Abhinandan!!! Abhinandan!!!

Abhinandan !! Abhinandan !!

As this name resonates in every Indian heart today- in India or miles away, I cannot but hold back tears of joy and victory as my heart fills up with gratitude. It all seems like such a big feat- a brave soldier comes back home. Feels like he is my own.

And indeed, he is. A son of my motherland. Such bravery, mindfulness, calmness and composure , in such adversity; In all the videos; and then again when he walks steadily, crossing one opened gate to come home to another- I cannot forget the un-deterred poise on his face.

Millions across the globe had eyes glued to gadget screens, all awaiting the home-coming of this braveheart.

The media’s portrayal of the journey of the 60 hours since he found himself out of bounds , comes back to my mind in flashes.

While we are united in applauding his heroism…. I wonder if we did right by him.

As a nation, as the very people He and soldiers like him stand guard for- did we really behave as we should have ?

While our Wing Commander stood alone amidst alien army-men and answered with undeterring confidence-“I am not supposed to tell you that” to anything that he didnt need to answer, we were busy posting videos of his family, his wife, his past and everything that would show up on news channels and news feeds. So much – we made viral a fake video of someone claiming to be his wife. Media zooming cameras outside his parent’s home to get a byte or a picture or just anything that would mark up their #BreakingNews.

While he crumpled and swallowed papers that belonged only to HIS motherland, we sold/bought/watched papers and news filled with analysis of his life so far and some with mighty predictions too.

Not everyone can be a war hero – a Soldier, a Pilot, or Navy seal.

Not all of us can be at the border, high up in the sky or in the waters protecting our nation.

Not all of us have the stomach to let one of our Kin fight not just enemies but extreme weather and terrain to guard our Tricolor.

No – most of us just can’t and we dont have to perhaps.

But what all of us can do is to atleast be responsible citizens. Ones who are worthy of that kind of service and sacrifice.

What we can do is wait to read a little about something before posting it or making it a #HashTag.

What we can do is be respectful of the kin and sentiments of these heroes.

What we can do is be more mindful of what we spread.

What we can do is show a little restraint and empathy for those grieving a hero.

Watching the video of his parents being allowed to disembark from their aircraft first and few other gestures like the one at the airport with soldiers, was assuring that there is a wave of change, yet there is a long long way to go.

Ofcourse we are generous when it comes to contributing to FundingLinks and that is great.But We have to do our bit to also create a ripple effect of what is mindful and rightful.

Let us each become a soldier of our motherland in the simplest and tiniest ways possible.

There are battles we can fight Without a Uniform and make ourselves worthy to those who fight for us in Uniforms.

Enjoy the weekend my fellow citizens-

I’ll leave you to this soulful piece from the movie Manikarnika- “Desh se hai Pyar toh har pal yeh kehna chahiye….. main rahoon ya na rahoon, Bharat yeh rehna chahiye”.

https://youtu.be/YOXiSICzsiY

Signing off saying Jai Hind🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳

Abhinandan !!! Abhinandan !!!

Har Veer Jawan ko Abhinanadan……

Har Veer Jawan ke balidaan ko Abhinandan……

Har VeerGati ko praapt Veer Jawan ko Abhinandan…..

Har Veer Jawan ke parivar ko Abhinandan…..

Har Veer Jawan ke parivar ke balidaan ko Abhinandan…..

Abhinandan ko Abhinandan…..

Abhinandan Ho Abhinandan !!!

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Light Up A Smile….Happy Diwali !!!

2e4473b5-b5f3-4895-a836-f10b6561843b              “Helping Hands are better than Praying Lips” – Mother Teressa

Such a deep message in such few words from a legend who epitomized service and selfless giving. Truly, service is such a powerful tool of Love, of compassion, of gratitude….of Humanity.

