‘Toony’ Boons

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There may only be a few things in life that anyone with any background, including race, creed, color, religion, beliefs, nationality, upbringing, procrastination levels, binging habits, and the number of acquired traffic violations, can understand, appreciate and enjoy. No, I’m not referring to cannabis or alcohol. I’m not even referring to ridiculous Facebook status updates like ‘cough’. Go see a doctor in that case. The overtly sympathizing messages from your online connections aren’t going to drive the flu away. On the contrary, this exercise will provide you with a false sense of friendship and belonging until a situation arises when you really need someone. What was that? No, it’s not free Wi-Fi either. Come on people, it’s cartoons. Since we live in an age where we love screens of all sizes ranging from a square inch on our wrist to something large enough to cover a wall in our bedroom (I’m not counting cinema screens, which are as large as small ships, since most of us don’t own one), it makes us all the more willing to watch cartoons.

I have never met a single person who has not enjoyed at least one cartoon series or is a fan of at least one cartoon character. If you happen to claim that you’re the first to not like cartoons, I say you need to open up a little and be honest with yourself. Cartoons are not a childish fascination so feel free to admit your love for them. I know we keep getting told that there is a time and age for everything, but certain things are ageless. Cartoons are certainly among that group. And what’s so special about the things we do as adults anyway? As children, we may resort to childishness but as adults, we resort to adultery. Try both out and see which one has more disastrous consequences.

I have always found cartoons to be a great connector between people. Growing up I had cousins that were brought up in different towns in India. Now, in a country, as vast and varied in India, everything from your customs and food habits to your entertainment and language change every couple of hundred kilometers. While we didn’t always understand or agree with each other’s habits and lifestyles, cartoon time was when we were all in sync, and watched every little scene with awe, giggles, heightened attentiveness, and a sense of complete joy. After every session, we felt happy and inspired, and discussions that ensued during and after, betrayed no sign of disagreement or lack of understanding in each other.

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Tom & Jerry, and the battles between Donald Duck and Chip & Dale were among my early favorites (I always cheered for Tom and Donald. Too bad the modern-day Donald in his big white house does not inspire enough cheer). To begin with, they are hilarious and even as adults a few minutes of viewership can melt away a fair bit of the day’s tension. They contain very little spoken language (which does not have to be understood), and apart from the tunes of certain classics produced by great musical minds of the past that play in the background, the only other sounds are the uproarious screeches, yelps, groans, grunts, gurgles, hoots, and cheers. Anyone can appreciate the quality and genius of the artwork, the animation, the storyline, and wit. The personality of every character is brilliantly designed and depicted, and any one of them could serve as our steadfast imaginary friend we never had. He-man and the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe were other cartoons I began to follow. While the previously mentioned cartoons inspired creativity, fun, and humor, these other ones illustrated the feats of heroes and superheroes, good over evil, me over examinations and school projects (And now with the ubiquitous nature of YouTube, stealing a few minutes of cartoon time at work even helps before client negotiations and deliverables).

Cartoons made me believe that I could get out of a tough spot even if it was only fourth-grade math. They showed me the importance of being positive, which has stayed with me till date. I was convinced that no matter what the odds (Cobra always outnumbered the Joes), I could be victorious, in elocution class then, and in life now. They instilled the confidence in me to wield my plastic sword (just like He-Man did) to make myself feel invincible and ready for any challenge ranging from potato sack races and handwriting competitions to hot dog eating contests and Pictionary. And of course, the less fascinating battles of life pertaining to education, careers, relationships, health, finances (or fiancés: the two cannot coexist), and overall development. I realized that I could keep aside differences with anyone over an hour-long cartoon episode, whether it was my sporting rival, the office jerk, my stockbroker (who believed that a broker is someone that is meant to make his clients broke), and the airport security (It’s only a penknife. Since I cannot decide which is mightier, the pen or the sword, this little tool settled it for me.). They make me see that it’s the simple pleasures in life that make us laugh loudest. It’s the childish exuberance within us all that helps us maintain our sanctum.

Cartoons were something I watched with my parents and grandparents, as I do with my 4-year old daughter today. They are almost like a family legacy, as much as the wealth and wisdom that is passed down from generation to generation. And they are so easily passable from culture to culture, and nation to nation, breaking down barriers with true value for entertainment, joy, and oneness.

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Dream On

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If I were to tell you that dreaming could likely be the single most productive task you’ve done in your life, would you believe me? And I don’t mean having a life long dream that we care to achieve, but dreams that occur on most nights while we sleep and try to restore our energy to ensure that we are ready and fit for all the activities we don’t intend to do the following day. I wouldn’t believe me. I mean imagine yawning, sleeping, dreaming, checking social media messages, snatching the blanket back, dreaming, sleepwalking, dreaming, and finally waking (or not) becoming the logistical mantra for a successful life. It sounds too good to be true.

