Tag Archives: #humanpredicament

More Than Before

Before 2020 I was living my regular routine – going to work, getting things done and accomplishing the goals I had set for myself. I also spent a considerable amount of time with Wild Tiger Tees. Wild Tiger Tees is a social enterprise which Adam, I and three of our friends formed. Our mission is to empower youth experiencing homelessness through the art of screen printing. And as a part of it, we interacted with youth experiencing homelessness – most of them ‘not’ surprisingly were black. Adam and I had tons of discussion about generational poverty, how black are disadvantaged economically. We had debates, we talked about and then got back into the routine.

Cut to this year – 2020 which will go down in history as a remarkable year and the year is not over yet.

This year started with rumblings of Coronavirus in China, which I ignored brushing it off as something that will come and disappear. And then slowly in March, we began Work From Home. The reality had not sunk in then. Sixty days in – I realized that this is momentous. A single virus – COVID-19 had a global impact. Most of the world was working from home – who would have thought. We all have a tolerance limit, and dealing with coronavirus took some of it. For some more than others – like people who lost their jobs, it impacted them more than the rest. There were a lot of people who were/are unemployed, and that causes a sense of unrest. Even though the nature around us was a gentle hush – there were rumblings.

And then George Floyd was killed by police brutality.

It further increased our anxiety and reduced our tolerance limit. For some people that was it – the maximum they could take. For me – I admit that I am unable to brush this off as a discussion topic – Social injustice and racism. It took more screen space in my daily routine than the debates we had. My awareness of this topic has heightened that I cannot juast brush it off. And it bothered me that we lived in a society in which this could happen. And this led to a desire to act – do something. I signed petitions, donated money, wrote blogs – more than discussions or debates.

‘Doing More’. And I see it reflected everywhere – Sales of the book – ‘White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo’ and ‘How to be an anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi’ have gone up significantly. My company Nationwide did a public show of unity by kneeling in silence in downtown today. All the leaders spoke about what they are doing personally – being more thoughtful – teaching kids – speak up more – be an ally to our black/coloured friends – donate more money. Most corporates have publicly declared that they do not stand for racial injustice. Minneapolis has done away with the existing police structure and is embarking on a new way to police themselves.

I hope that this change lasts for me and does not get overtaken by my regular routine. We all hope that this will lead to lasting change – it took the pandemic and an event like George Floyd for a slight increase in global consciousness – that is a big step for humanity. Hope it continues and in the future becomes the norm until there are no native Americans or African-Americans or Indian Americans but just Americans or even better JUST HUMANS.

Innocent – Are You?

A few days ago, NASA launched astronauts to the space station. And a few days ago George Floyd was killed as a result of police brutality or racial injustice as some of us would say it.

Somebody in your team made a mistake, and you tell that person it’s ok – this is the time to offer grace and show some self-love. You come home and end up eating an entire bar of chocolate and beat yourself up.

There are people like Sri M, Sadhguru who are looking to lead us towards higher consciousness and we have a few people in this world who need not be named who are trying to the do the opposite.

What I am trying to say through these examples is that all these realities exist simultaneously. Humankind is on the verge of making robots real, whereas at the same time, we are not able to see some of our peer humans as real.

Has this kind of a spectrum always existed? Is there a reason why this spectrum exists? I honestly do not have an answer for this – not even an intellectual or a logical one which makes sense. Except that maybe it takes everybody to make this world, there is a reason behind everything whether we like it or not.

Right now, there is a lot of anger around George Floyd; emotions are running high. A white policeman killed a black man. And everybody is angry at the white policeman while expressing sympathy towards the black man. The question I want to pose is who is responsible for the white policeman’s behaviour. Haven’t we all created a society in which it was acceptable for this to happen? We can all say – I don’t do this. I wasn’t a part of it. But you know what – we all are. We let this happen collectively as a society, and that is on us too. It is not fair to blame the white policeman 100%. We have looked past so many items that they have become routine for us until something significant like George Floyd happens. Most of us turn a blind eye to it – consciously or unconsciously.