As a child, every occasion, be it a birthday or festival, begun with some form of service. A trend my parents set very early in our lives. And how grateful I am for those lessons in learning to be compassionate towards the lesser privileged and being grateful for all that the Divine had blessed us with. Yes, it is a humbling experience when you see how little things can bring BIG smiles to so many.

There are so many reasons to celebrate all year through & so many ways to do it too!! My favorite is:

When a tiny little somebody flashes a smile that connects their heart to mine.

When a child laughs and my heart fills with joy.

When a pair of eyes sparkle with surprise and moisten my eyes.

When a wiggly pair of hands opens a gift and my soul jumps with excitement.

When I can be the reason for that smile.

When I can be the medium for that sparkle.

When I can be a part of that excitement.

Then I can give a little and receive an ocean of satisfaction.

Yes, this one time I don’t shy from saying the “I” as “I” am humbled to be a medium of THY Divine work.

And what better time to spread that sparkle than the festival of lights!! Diwali is about celebrating light over darkness.

So this Diwali, a small group of us in our neighborhood had our children make little ‘Give-away Boxes’ for a shelter. The residents of this shelter carry scars of domestic violence and abuse on their souls. A little love and compassion can help soothe those scars. And a little fun can transport them away from their pain. These children don’t get to celebrate their birthdays due to lack of funds and facilities. Each of our give-away boxes contained birthday party supplies for a child to celebrate their special day. Now, so many of them will celebrate their birthdays and replace some painful memories with beautiful, happy ones. Boxes were inspired from the ‘Birthday Giving Project’ by Family-to-family.org !

https://www.family-to-family.org/hands-on-giving/birthday-giving-project/

Children took time to decorate the boxes and fill them with gifts & LOVE. I’m truly grateful to every parent and child who joined hands and came forward for this project. A little from each 1 of us and BIG difference to so many. So glad we could spread some festive cheer and warm smiles. Truly “Helping Hands are better than Praying Lips”.

Your celebrations will only get brighter with the smiles that you spread. Happy Diwali dear ones…..please light up some smiles wherever you can, however you can, whenever you can !!

I dedicate this blog post to all the lovely kids who devoted their time to make another child smile; who thought beyond themselves; who willingly shared….

 I know each of you is a super star!!!

THE ART OF RECEIVING

THE ART OF RECEIVING

 

Selfless, unconditional, giving, caring…..so many terms we coin to tell ourselves of how important it is to think about others. “Look at the larger picture; think beyond yourself”; We try to nurture these values & why shouldn’t we? They are important. Because we live in times when families are becoming smaller & people are becoming more self-centered. Lessons of compassion and humanity are the need of the hour.

We really do need to learn the art of giving.

But there is another kind- a bunch that is constantly worrying about others, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders; This breed knows only to give and sometimes give so much of themselves away, that they’re taken for granted.

To those- I plead……STOP; PAUSE; BREATHE!!!

Take a moment to think about yourself.

Even the tree that provides fruits needs nurturing.

It is NOT selfish to think about yourself too. So please stop ignoring yourself & bring a little focus back. You owe it to yourself.

Learn to say NO once in a way. Everyone DOES NOT deserve your love and time. Ever-so often, many of us are trying so hard to please everyone, that we allow ourselves to be hurt, over & over again.

Giving is GRACE. You are the chosen vehicles of the Divine to spread love. It is also your duty then to ensure that this divine grace is not pouring into a black-hole.

 Remember, it is ok to hold back a little.

 Remember, you do your best with the purest intent and then just let it be.

Remember, it is important to respect yourself!!!

We cannot control how people treat us; But it is in our fullest ability to refuse them the opportunity to ill-treat us.

IT is time – if you are one of those who has been giving and giving and giving- that you embrace the art of RECEIVNG too. Allow yourself to be treated well & your efforts to be acknowledged.

Just like only the flower that is fragrant can spread its fragrance; only a soul that is happy can spread happiness. When you are hurting from within, and you are depleting yourself- you will wear out someday; sooner than you ever should.