The first science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, the concept of the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein, the structure of the Atom by Niels Bohr, the composition of the famous hit ‘Yesterday’ by Paul McCartney and The Beatles, the structure of the periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleev, Dr. Frederick Banting’s discovery of the use of insulin for diabetic patients, a few of Srinivas Ramanujan’s mathematical theories, as well as my theory of procrastination, all find their roots in vivid dreams. An argument can be made that a majority of these discoveries are scientific and educational in nature, and if these people decided to not doze off while working, we would have a lot less to study in our schools and colleges. Nevertheless, these discoveries are groundbreaking, to say the least. Take my theory of procrastination for instance. If I had not decided to sleep and dream aimlessly and endlessly, how would this theory ever have come into existence? In fact, I am willing to wager that the impact of the theory of procrastination has been on many more people than the impacts by Google, the Avengers movie franchise, and even sliced bread.

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It’s fair to assume that we all spend a third of our day sleeping, and therefore a third of our life asleep too (except the few spots when we endure ‘all-nighters’ to read comic books on exam nights, to watch our sports team take a beating in a different time zone, to transfer items from the refrigerator into our tummy, which we apparently term as a midnight snack as opposed to a midnight banquet, and even getting thrown out of bars). This is a significant portion of our lives, and studies show that the average person spends about a quarter of their sleep time dreaming. Two hours of dreaming a night? We must have hit that ten thousand hour mark many times over. Now I’m not sure how the eminent people sans one mentioned in the previous paragraph managed to discipline their minds enough to engage in meaningful, structured, and creative dreams. I, for some reason experience dreams that I cannot even begin to explain. They range from ‘shame shame puppy shame’, and falling from the sky (gravity has already been discovered so it’s pointless), to storylines changing faster than the speed of light, ‘pee-pee’ dreams and being on a sports team with pizza slices and muffins (I don’t know what this is even meant to signify, except that I need to stop gorging on them). Or maybe I just haven’t bothered to remember a dream that may have actually offered some guidance and enlightenment.

My point here is that we all have issues and challenges that we are in a constant tussle with. While these challenges exhaust us and put us to sleep, our unconscious mind continues to try and solve them well into the night. Based on several studies by experts, there are numerous areas that our dreams help us in. Here are some.

  1. We have emotional trials that we constantly deal with. While we may not be able to understand or relate our emotional duress to their causes during our conscious hours, our brains are highly capable of joining the dots and forming connections, without our annoying waking interference while we sleep. This allows us to find some answers and obtain emotional balance to a degree. We potentially have a chance of healing over time. We have a free therapist in our head and we don’t even need to be awake as she speaks.
  2. Dreaming helps us reflect on our actual lives on a daily basis. Our unconscious mind helps replay situations, our actions in those situations, and alternate courses of action that may have been apter under the circumstances. This offers perspective and learning for future situations. This is our automatic problem-solving kit.
  3. Often dreams can lead to premonitions of threats and other occurrences in our lives. It gets us battle-ready (or ready to flee).
  4. Creativity can be at its highest in our dreams. Pioneering discoveries and creations born in people’s dreams are a testimony that the deliberations by our mind as our body rests lead to revolutions. It’s probably happened to every single one of us as well. A business idea, an idea for a new advertising campaign, a movie theme, a poem, or even the idea to write about dreams may have occurred in a dream, without our conscious knowledge. So pay attention boys and girls, for your dreams may lead to solutions for first world problems like finding enough storage for the consequences of our compulsive shopping habits, fat burning desserts, self making beds, getting every single one of our connections to like our social media posts, phone charging trouser pockets, and even a spouse proof television remote.
  5. Dreams also act as a sorting mechanism for all the information we absorb during our waking hours. It would be highly improbable for us to retain all the information we encounter in our lives and our dreams help decide what to keep and what to discard.

Research continues to find more benefits of dreaming and if we care to pay attention to them and remember them, we may become mentally and emotionally healthier, and experience boundless creativity. There are several ways to remember our dreams and brain coach Jim Kwik recommends simple steps like making a conscious choice to remember our dreams, writing them down immediately when we wake up, keeping our eyes closed as we wake up and reflect on our dreams, tell ourselves daily that we will remember our dreams, and manage our sleep well to ensure a dreamy nightcap.

The benefits of paying attention to the small little stories in our head as we do what we love most are astounding. It truly is ‘lights out’.

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The Quizzical Life

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When we’re not sleeping, eating, working hard on our social media accounts at the workplace, gossiping, jerking off, or just plain old playing the fool, we have several unanswered questions about the world around us that we ponder over. These questions may have puzzled us for a lifetime, impacted us on a deep level that may have been bothersome, or maybe rhetorical questions that we may seem to know the answer to, but don’t.

I, for one constantly have questions going around in my mind like a nonstop merry-go-round. And once a question is answered, it is replaced by at least two new ones if not more. That’s getting to be a pretty crowded merry-go-round. Since I cannot spend the rest of my life writing this article, neither can you spend yours cursing it, let’s explore only a few of these mysteries.