There are a lot of things that we ignore because we do not know how to deal with it or we do not have the time, or we are too selfish. The homeless person on the street when you are in your car. The little girl who was begging for money when you stop at the lights. When your co-worker makes an inappropriate comment, and you let it slide. When we ignore a bunch of young guys eve-teasing a girl.

If we all acted and did something about these minor things, maybe they won’t go out of control. It requires all of us, including me, to have the courage and awareness all the time. It needs me to be mindful of not only me but also people around me. It means I have to tune into how others are feeling so that I can respond with the ability I have.

Maybe this is the universe’s way of jolting us into the new consciousness which we all need to evolve into – for us to survive.

There’s More To It

Coronavirus seems to have crept on us from something that was happening elsewhere to becoming a global pandemic. When it first started, I never anticipated the impact it will have on the entire world. Even after we discover a vaccine, I suspect life as we knew it might not return to normal.

I am sure all of us are digesting to this reality in our fashion. Given that I have been cooped up in my home and combined with the fact that a) I am a rebel at heart and b) There is not much of a social interaction I decided to cut my hair real short – ok somewhat short. As I was leaving for the salon, I asked my husband if our dog Aki would be able to recognize me. And he said, ‘Yes because Aki knows that you are more than your hair.’ And when I come home – Aki did not even blink – he just waited for his dog treat as if nothing had changed.

It made me realize how our perception of ourselves is different from others. I see myself as somebody whose haircut defines looks. Whereas for Aki, the hairstyle does not even make it to the identification criteria. Things that are important to me might not be as relevant to him.

For example, I may wake up with a pimple on my nose. And I go through the rest of the day making a big deal of the pimple – how it is a blemish on my face, how I get a pimple when I have an important meeting at work, wonder what other people are thinking about it. Whereas in reality, others may not even notice it. I am sure they have their ‘own personal’ pimples to think about.

And if we take it a step further, we may impose the importance of our pimple on somebody else who does not care about the pimple as we do. For example, I am a project manager and having a structured approach is like second nature to me. Let’s say I meet somebody else who is not as structured and hence does not have a plan.

If I use the lack of a plan to pass judgement on them or their personality, then am I passing judgement on them or making a statement about myself? If I live my life thinking that people without a plan are lesser than me – the joke is on me. Because I am very narrow-minded – I am not able to think of a reality where people can exist without plans. I am not talking about items that we all fundamentally know to be wrong like cheating, lying, etc., but more mundane issues.

Sometimes in life, we get so ingrained in our way of life that it becomes THE WAY TO LIVE LIFE, and we forget that other people who grew up differently have a different way of life. Their pimples are different than mine. The haircut that is an event in my life might not even make a dent in life for a second. And that is entirely acceptable however unpalatable that it may be for me.

Are you aware of your pimples?

Not Fair – Just A Slap

If something is unfair and nobody is aware that it is unfair – is it still unfair?

I am writing this blog right after watching the Bollywood movie – ‘Thappad’ which translates into – ‘Slap’. And I am writing this caught up in an emotion which can only be described as ‘Outraged helplessness.’

This movie hit hard because it articulated out aloud what I knew was unfair. I have talked about this often. And my admiration for the tolerance that my mom, her mom and her mom have- has only increased. And how often it goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

I am successful by society’s standards. I am a software engineer with an MBA working at a prestigious company. I have written three books, founded a dance company and co-founded a social enterprise. But, it still bugs me that when I go back home – my extended family does not ask about my work – they ask my mom if there is good news aka ‘If I am pregnant or not.’ When I got admission into London Business School – the vast majority did not celebrate the success instead were worried about my marriage prospects.

I am not stating this because I want to list my accomplishments or point out the ignorance of others. Instead, I want to point out that according to society, my purpose is to get married and have kids—a woman’s life.

Even as I write this, I feel a bitterness inside of me. Me, my mom and thousands like us are told that a woman has to adjust, compromise and keep the house together. And guess who tells us this – other women.