So please, pause a bit & allow a little self-care.

It is ok to love yourself.

It is ok to care for yourself.

It is ok to expect respect.

It is ok to allow acknowledgement.

It is ok to say NO.

It is ok to close the door on a storm.

It is ok that everyone cannot be pleased.

AND IT IS NOT SELFISH!!!

 

LOVING YOURSELF IS NOT SELFISH. LOVING ‘ONLY’ YOURSELF IS !

Fighting for your respect is not selfish. Crushing someone else’s is.

Caring for yourself is not selfish. Ignoring others is.

Saying NO sometimes is not selfish. Expecting a yes everytime is.

So my dear givers- allow yourself to receive. Embrace yourself. You have the right to be happy & that doesn’t make you SELFISH.

Smile so you can spread the joy!!! Receive so you can give!!!

Sendreceiving.picing you warm wishes, love & a whole lot of cheer & waiting to receive some back too!!!

 

REASON FOR THE SEASON

                     

  Beautifully ornamented Christmas trees;

Welcome wreaths on every door;

 Bright lights dancing on window panes;

 Gifts wrapped up in love and warmth;

 Fuzzy hot chocolate by the fire place;

Colourful socks and checkered pajamas;

Red dresses and red caps;

Santa, Snowman, Reindeer, Sleighs;

GrandMa’s cookies, bakes and cakes;

The sweet sounds of Christmas carols;

 Tiny hands penning wish lists for Santa;

 The fragrance of baking in every household;

 Small and large ginger bread houses;

Happy and cheerful faces;

 Festive greetings to random strangers;

Holidays……friends….family…..presents……PRAYER and LOVE.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

All of this and so much more. It is that time of the year when a large part of the world is celebrating the time their LORD was born. LOVE was born. Love not just for one’s kith & kin; love that goes beyond- for all humanity. And this is the real ‘Reason for the Season’.

The most significant of many messages the divine one brought and showed through HIS life. The message of loving without judging; loving without expecting; loving without conditions; the message that loving is giving & giving is loving.

 That is essence of the season. To remind us that love must prevail over every other emotion. To tell us that the more we have, the more we must give; the more we give, the more we become worthy of receiving.

 Remember an ancient proverb that says “A little fragrance always sticks to the hands that gives flowers”.  It is true that the joy of giving surpasses the joy of receiving.

It is the time to share our blessings. Time to give to those who aren’t as fortunate. For what is Christmas without benevolent giving and sharing, loving and caring?

And this is the message that every faith teaches –

 to love, to pray;

to share, to care;

 to forgive, to accept;

 to rejoice, to thank;

 to meet, to greet;

Beyond boundaries & beyond race;

To give is to receive grace!!!

I’m grateful for the all the lovely people in my life- family, friends and all those who touched my life and made it more beautiful. I’m grateful to those who taught me to love more & give more. Sending you warm wishes and bountiful prayers. Stay blessed dear ones. May God’s angels watch over you today & always.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all. Spread the love.

Enjoy the festive cheer and get ready to embrace a new year…..and fill it with deeds that will make it a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

PINK BLUE SHE HE

 I walk swiftly to the ‘pink’ section of the toy store to shop for my little niece. I’ve unintentionally walked past aisles of games and other gifts to the ‘girly’ stuff. As I’m picking up some things a voice in my head asks me why I didn’t stop at the many aisles I crossed. I walk back and find an ocean of amazing toys and games.

What drew me to ‘that’ section of the store directly despite it being at the far end? Did I just rule out all ‘this’ awesome stuff because it’s a girl I’m shopping for?

This triggers a lingering thought and I’m fighting to brush it off. I can’t but help pause and re-think. I’m convincing myself we live in a time where we treat both genders equally. And girls just love the girly things, don’t they? Well, but who defined ‘girly things’ – is a quick counter-question. Is it really one world with all the colours or a blue world for some and a pink world for the others?

