Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The foundations for a meaningful life

The other day I was listening to this podcast where an eminent personality was giving a Graduation speech at a prestigious university abroad. He said that he would like to share with the students the importance of imbibing virtues which would have an impact throughout their lives.

After listening to this, my mind went into a reflective mode to my childhood days and the parenting practices that my parents followed. I remember when we were children, our parents taught us these precious virtues by their own actions, advice, guidance, and of course reprimanding us as well.

I still cannot forget this incident which happened when I was 5 and my elder sister was 8. My sister and her friends were playing a tagging game and that too on a slide.  I was not included in the game as I was considered 'too young'. However, I was allowed to play on the slide as my sister was part of the group. I was standing on top of the slide when in the heat of the moment one of my sisters' friends accidentally pushed me down and I fell from the top of the slide! Mind you, these slides where of old times made with cement and stone and quite high. To my luck, there was soft sand surrounding the slide and I was not hurt. The teachers came rushing when the news reached them.

But here is what happened even before the teachers came. The girl who had accidentally pushed me was the leader of the group and was admired and liked by all. So none of the group was prepared to give her up, and sadly the least liked person in the group was made the fall guy or girl in this case. The rest of the group urged me to take the other girl's name when the teachers asked me. And here was I following their instructions, when even at that age I knew it was not the right thing to do. Well, luckily I was not hurt much and the girl was reprimanded and let off. But even after some 40 odd years this episode still remains fresh and my conscience still pricks me.

All forms of life need careful nurturing
My parents also taught us the importance of following virtues by narrating mythological stories like Ramayana, Mahabharat, Panchatantra, Hitopadesh, and so on. The result of all this was, when the need arose, we as a family collectively helped each other; as well as tried to help others whenever needed, respected others point of views, avoided telling lies as much as possible, respected and took care of elders at home and so on. All these were imbibed over a period of time.

How can one forget the spiritual anchor, which over a period of time has truly helped us lead a contented life? During our childhood, prayer time was part of our daily routine. When we were young, the prayer time seemed to be a hindrance, which came in the way of our fun time. We felt that those 10-15 minutes that we would spend praying could have been utilized more meaningfully in activities like playing games, reading our favourite books, and so on!

Times changed. We became parents ourselves. Slowly all the virtues that we had been taught by our parents combined with varied experiences that we ourselves had gone through, made us mature enough to be role models for our children. We have tried our best to make them realise the importance of these virtues that they have to individually build upon, as well as the values that are expected from them as members of the society that we all live in.

Again this does not mean I am perfect, far from it, I am still learning and strengthening and building upon these virtues as I grow more mature with the passing of time and experiences that I come across every day in my life.

The virtues that at one time felt like a waste of time, have now provided me with a strong base on which I can rely on, to lead a better life. I think my children too will over a period of time build a  rock-solid foundation and become role models for their children. Finally, I believe, that times might change, eras might come and go, but virtues like love, honesty, faith, discipline, respect, humility, and a host of other virtues will never get outdated. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Lockdown diaries - a new day, everyday

Life takes a strange and mysterious turn when you least expect. Sometime in February, news about the virus in China started trickling, and before we knew, it was a worldwide pandemic. No country was spared. And then, our Government announced a total lockdown! This was something which we had not experienced at all, ever. 

Comforts which we had taken for granted, like having maids, cooks, home delivery for groceries and medicines, ordering food online, and not to forget the comforts of living within a gated community, where even the garbage disposal is taken care of by the housekeeping staff! All this came to an abrupt halt.

The topmost thought and concern looming large for all us women was, 'How are we going to manage without the maids and cooks?' A part of my mind was trying to give reassuring positive signals suggesting that we might still have that teeny bit of chance that this nightmare would come to an end soon and life would very soon be back to normal. Something like, here today and gone tomorrow kind of scenario. 

So there I was clutching at straws as the saying goes. But going by what I was reading, I knew doomsday had arrived. And so it was with great trepidation and a very heavy heart, I informed my maid that she was to go on a paid leave from the very next day until further notice. I had absolutely no 'notice period'!

Well, the grind started two and a half months back and is still continuing. What with senior citizens at home, we cannot take the risk. The initial few days were tiring, but if it had to be done, it had to be done. No two ways about it. 

Very soon life turned into a rhythmic cycle of cooking, cleaning, sweeping, mopping, washing, and so on and so forth. Whatever time left thereafter was taken up in finishing assignments that I had taken up. Before I knew the day had just flown past! Yes, there are days when I get up in the morning and feel lazy just thinking about doing all the chores, and then there are days when things get done in a jiffy. So right now I am all pretty set and pulling along.

This is not to say that it is all hard work and no fun. On the contrary, I must say I am enjoying the lockdown period. For one, my husband and my son are now working from home. My son who otherwise would visit us 2-3 times a month was now home 24x7. 

I am pampering them with homemade delicacies, though once in a while my son does complain about not being able to order outside food. So I try and whip up menus to suit all. I have embarked on a culinary journey. I experimented with Spanish cuisine which we had immensely enjoyed during our visit to Spain. The Paella, Patatas Bravas, Spanish omelet have become part of my cuisine. Mexican dish Guacamole is being relished with nachos, potato chips, cucumber, carrots, and other veggies! I am also adding Indian cuisines from different regions! So my culinary repertoire is expanding.

When it came to veggies and fruits, thanks to some volunteers, we are being pampered with a whole array of them literally brought to our doorstep by the farmers themselves! Fresh avocados, different varieties of mangoes, different types of jackfruits, grapes, litchis, zucchini, bell peppers... the list is a long one. It is a win-win situation for the farmers as well as for us! I guess, back then when things were normal I had never gotten around to buying so many varieties.

The icing on the cake is family bonding which is happening big time. Summer vacations meant looking forward to visits by my sisters and my nieces and nephews. This time too we did not miss our rendezvous! We have them in our living room every night - virtually! Thanks to WhatsApp video calls. Every day new games are being planned out. Every night all three families are on video trying to solve riddles, puzzles, play atlas, scrabble, jumbled words, and so on. All this is going on till late in the night.

Over the course of these three months, I have learned several things. When problems crop up just face them and move on. I can make do with what I have. I can definitely do without things which I thought was essential. What I thought was very important was never so in the first place. Yes, if health permits and circumstances are conducive, we can definitely manage without the maids and cooks. No matter what happens, life goes on. There's a new day, everyday. 

This is my lockdown story. What's yours? Do let me know.