I am not blaming anybody. We are where we are as a society, and the only way is forward. I get that. I also get that women have come a long way. I also understand it is easy for me to make these statements because I am independent. Most women do not have this choice. I am also not blaming men – they know what they know, are learning, and every day it is getting better.

PLOT SUMMARY: A couple in love – a housewife and ambitious husband. Husband comes to know that he has not been awarded the position he wanted in his company and slaps his wife at the celebration party. Just one slap and the first time it has happened. Wife says – One slap brought into focus all the other items that were unfair in her life. And her husband, her mother and mother-in-law all tell her. ‘It was one slap – Let it go – Women have to adjust.’

I am outraged that this happens, and I know some of the people I know would give me the same advice. I feel helpless that there is no one easy solution for this.

We are all in this together. Women and Men. We have to re-imagine what is possible and make it happen. But, we limit ourselves by our perceptions of reality and what is possible. There is a fear to break the societal norms because that’s the world we know. We all have moments in our life when it tugs at our heartstrings – when it does act on it. That holds for me as well.

Maybe coronavirus is nature’s way of showing her outrage at what we did for ages. Will we learn?

My recommendation especially if you are a woman – watch it. It is available on amazon prime video.

Out Of The World

My dad has been talking about this guy called Sri M for a couple of years. Sri M has written a few books, and my dad has read them all. The topic of Sri M came up again recently, and I decided to give his books a try. I share my dad’s kindle – clicked on the book and voila downloaded.

The book was titled, ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – the autobiography of a yogi. As some of you know, I am into these kinds of books – so I sat down with a cup of chai and started reading the book.
And I finished the book in two sittings. The book is out of the world for most of us. What do I mean by that?

This book has many examples of enlightened beings who know that they are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience, but for most of us, we have no inkling about the spiritual side. And hence this book might seem out of the world for most of us.

In the book, Sri M has an encounter with a serpent god from another planet in another galaxy in the Miky way. As per Sri M – there was a time on earth when humans and serpents lived harmoniously. The serpent folk were highly evolved and taught humans a lot. And as usual, humans became greedy and started massacring serpents in mass. The serpent lord – called Anantha called his folks back. Only the sick, old or rebels were left behind. And with too much interbreeding they have lost all essence of their original selves, and we know them as snakes today.

There are other examples where people communicate telepathically, travel instantaneously, can speak foreign languages even if they haven’t read it. All this for most of us out of the world. And I am sure some of us will dismiss this as fiction.

But, aren’t we limited with what we can perceive. For the longest time earth was flat, and we all lived in that reality. Our belief in it was so strong that we would kill people who tried to argue otherwise. Greek philosophers proved that the earth was round and then Newton confirmed that it was spherical. What does this mean? That we know only what we know and have a strong tendency to disbelief what we cannot see.

The fault with this kind of thinking is that we are limited by our sense doors – what we can see, feel, touch, hear – what if we have other senses that we are not aware of. Everything in nature operates under its laws. If we understood those laws, how would our lives change?

The purpose of this blog is not to prove that serpents exist as evolved creatures in this galaxy. Instead, it is to plant a seed that states – there might be more to what meets the eyes. What we know might not be reality. Another purpose also was to introduce Sri M to more people.

And I told one of my professors about Sri M. And guess what the next day his friend (one he hadn’t heard from a long time) forwarded a link to the online talk from Sri M – Out Of The World, right?

How does this change your perception?

Do I Know You?

Coronavirus – Let’s start with THE topic on everybody’s mind. Even if you do not want to hear about it you have no choice – it is impacting almost everything. We finally gave in to the fear that we might have no food at home (which made no sense) and Adam decided to make a trip to Kroger, our local supermarket store. The shelves were empty, and he admitted feeling the panic vibe as other people piled items into the shopping cart.

Let’s move to the real topic of this blog.

And as he was walking down the almost empty aisles – a stranger walking from the other side looked at him and asked, ‘Are you Aki’s dad?’. For those of you who do not know Aki is our Shiba Inu pup who has his own Instagram account – you can follow him @IamLuckyAki. Adam was a little surprised, and he said, ‘Yes’. The stranger told him that his wife works at the Big Walnut Boarding Center, where we board Aki sometimes. Aki, who is super diligent about his social media following, immediately reached out to the stranger on Instagram who expressed a desire to meet Aki in person someday. Aki hasn’t responded but feel free to stay tuned in to his account to see what he thinks of the suggestion.