I realize, somethings are imprinted so deep in the DNA that we’re sub-consciously driven to stereotypes. They just seem normal when they shouldn’t.

Don’t we still say ‘welcome to the world of pink’ when we’re congratulating someone on their new little angel & ‘get ready for the shades of blue’ for the little bOYndle of joy?

Don’t we still hear the (in)famous ‘Don’t cry like a girl’; ‘don’t walk like a boy’; ‘sit like a girl’; ‘stop being sissy’; ‘you’re such a tom-boy’?

Yes, we have classified behavior as ‘girly’ or ‘boyish’ instead of ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

Yes, we have divided the colours and constricted their rainbow?

Yes, we have handed them dolls or basketballs and restricted their opportunities?

We may have broken the shell of ‘boys will be the torch-bearers of the family lineage’, but we still have a long way to go. The problem is bigger than just pink vs blue.

Change must happen at the very core.

Our role is to teach them to make wise choices. Our role is to imbibe values and teach them acceptance and respect. Our role is to help them recognize their strengths. Our role is NOT to confine their thoughts and divide their world.

SHE can fight back her tears. HE can cry and it’s ok.

HE can love the kitchen set; SHE can ask for the basketball hoop.

SHE can have her room blue; HE can have his pink.

HE can give lots of cuddles. SHE needn’t give 10 hugs a day.

SHE can add value to your business. HE can bake you the best cake on your birthday.

HE can be an indoor geek. SHE can love to be in the woods.

SHE can go to flying school. HE can go to culinary school.

HE can be a fashion buff. SHE doesn’t have to walk in 5inch peep toes.

SHE can choose & HE can choose – anything, everything!!!

 We must change the stereotypes……. now.

It’s time to give them a broader sky.

It’s time they can have more ground.

It’s time to complete their rainbow.

It’s time to let them make their CHOICE.

It’s time to wipe out the boundaries that divide HER world & HIS.

It’s time to truly give the next generations ONE WORLD……A world where capability and perseverance define their horizons-  not gender.

It’s time to be the change they deserve!!!

 

‘EAT IN’ IS THE NEW ‘IN’

 

It’s raining Turkeys, Cranberries, Corn Bread; Green Beans, Squash, Sweet Potatoes; Pecan, Pumpkin & Apple pies all around. It’s Thanksgiving!!! The one American festival that associates more than any other with food. The festive feasts bring families and friends together and cheer them like nothing else can. 

It brings back childhood memories of so many festivals back home in India where special foods are associated with each of them. Name a festival and it takes a micro-second for a list of special treats to pop up in your head. That is how deeply food is connected to festivities.

Thinking about the experiences of living across so many countries, it occurs to me that food is an imperial part of any celebration, across all continents and beyond all boundaries. Food has no language, yet speaks volumes about its people.

 I’m reminded of an ancient hindu saying “Annam Bramha” or “Food is GOD”. Remember how we were taught to pray before a meal? Food was offered to the divine ONE and then consumed. Wasting food was disrespecting GOD and that was not an option.

I remember how we craved for home-cooked food every time we were away from home even for a few days. There had to be something special about it…..something that the fanciest restaurant foods couldn’t match.

Look behind and see how our ancestors lived healthier lives despite lesser conveniences……  or did they lived healthier lives BECAUSE of lesser conveniences? They ate food cooked at home with maximum fresh ingredients and minimal processed foods.

Today, our refrigerators may be filled with organic fruits and vegetables but we’re cooking/eating them with ‘convenient’ gravies and breads and dips and sauces filled with preservatives and ‘manipulated’ additives.

In today’s fast paced lifestyles, the argument that time is a challenge maybe put forth. But this, because the responsibility of cooking is usually assigned to one member of the family and they’re left to struggle with their juggle of cooking alongside a list of other chores and responsibilities.

Can we not then make cooking a family activity- the kind of thing that everyone plays a role in? Some smaller some more-but everyone becomes part of this chore. Let’s use Cooking as a beautiful way of bringing the family closer.