  • Why do we chase people that barely know about our existence or do not care to? We have enough genuine people in our lives that love us and have professed it openly. Yet, we pine for the attention of the uninterested and potentially unworthy. Are relationships purely based on our egos and to honor our ancestors we feel we must conquer one and all? We neglect the believers and spend our efforts on converting the non-believers until of course, they become believers. Then we move on to the next lot. On our death beds, we may realize that our original circle was the only one that truly existed.
  • How is social acceptance equivalent to a like or comment on our social media posts? A friend or family member may give us profound insights that aid significantly in our development and overall happiness. But no. A mother’s advice or a friend’s concern is no match for a positive comment we may get from Mr. Cool (who we may have last met in our previous lifetime) on our Instagram picture, despite looking like a bashed up bucket in it.
  • Where is time going? How come my last decade has gone by a lot quicker than the previous ones? Is there some global conspiracy I am unaware of? Has Tesla come up with a method to make the earth rotate and revolve faster? Is this why my watch is always showing the wrong time because it’s on a 24-hour/day pattern, whereas now we have just 18 in a day? Or am I taking too long to look up from my handheld devices to realize that people have grown older, opportunities have gone by, and Pierce Brosnan is no longer James Bond (Thank God)?
  • Where are the aliens hiding? Oh come on, I sense they’ve been around for a while but no one seems to want to admit it. I mean if we do believe in a higher power, am I supposed to believe that we, the humans (and our wild and tame pets of course) are the chosen ones to represent and preserve the entire universe? We can’t even take care of our personal hygiene for crying out loud. I suppose while we wait with our hands on our hips, tapping our toes, we have each other for comfort. When is the last time we got or gave eye contact, smile, or had a conversation with someone? I won’t be disappointed if there are indeed no aliens. We have each other.
  • Alice? Who the f**k is Alice?
  • How long do we plan to pretend to not see and not know? I mean the world around us is burning and our fellow men are struggling. We may not be doing so well ourselves if we gauge ourselves on the parameters that matter. How long do we plan to deceive ourselves?
  • What exactly is the opposite term of goody-two-shoes? I mean is it baddy two-shoes? Or does the bad person have just one shoe or no shoes at all? How about beach sandals?
  • How do procrastination and cigarette smoking sell? Both are going to be the end of us, and yet we knowingly do both proudly and copiously. Are we saying that we are not scared of death if we plan it ourselves on a daily basis?
  • Did that top at the end of ‘Inception’ topple over? Now I’ve gotten into spinning tops just to make sure that the stuff that is happening is real like promotions, vacationing in Europe, weight loss (despite the binging), and even when I see an alien walk by (Oops I wasn’t supposed to reveal that. The world isn’t ready yet).
  • What does a cat have in mind as it stares at us without blinking? As I stare back I’m thinking ‘furry purry’. Is the cat thinking ‘hairy scary’?

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  • What makes us truly laugh? No, not funny movies, or jokes, or comical stories. Sure they make us laugh, but not ‘truly’ laugh. What makes us laugh in a manner that the laughter does not die with the moment, but resonates for a lifetime?
  • What does one have to do to be understood? Sure, we are not here to please everyone and everyone is going to have some complaint about us. We tell ourselves (and coaches around the world tell us too) that we should continue being ourselves, that we don’t need validation, and we have to ignore the naysayers. But it’s not always as simple as that is it? Sometimes these people are close to us and genuinely care for us. I mean we can’t disassociate with everyone that fails to understand us. We may be left with no one. So what’s the strategy here? Inception?
  • How’s it going? Are you with it? How you handling it? And so on. I have been guilty of asking similar questions too. I suppose we are all referring to the challenges of life and the word ‘it’ really undermines the gravity of that beast. I mean ‘it’ technically refers to a minuscule item you would find on your kitchen counter or work desk. Life just happens to weigh about 23 trillion times more than these objects. Show some respect.
  • Following from the previous query, what is with people using slangs and acronyms in spoken communication? I mean it takes as long to say ‘oh my god’ as it does to say ‘omg’. I’ve heard people say ‘lol’. We can’t even laugh anymore? ‘My bad’? No it is not. It’s Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ which happened to sell over 30 million copies.
  • What’s with everyone’s ‘me first’ approach? I mean if we all honor ability, deservingness, hard work, consistency and humanity overall, we’ll all get there in due time. If we all try to get there first it is going to result in a global brawl and we may never even get there, let alone get there first. Where is the logic here?
  • What were the choreographers of the 1980s Bollywood flicks smoking?
  • Is our life panning out based on fate or our will? If everything is written, do we even have free will? Are we choosing what is written or is the script developing as we choose?
  • Did the Baha Men ever find out who let the dogs out?
  • Happiness in a bottle? Isn’t Coca Cola and any other soda just two bottles of sugar in a bottle? (Note: This doesn’t stop me from consuming a few bottles every now and again).
  • How is Poker a sport? By that standard even snapping one’s fingers or hailing a cab should be a sport? Now ‘poke her’ on the other hand…
  • Do people refuel their vehicles when they want chips and soda or do they buy chips and soda when they stop to refuel their vehicles? Also, when people order a diet coke with their double cheeseburger and large fries, is that just guilt doing its job or is there a formula I’m not privy to?
  • Are we being watched every second of our lives? Is Google reading what I’m writing this very minute and saying ‘what an idiot’?
  • Who’s watching commercials on television? Everyone I meet seems to hate commercials and claims to flip channels when they come on. And yet the time allotted to commercials during any television program seems to be increasing by the minute. I’m sure advertisers have done their research and are not spending money for charitable purposes. Someone’s watching these commercials secretly. If it’s not me, or you, or her, or them, then who? I think we all need to have a serious word with our dogs, cats, parrots, and goldfish. Someone brave enough better speak to King Kong, Godzilla, and Drogon as well.
  • Why has no one made 1/6 scale action figures from the Brendan Fraser starring ‘The Mummy’?
  • Where can I buy a thinking cap?
  • I see #Nofilter posts all the time on Instagram. Is there one for our character?
  • In a movie theatre which cup holder is mine? If all seats in a row are full and we all have drinks and the person on the outer end decides to use his inside cup holder, are we supposed to communicate down the row using Chinese whispers? Also, how does one stake claim over the armrests?
  • How come most of us use our talent for unlawful, immoral or unethical practices? Do we want to piss people off? I remember never feeling as happy growing up when people called me a ‘bad boy’ compared to how happy I felt when people said ‘good boy’.