With social media and private data floating around, it should not come as a surprise that people know us even though we do not know them. A lot of my work colleagues follow Aki on Instagram, and it gives them a sense of connection to me which I might not feel always.

Is there anything like privacy anymore? Or a more pertinent question – is that even feasible unless you live entirely off the grid in which case you won’t be able to read this blog either. Another critical question is, does it matter? I am not talking about the information like Credit card/SSN etc. but general information that most people feel comfortable posting like their, pet photos, vacation photos, food photos.

Like everything else, there are two sides to the coin. People might use that information for the wrong purpose, but the other side of the coin is that information is readily available. And it can help us connect as well. Social media does help us connect with people as it narrow downs your likes/dislikes. Most people who follow Aki are dog lovers or have a pet of their own which makes the connection so much easier. I feel comfortable talking to a stranger with a dog than with one who does not have a dog.

Apart from the connection, it also helps the spread of information quickly. Think about Coronavirus and how we know at our fingertips how many cases are there, which country is the epicentre. Some might argue that it is information overload, but it is readily available. Unlike in the past, when it would take days for the information to reach and the damage cannot be undone.

Key is awareness and intention. Are you aware of your interactions with social media? Are they working for you? Are you aware of your consumption of the information? And what is your intention as you interact with these – is it to get a specific update or general mindless wandering?

Stay Healthy, Stay Aware. May All Beings Be Happy!

Human Predicament – Musings

I just watched the movie Parasite. (Disclaimer: there might be some spoilers below). It is a Korean oscar-winning movie. The premise, plot and complemented with the acting. It is not a light watch – instead, it left me feeling very heavy in my heart for reasons that I cannot articulate. Hence, the blog.

If you have been reading my blogs, then you are familiar with my fascination with the human predicament. The human predicament for me refers to the condition(s) that arise with being human. For example, – our need for control, our bond with mind chatter, and so on.

Parasite seems to touch on so many of the human predicaments – that it struck a chord which is still resonating. Let’s explore some of the themes that I could see in the movie.

History repeats itself, but we are not any wiser.
I cannot get around my head around the fact of how we never learn our lessons (me included) regardless of how many times we are in the same situation. We as a human race have survived – wars, holocausts, genocides, and still, they keep happening. Will we as a race every learn? In the movie, the Kim family fail to empathize with the housekeeper and her husband, even though they are in the same situation. We have not realized that we are all one; hence we tend to attack each other – metaphorically in various ways.

We see only a part of the reality.
Parks have no idea that they have a couple living in their basement; they do not even know they have the second – deeper basement. The Parks also do not realize when the Kims con their way into their homes. Parks also have no idea that they are supporting the entire Kim family. In fact, till the end, nobody discovers the basement. There are so many things that we do not see in our daily lives because we are caught up in our drama.

The best plan is no plan.
This is a line from the movie. Dad Kim tells his son that the best plan is not to have any plan because then nothing can derail it. We can make all the beautiful plans in the world, but there is always something that can derail it. We can account for all the contingencies, back up plans, but in the end, there is no guarantee that a plan will work.

We can die at any moment.
With so many calamities happening all around the world, be it Tsunami, Earthquake, Gun shooting – there is no guarantee that I will wake up alive when I go to bed. And no guarantee that I will come back home alive when I leave the house. I know this sounds morbid, but this is the truth of life. Here today – gone tomorrow. But we conduct our lives in a fashion as if we are all immortals.

Unfortunately, none of what you are reading is a new theme – we are all familiar with the issues, but they are not how we lead our lives.

Did this tug at your heartstrings? What does this spark in you?

Union Of Mind And Body

In India when I was growing up, corporal punishment was allowed (it is illegal now). I still remember the punishments where one had to stand up with both hands up – straight and other was to bend down and put your hands underneath your knees and touch your ears (Called as the Murga Position).