Remember the saying “You are what you eat”?

When we cook at home, we cook with the purest intent.  

When we cook at home, quality is of utmost importance.

When we cook at home, we ensure the safest processes are followed.

When we cook at home, children see the effort that goes in and are more respectful of the food.

Most importantly, when we cook at home, the foremost essential ingredient is added to every meal- LOVE. An ingredient no one else or no machine can add.

I don’t know of such a guaranteed standard of food from any other source. Why then leave the health of our loved ones at the hands of unknown cooks or processing facilities?

Eliminating quick-fix foods may not possible, but minimizing IS….

Cooking every meal at home may not be possible, but cooking most, IS….

Time to make ‘Eating-in’ the new ‘IN’ thing.

Time to bring the family together over food more in the kitchen and lesser at the restaurant’s table.

Time to make more ‘fresh out of the pan’ rather than ‘defrosted out of the microwave’.

Time to invest it effort and reject the quick-fix.

Time to make cooking healthy meals together- ‘cool’ !!!

When I see families cook together at THANKSGIVING, it makes me wonder why this should be a once in a year activity and not a regular norm. Ofcourse, everyday meals don’t have to be an elaborate feast; but they can be a healthy one at least!!

Let’s make the right choices so our kids will make them too.

EAT IN IS THE NEW ‘IN’ ……. We owe it to ourselves & our loved ones!!!

A NEW SIZE ZERO

 

India gave the world the “0”. And then for a very long time this was the only famous Zero. Then came along the “SIZE ZERO” – the new fashion fad.

 Being Healthy & fit is IMPORTANT. There’s no doubt about that at all. It is a personal goal to knock off some of that excess baggage J J.  I salute the effort; applaud both the physical & mental strength it takes to maintain those toned bodies. Few may have those effortlessly but most work really hard to get there. You have my respects!!!

 But maybe we should remember that our body is the vehicle the soul has chosen for this life’s journey. While we have started bringing focus on the vehicle, we may still be missing an important aspect here- the person inside- the passenger- the SOUL!!!

 In a world that’s becoming more and more self-centric, is there another Size 0 that we, as a generation should look out for as much?

 This Size 0 focuses on the inner self- the size of the soul. That self where ‘I’ is 0.

 Anger is 0; Arrogance is 0.

Cruel is 0; Cunning is 0.

Envy is 0; Ego is 0.

Greed is 0; Grudge is 0.

Impatience is 0; Injustice is 0.

Resentment is 0; Revenge is 0.

Vanity is 0; Vicious is 0.

Wrath is 0. Weakness is 0.

 The closer we are to the ‘0’s, the lesser veils we have to remove. The smaller the line-up of veils, the easier IT is to find. The easier IT is to find; the more difficult IT becomes to ignore. The more difficult IT is to ignore, the more constant our connect with IT. The more constant our connect with IT, the HAPPIER we become.

 I laughed at this thought initially; Sounds impossible, saintly, philosophical….who talks of these things except spiritual leaders? But take a moment to trace back how we started this journey and you’ll realize – This zero is our NATURAL state, the state in which we arrived in this world- Pristine & Pure. The veils were added somewhere along the way.

 So now, there are veils I have to remove; layers I have to get rid of.  

 I do not know of the ZEN or NIRVANA – a state enlightened Masters talk about.

 I only understand that a Size 0 of the soul is a new size goal for me.

The closer I will get to it, the happier I will become. JUST HAPPY!!! The HAPPY that will make my ‘true self’ HAPPY , not my ‘pseudo-self’.

 The paradox here is that the smaller the ‘size’ of your soul, the larger your Persona appears……the stronger your Aura becomes……the more attractive YOU look!!!

 When I look at someone, let me look at their soul.

When someone looks at me, let them look at my soul.

 The vehicle is important. The Passenger is important. The journey is important.