I think we are getting to a point where life is calling us back and the reading and pondering needs to stop for now. However, I’d love to hear what preposterous obscurities bother you.

Aasman hai neela kyon? Paani geela geela kyon? Gol kyon hai zameen?…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3O3akbY8UU

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The Wandering Wondering Mind – Part 2

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In the preceding part, I have written about the dreadful thoughts and images that plague our minds and drive peace and harmony out of our lives. And more often than not, all our efforts to block these disturbances out are in vain. We may be able to distract ourselves temporarily but the death rattle continues to play in the background before resurfacing in full force. We need answers that we don’t get easily and may never find. We go into panic mode, hyperventilate and even think we’re going crazy because we have lost complete control of our minds and the situations it constructs.

I have also made an attempt to classify these turbulences into broad categories that are certainly relevant to me and hopefully something you can relate to as well. The only person in our control is ourselves and the only situations we can control are the ones that our mind creates and overemphasizes on. We must realize that anything else is beyond our control and while we hope for the best, we cannot expect things to turn out rosy

There may not be a magically effective way to calm our minds but small daily routines certainly help.

Be productive

Shutting our minds down can be infuriatingly difficult. However, if we keep ourselves busy and aligned with our short and long term goals, we’re more inclined to be creative and positive and less likely to entertain negative thoughts. We must invest our minds in activities that we are passionate about and bring us joy. It’s these things we are likely to do best and the subsequent results will have an uplifting impact of our minds

Meditate

While I still struggle with this even though I try it for only ten to fifteen minutes daily, meditating every day can have therapeutic effects on the mind and the body. I have been meditating for about seven months now and while my mind still wanders when I’m meditating and I still have my mind infuriate me, I am certainly calmer and more in control today than I was when I began. Considering that sages take decades to master the art of medication and attain enlightenment, I’m only just getting started. Having said that, the start has certainly been promising.

Use a positive chant

Telling ourselves that ‘we’re fine’, ‘life is good’ or ‘The Yankees will win the world series’ constantly will have long term positive effects on our minds and we will experience more stability within. Hearing a positively soothing voice is very effective. There is a reason to-be parents are asked to sing to and speak to their child while she is still in mummy’s tummy. We’re not very different as adults and when we don’t have an external voice that can do the sweet-talking for us, we need to do it for ourselves.

Exercise

Cardiovascular workouts and breathing routines help relieve us of stress and anxiety. Playing a sport that involves sweating (because you could very well start playing poker) or even strength training help release endorphins, which are natural pain killers that exist in our body and help reduce stress. If we engage in these activities consistently, our physical health improves as well, which is an essential collaborator to our mental state.

Write

Writing things down that bother us, allow us to clear a cluttered mind. Revisiting these thoughts at a later stage allow us to reflect upon and gain clarity on some of our confusion. Write about the things that work for you and repeat these habitually in your life. Over time these habits will allow us more mental stability.

Read

Reading books like ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, ‘Before I Fall’, and ‘The Bell Jar’ are likely to be counterproductive, but reading motivating books like success stories and even ‘feel good’ novels help lift the mood and the mind. And you never know what evasive answers you may find on any given page.

Listen to music

If we’re frustrated or angry, listening to Megadeth or Black Sabbath may do us little good. However, we all have happy memories associated with some song or the other and listening to these during our melancholic existence can be very uplifting. The right music not only helps me form happy memories and calm my nerves but also helps me think of a positive future.

Pursue a hobby

If you have the love and the skill for something like playing a guitar, a racket sport, stand up comedy, or even making French fries, put it to use. Engaging in constructive activities that we enjoy is always a sure way to switch out negative thoughts. Not only do we have fun but we also improve our skills, and one never knows where that may lead us.

Keep a clean environment

I personally cannot stand clutter, whether it is inside my mind or in my surroundings. I tend to think better when I keep a clean environment and I strongly believe that the way we keep our surroundings is a reflection of our minds. For example, if our desk is cluttered, our room untidy, our beds unmade, it mirrors that state of our mind. Sometimes we need to jumpstart our brain into positive motion and making a concerted effort to maintain a clean and tidy environment can have that impact. Personally, I’ve noticed that I think better when I keep my environment clean.

Surround yourself with positive people

I cannot emphasize enough on how important this is. Surrounding ourselves with toxicity is a sure shot way to end up in a hole and remain in it. We love it when people lend an ear to listen to our problems, but ideally, we need to see if they offer solutions or just join us in the cribbing game and spread more negativity. Besides there are people that just seem upset with everything in life and constantly complain, demean, ignore, fight, and try to control us. Some of them could be family members and close friends who we cannot discard from our lives but we need to be aware of where we draw our lines for our own sanity. To counter these negative effects and also as a general practice we must make a conscious effort to surround ourselves with people that spread positivity, joy, and imbibe confidence in us.

