’s Matthieu Ricard. He not only offers advice how to be happy but also proposes that just like one trains one’s body for a marathon one can train one’s mind to be happy! Amazing isn’t it? Read all about it here.

Here’s an idea – make a scale of 0 to 10 and rate your happiness on it now. Start training for happiness and then you can rate yourself again on 20th March. Anyone game?

Happy training!

PS. Oops in my happiness I forgot about Chapter 32 and Calvin (laughing isnt he funny?) not to mention the Blog Index big grin


Lessons from Life

Life is probably the best teacher of all. If only we could learn from the lessons that are dished out to us in one form or the other throughout our lives. Yet all we focus on are how well we (or our children) perform in school and what grades we (they) get and forget to educate them. Like how Mark Twain put it -“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Just take the case of the baby giraffe for instance – they never go to school. And the moment they are born, they get the most important and probably the toughest lessons of their life. The moment she is born, she is welcomed into this world by a kick from her mother. And if the newborn survives this, chances are that nothing in life will ever faze her. Read more about the baby giraffe’s first brush with her mom and life in general here.

Perhaps it is time to take a lesson or two from the mother giraffe — no no I didn’t mean for you to kick them 😉 Just not mollycoddle and shield them too much from life’s harsh realities.

Here’s to better learning from life’s lessons -may our education never end.Wonder if there is anything to be learned from Chapter 30 and Calvin. It’s actually his Dad this time 😛 Calvin’s mom does have a point doesn’t she? 😉

Thought for the day: Sometimes the best helping hand you can get is a good, firm push:- Joann Thomas

I would be happy to get a firm push or two but I guess all are busy with school work and exams.

Ahh well, all said and done, grades do matter…

Best of luck to the exam goers and even more importantly, their beleaguered parents.

Hum intezaar karenge – aur option bhi kya hai 😉

Until next time.

PS: As usual I forgot the Blog Index