If you have never been subject to these punishments then you are lucky – these positions start as easy, but after a few minutes the pain is excruciating. Recently, I have been reading a lot about the significance of rituals/things that we Indians do, and I came across an article that described that the two punishments as the easiest way to get the blood going to your brain which is supposed to calm the person down. It makes absolute sense on why the punishments were devised in such a way.

Similarly, there is a reason why women wear bangles and men wear Kadas. In earlier days when joint families were common – all the women folk would stay behind in homes and men would go off to farm. And when a large number of people dwell together in a small space tension arises – the bangles were supposed to rub against your wrists so that the blood flow is active and it activates the energy nodes which keeps you calm, alert and aware. It was a natural way to ensure that the relationships in the house were kept cordial and joyful.

How is all this related to the Union of Mind and Body? If you do yoga then you know what I am talking about – Yoga is necessarily the union of body and mind. And the instance above give you a clear example of the connection between the physical and the mental.

If you do Surya Namaskar – it is supposed to help weak constiution and increase will power. The poses in the sequence activate specific nodes or energy centers which strengthen those qualities.

If you have a squeaky wheel you put in oil to make it move faster, similarly our body is a mechanism and if you know how to tweak it will run smoothly. All the rituals in India were targeted towards this, but with time we have lost them, or they have turned into superstitions which have lost their original purpose.

We are all human beings having a spiritual experience – in some ways this human body is a prison, a prison of our own making. And our deepest desire to break out the human predicament by realizing the union with one. By doing yoga or other activities that connect the mind and body your stay in this prison becomes easier and your body becomes ready to break out the prison.

Sadly, for a lot of us, we do not even realize that we are in prison. And for those of us who do realize it is a prison, we are happy if we get better food, a better cell but the ultimate freedom is when there is no prison. Only I can break myself out of this prison – I cannot do it for you, you have to do it for yourself – walk the path yourself.

What step will you take on this path?

Acceptance

At our village market a cow got free and was trying to eat the vegetables off the stalls – the owners and the customers shooed the cow away, and then life went back to normal.

During the cyclone in Tamilnadu, a few of the trees just fell.

During winter the trees shed their leaves, and during spring the leaves grow again.

What do the three scenarios above have in common? Going with the flow. At the market, life went on as usual despite the cow sauntering in. Nobody gave it much thought – keep calm and carry on. Nature is the best example of going with the flow. Everything in nature goes with the flow as I have never seen a tree try to hold onto the leaves in winter because doing so would be foolishness and impossible. Imagine if a tree decided it was not going to grow any leaves in spring!

I am sure you are thinking what a ridiculous idea, right? Now, what if I told you that we not only entertain but even try to execute such ideas. For example, we do not get the partner of our choice, but we do try to do our best to make it happen. We might not get a job we like, but we strive against the verdict with all might and vain.

At some level, we know that life is flowing all around us and we are just little drops in that flow enjoying the ride. We get so busy in our human experience that we start to believe that we are like the banks of the ocean and we can contain and direct the water inside it. That is the human predicament – knowing that we are a drop in the ocean, but the drop includes everything that the ocean does.

We also like things the way they were and are resistant to change. The drops in the ocean change so rapidly that it is hard to distinguish it from the ocean. We, humans, try our best to cling to the shape and size which to put simply is a futile effort. But we still try. This is a human predicament.

We have to accept that we are in a human predicament. What we have is a choice – on how we view this human predicament – as a boon or a curse.

It will be a curse if we view the human predicament as a constraint. If we see it as a problem that shackles us from living our life because things do not happen as we want them to – the big ocean we are a part of refused to listen to the whims and fancies of this miniscule ocean drop – then it will be a problem.

It will be a boon if we see this as the freedom to experience life as a drop knowing that we are a part of the ocean then this is amazing. It’s like living life as an actor and experiencing the different scripts as we can play the characters to the fullest knowing that we are not the characters. This gives us the opportunity to live life fully.

What will your choice be?