Sleep well

We spend a third of our lives sleeping (some of us even spend a majority of our waking hours asleep). Sound sleep is as essential to our physical and mental health as any other form of fitness routine, dietary habits, and other good health practices. A lack of proper sleep can lead to a drop in performance, mental tiredness, anxiety, as well as other health-related problems. I have my phases of getting appropriate sleep versus not getting enough and I sense a marked difference in my mood, functioning, and mindset in each of these scenarios. If you’re struggling to get proper sleep, there are plenty of tips available online to help you sleep better.

Live in the present

A lot of our issues arise because we cannot get over the past or stop worrying about the future. We cannot alter one and cannot predict the other. All we can do is to use our failures and pain from the past to learn and grow and plan for the future. We can only do this by living in the present and using our time at hand to the best of our abilities to make our present productive.

Forgive

We hurt terribly from the actions and inactions of people, and find it difficult to forgive them for putting us through so much grief. However, we pine over these matters long after the situation has taken place, and extend our grieving with no end in sight. Yes, it does take time to heal but how are we helping ourselves by not making any effort to move on? Forgiving someone does not mean we accept the pain they have given us, but helps us heal faster. We tell ourselves that we are now in control of our situation and getting back on our feet and running is up to us.

Contribute

We need to understand that there are people in situations that are way worse than our own. Making a contribution in their lives not only adds perspective to ours but also makes us feel good about ourselves (release of dopamine – the ‘reward’ neurotransmitter). We could choose to help people in our circles or even volunteer for a good cause.

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So stop moping around and trying to solve every mystery in your life. Sometimes, we just need to focus on other matters and let bygones be bygones.

The Wandering Wondering Mind – Part 1

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Overthinking is a mental battle I have fought for as long as I can remember and no matter the decision arrived upon after this long drawn out struggle, there are always casualties. These casualties are usually ourselves and many a time people that are close to us. And by casualties I don’t mean being rushed through heavy traffic in an ambulance or even getting stuck in a critical care bed and having to deal with stories about family problems of all our visitors, but about the mental setback that this inexorable activity causes. A loss of peace of mind, lack of focus, loss of interest, irritability, inexplicable sadness, disturbed sleep patterns, extreme binging modes (or loss of appetite), and a general feeling of loss overpower us.

Whether it’s tough experiences from the past or a generally pessimistic attitude we may have developed, allowing our mind to constantly visit an occurrence, situation, or behavior, and analyze it over and over, grips our life with a sense of incompleteness and severe lack of clarity. We strive for answers, come up with many without any confidence in any, which leads us to favor the negative outcomes. And from experience, I can say that the turmoil that this causes in the mind is as unnerving as anything can be (Except when the Wi-Fi goes down because that has to be the epitome of deprivation and depression).

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Why did he behave in a peculiar manner the other day? Why does she always act aloof in every situation? Why was my research thesis rejected without an explanation? Why did Eddard Stark have to die in season 1 of Game of Thrones? Why do the Mumbai Indians make our blood pressure shoot through the roof during their consistently erratic seasons? What are companies looking for in job applicants? Why am I made to feel like an outcast? Why do the people I care about take me for granted and instead chase people that don’t really care about them? Why doesn’t she tell me what she thinks and feels openly and honestly? Why can’t people care more? Why do my plans always go bust? The ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’, ‘Who’ ‘Which’ and a gazillion other questions that plague our minds. Our mind is not built to handle unclear messages, unexpected circumstances, unanswered questions, and the mysteries surrounding relationships that we deem important. Sometimes my mind is so loud with uncertainties clanging away nightmarishly that I wish I could remove my mind from my head when needed, unlike an iPhone battery. If we think jail is a scary place, being trapped inside our own minds is hellish at best.

We can seek help from others, and the ones that truly care for us will certainly offer solutions with all earnestness, and good ones at that (Unless you ask your dog because then the solutions for everything would be to scratch your ear with your leg and rollover, which is a good way to lead life if you think about it). However, just like the relationship between any coach and student, the responsibility to believe and execute lies with the student. While most of us have external help, the real battle lies within, which we must face ourselves.

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While some mysteries in our lives may unravel quickly, some may plague us for a long time, and still, some others may never reveal themselves during the course of our lifetime. Here are some areas we need to think about, accept, and address to help understand some of these uncertainties.

Mirror mirror on the wall

We are an echo of our upbringing and the values that we grow up with are the values we look for in others. Now only if choosing friends and significant others was such a well thought out and transparent process. We form associations based on looks, a sense of humor, dancing skills, popularity, the ability to win hot dog eating contests and several other parameters that meet the eye in quick time. Even for those of us that take our time to get to know people better and are strictly selective in forging bonds, differences in one’s outlook towards life is likely to crop up in certain areas. We expect people to be who we perceive them as, which in many ways is a reflection of who we are. For instance, if we grew up in an environment where control was exerted and things were expected of us, then we tend to repeat this in other relationships as adults, expect from others and want to be in control. If we were accepted conditionally, then we will lay down conditions in accepting others. We seek relationships to fulfill and complete us because we have an unhealed child inside us and are often disappointed if others cannot meet our needs. Just because people are different from us does not make them wrong. We need to understand who we are inside and heal ourselves first. Only then will we stop to seek relationships to fill gaps in our lives and seek them instead for the true value they add to us.

Relationships can fail

This follows from the previous point. As much as we’d like to put the blame of failed relationships on circumstances or our counterparts, we must realize that relationships are also a reflection of who we are as much as the other person. We need to form a perspective in relationships because if we feel dejected by others, there is an equal chance that others feel dejected in us. Sometimes we misread people at the onset and feel betrayed when we see them change. Sometimes people change as they grow, while we are still stuck at the very same spot and may feel abandoned. As the cliché goes ‘change is the only constant’, and is also applicable to people. Parents experience this as well. They may feel that their children are not what they were while growing up. As much as their love is unconditional, their expectations from their children are not. Any deviation from the well-set our patterns as they grow hurts parents and leaves them with unexplained changes in behavior. However, we are all on our unique paths of finding our truth and the likelihood of us having the same vision as our parents and being on the exact same path at the same time is slim. Paths can be similar but not exactly the same. Without perspective, understanding, and empathy, it is difficult to see this difference. Once we do, our mind will be able to grasp this concept better.

 The need for reciprocation

The need for attention, to be wanted, loved, appreciated, and cared for are common human expectations. If we bestow this upon others, then we consider them not returning the favor to be absolute sacrilege. This puzzles us and we fail to understand why someone won’t respect our feelings by reciprocating. What exactly are we looking for? Do we have a set of parameters that this reciprocation must fit? People do love but in their own way. Yes, it would be nice for people to express what they feel openly and transparently in a globally recognizable manner. Love as they say is a global language and yet it’s expression can be very complex. Open communication is a challenge all around the world and only a few have the courage and willingness to participate in this exercise. Sometimes two people find a common ground to be understood and at times it’s a never-ending mystery due to the natural shortcomings in expression of one or both individuals.

Life is not our debtor

We make plans and more often than not they go awry. We can’t for the life of us understand why things always have to go wrong. Life doesn’t owe us anything and is meant to carry on its business as it deems fit. We need to adapt to situations and circumstances. To make plans and be prepared is very important, but to prepare our minds to the fact that our plans can and will fail many a time is of utmost significance.

Neither are people

Just because we feel people owe us due to our own concoctions in our minds does not make it a reality. Sometimes it’s a feeling of entitlement and at times we genuinely expect it because we do a lot for them. If people owe us money, sure we can find ways of extracting it should they resist. However, no matter how much good we do for someone, he or she does not owe us anything in return. Sometimes people don’t love back, just like the answer to some of our prayers is a resounding ‘no’. Someone may mean the world to us but for them, we may barely exist. That’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes and we need to accept that. Let’s understand that some things are beyond our control and not let our delusions create havoc in our minds because of them.

 Every man for himself

The thought that the human race is rapidly losing any semblance of brotherhood, chivalry, unity, and generally doing good in the world drives me nuts. Small acts frustrate me on a regular basis. Why can’t that cab driver observe the traffic rules? Why can’t that person respect the queue? If businesses keep other businesses alive, why does he think about only his profits? Why do they kill over a 20-rupee ticket at a toll booth? Why do they cheat and then shamelessly stare the law in the eye, knowing they cannot be touched? Why does she take advantage of his grave financial condition? My mind knows that the world has always been like this, but I expect better because we live under this veil of a civilized society. As bad as the middle ages were, people’s word counted for something (Except that of Cersei Lannister of course). Not today. If people find any unscrupulous means of getting ahead, they will resort to it. So I shouldn’t expect from others but only from myself to have an impact large enough to turn the tide.

What people think about me

This is amongst my favorites. I have had long conversations with friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers about their insecurities of being perceived in a bad light by others. Trying to please a bunch of people is exactly what that will cause a major deviation from our pristine personality and relegates us to confused, inconsistent, moody, and erratic individuals. Just when we think we have done everything right in everyone’s eyes, someone will express their displeasure. And if that does not happen, over time we will feel hollow from within. We will rack our brains and spend sleepless nights wondering what went wrong. The answer is we strayed away from who we really are. People that accept us for who we are, are the ones that should really matter. Everything else is just an illusion of an association.

These are some broad areas that I have spent years worrying about and I can fit most worrisome and frustrating thoughts into one of these categories. While I haven’t attained nirvana (not even close), I have recognized these problem areas and am now making a valiant attempt to stem the tide. Some of us prefer professional help, while others may want to start small with their own backing.

Stay tuned for some backyard practices to halt the wondering wanderer.

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Who I Want To Be When I Grow Up

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I celebrate only my 38th birthday this year so I definitely do have time to figure out who I’d like to be when I grow up. And it’s not just about figuring out who I want to be, but also as much about who I do not want to be. I guess it’s just a human tendency to let reverse psychology work on our minds. Try telling your 4-year old not to paint on the walls. Try telling your boss you did your best despite the horrendous outcome. Try telling yourself not to think about anything while meditating. Try telling your love interest that you only checked your messages when you got up to pee and weren’t chatting with anyone special at 2:46 am. I’m sure we’ve all put ourselves through the ‘let’s not think about the pink elephant’ test and failed.

I’m sorry, did you think this was a career post? I’m sure we will all figure that out through our own abilities and guidance from some very effective career coaches. We gain knowledge and skills through our education (At times only on the basis of our grades, which in my opinion is a poor indicator by itself. And no I didn’t have poor grades just in case you’re wondering…:)…) and work to get to very impressive positions in our career. We garner wealth and then some. We become managers, lead organizations and further the vision and reach of our industries. We continue to educate ourselves and update our skillset on a regular basis to stay relevant and ahead of the development curve (Including our selfie-taking skills, social media handles, and being updated on the latest gossip). We want to be the best at what we do and that’s the way it should be. However, despite this level of growth do we really have everything we need to hold us in good stead not just on the professional front but also in our personal lives? No matter what our business is, eventually we deal with people in every facet of our lives and there will rarely be a skill that is going to be more significant than people management till we get to a point where AI runs the world (Then it will be up to the robots to understand good people management skills. Unless they want us to get pissed off and send them Candy Crush requests).

Many of us believe we have impeccable people management skills (Like micromanagement, verbal dress downs and passing the blame around). However, I believe what we really lack despite our experience, abilities, and accolades is emotional maturity and emotional intelligence. I see a dearth of emotional maturity and intelligence within myself and all around me. And I believe this really is a defining virtue in forging a strong understanding of ourselves and each other, as well as being able to truly and wholly service a healthy relationship.

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Here are some of my trademarks of an emotionally mature and independent person

  1. They are able to handle a situation with objectivity and don’t allow personal feelings to drive their response. They contain a situation and don’t let it escalate.
  2. They face the reality staring at them with humility, honesty, and transparency. They don’t let their egos cloud their judgment or willingness to accept their faults.
  3. They don’t blame the world around them for the soups they get into. On the contrary, they take hold themselves accountable for their mistakes and take responsibility in addressing issues and resolving matters.
  4. They care about the people around them and study them closely to understand and serve them better. An emotionally intelligent and mature leader will make every effort to understand the strengths and weaknesses of her family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and humans in general around her. She will then use this knowledge to bridge gaps, make up for emotional weaknesses in others (because she cares about the relationship and won’t have that ‘why should I do all the hard work?’ attitude), and instill confidence and security in them. Sometimes we need to be emotional leaders to help others arrive on that same plane.
  5. They don’t dig up the past and launch scathing personal attacks in any situation.
  6. They don’t have the ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’ attitude. They accept that a problem exists, no matter how bad it may make them look.
  7. They don’t resort to bullying others just to relieve themselves of blame or responsibility or just because of their own insecurities.
  8. They don’t react (I need to keep reminding myself of this one). They have a lid on their emotions and don’t come out all guns blazing.
  9. They truly understand how they and others feel.
  10. They do not let their weaknesses prevent them from pulling themselves outside their comfort zone for the greater good of healthy relationships. They rely on honest and open communication, no matter how difficult the subject or situation.
  11. They understand that emotions are devoid of logic and allow themselves and others that flexibility to express emotions that seem devoid of sense, which is vital.
  12. They accept a different perspective. Not everything they know or possess is optimum.
  13. They don’t judge people or situations quickly. Jumping to conclusions is like jumping off a plane without a parachute (or one that is defective and won’t open anyway).
  14. They are calm in the face of adversity and resilient in tough situations for themselves and others.
  15. They are approachable and provide a level of comfort when spoken to.
  16. And finally, while they realize that life and survival is serious business, they also know that a sense of humor gets them further than frowns and groans. They learn to laugh at themselves.

Sure I’d like to be successful, healthy, wealthy, important, and impactful when I grow up. We all perceive ourselves in the future as top executives and business magnates, with a grand house (or five), expensive material belongings, the ability to travel the world, and an ever-growing financial portfolio. But is this going to make us happy by itself? Let’s say we have all this but would it bother us if we didn’t get along with our spouse? Would it bother us if we didn’t understand our children and we saw it in their eyes? Would it bother us if our employees or colleagues cowered in our presence? Would it bother us if our business associates felt that we didn’t care? Would it bother us if our best friend stopped sharing their problems with us because he felt we couldn’t empathize with him? Would it bother us if our dog looked at us with sullen eyes because we couldn’t figure out that all he wanted was to go for a walk with us? I’m certain that at the end of all our achievements, we will yearn for good relationships the most.

I don’t want to be grouchy, or irritable, or lack empathy, or not understand another perspective, or blame the world for my problems, or lose heart and hope in the face of difficulties, or disrupt relationships because I was not brave enough to have those difficult conversations.

I have many of the characteristics from the list above and so do you. But how close are we to truly being at a level of emotional maturity and intelligence that actually has a consistently positive impact on our lives and those of others? I may not be able to fulfill every dream I envision. But obtaining a high level of emotional maturity is nonnegotiable.

Emotional maturity and intelligence are as good of a superpower as any. If perfected, it’s almost like telepathy, the ability to understand every mind and situation. Most people don’t seem to get this and if they do, they say they are too old to change and adapt. I’m approaching the age of 40 at neck-break speed, and I’m only just growing up.

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Mirror Trolls

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While a majority of us turn tail at the first sign of adversity, there are a few courageous souls that like to take life’s challenges head-on (And end up with a swollen head from all those head butts. Some swollen heads are also born out of arrogance on successfully taming these challenges). In fact, unlike the majority of us who use these hardships (such as acquired muscle pulls during the first few minutes at the gym, a bad performance during a group presentation in college, being rejected the very first time when asking someone out, falling off a bicycle while learning how to ride, heading into Andheri (a suburb of Mumbai, which is a populous city in itself) traffic, which I admit requires bravado, vacationing with overzealous relatives, finding a fly in the soup at a particular restaurant (like it’s never happened at home) and even being chased by a horde of dogs while walking your own) as an excuse to completely avoid these responsibilities along with a zillion others, the determined few tell themselves that they have had enough coming second to their problems, and intend to address them with enthusiasm, guts, and purpose.

Adopting a mindset that is positive in its outlook and perceives challenges as fun puzzles, is already a massive step in the direction towards success and fulfillment. Mastering our mind is key to mastering our lives.

I’m a big fan of the Rocky movie series (It ain’t over till it’s over), and in its sixth edition, ‘Rocky Balboa’, I was very moved by the spiel Rocky gives his son about life. It’s not about how hard you can hit, but about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward (If you’ve been reading my articles regularly, you will notice I find inspiration from anywhere; sports, movies, superheroes, toys, strangers, traffic, perpetual selfie-takers, Chihuahuas, and even my shadow (only at the ‘right’ angles)).

Until my mid-twenties I had a pretty meek demeanor towards everything and I was easily overwhelmed by situations, and more specifically people. As a kid, I have been scolded a couple of times by passers-by aunties in my locality for playing in the sun, while my parents were totally fine with it. I would disappear at top speed if I saw any middle-aged woman henceforth. I would blindly follow certain boys that I perceived as cool in school and take up classes and extracurricular activities, even if I had little interest, just because they had. Despite my talent as a cricketer during high school, I silently played victim to political gambles within our team and ended up with raw deals on multiple occasions. I was crazy about my first girlfriend in my teens and her wish became my command. This attitude of mine ensured that a relationship of equals had become lopsided, as I spent years at the bottom end of the see-saw. I can speak of various instances where I was easily bullied by people. Bosses, colleagues, family, taxi drivers, home delivery personnel, and now that I think of it, even my dogs and three-year-old may have pulled a few fast ones on me. And in defense of all these people, I was a willing accomplice. My demeanor sent a message loud and clear that it was okay to treat me this way. I thought I was being nice, and I cared enough to not fight back. I was just being a scared jackass.

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And then one day, after spending a quarter century or more hiding in the shadows, I decided to step out, stand up for myself, and work hard on my confidence and self-belief. In my quest to improve regularly and hone my mental strength and other skills, I became a tougher critic of myself over time. In my quest to prove my mettle, I began to set harder goals for myself and decided to not settle for anything less than absolute success. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t have my fair share of failures, but with every single one of them, I took a bitter turn towards myself. I set expectations of myself, which were perceptibly greater than anyone else’s of me. And in this pursuit, I probably set goals for myself that were unreasonable (By which I mean that they had to be devoid of mistakes or failures). Despite my diligence, commitment, hard work, integrity, and blatant honesty (fans of which I can count on the fingers of one hand), I didn’t always succeed, and that didn’t go down too well with me. The shortcomings could be very small (like minor errors in my Excel sheet workings, a less than perfectly composed email, or completing my 7-kilometer daily walk 2 minutes slower) or larger ones (like trouble in managing personal relationships, failing to convert every sales lead, and trailing my long term goals), I came down hard on myself.

In my quest to earn self-respect and not be allow myself to be ill-treated by others, I started meting out some really bad treatment to myself. I was no better than the many people I had encountered thus far. My lack of empathy for myself (despite a lot of empathy towards others), was adding to my bitterness, and subsequently showed in my environment, and results in my performances in every aspect of my life. There was a point where I didn’t even smile much or stopped altogether.  My behavior was the equivalent of punishing myself for overeating by ordering one more banana split sundae. I lost focus on a basic fact of life that empathy, care and kindness, and not brashness and rigidity, lead to improved confidence, achievement, and true happiness.

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I’m learning to not be too harsh (no pun intended) on myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t give everything my best and behave like a bum. It just means that even though the best efforts don’t always result in positive or desired outcomes, I pick myself up with care, and have another go. While, I truly believe that consistency in our effort tends to attract positivity in our environment, and things tend to manifest in our favor, it is a long process and comes without a 100 percent guarantee. The nicer we are to ourselves, and the more we love ourselves, the closer we get to that figure (assuming we do all the other necessary things as well)

Guess who paid the price for being meek and letting go of dreams and goals easily? You’re right, I did. And guess who bore the brunt of a negative mindset by being an overachiever and too hard on himself? Correct again, me. If taking things too easily is detrimental, being too hard on ourselves and not offering any reprieve is equally damaging.

Give yourself credit, time, attention and love, and only then will you truly empower yourself. Stop trolling the person in the mirror (unless your wife is checking her self out while trying on her forty-sixth dress as you look on in exasperation).

Take a break, have a Kit Kat.

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