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A Good Life – Diwali Musings

October 26, 2019

As many of you know, a friend of mine from my Infy days (2005-2007) visited me last weekend.  We were sitting at The Thirteenth Floor, gazing out at the Bangalore skyline when she asked me, “Do you have a good life here?  Are you happy?”  Ever the optimist, I promptly said yes.

And later, I thought about my ‘good life’.

I live in a country where poverty, lack of basic human rights, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of healthcare and proper hygiene and much more is a reality for many.  I have to only look out of the window of my air-conditioned car to see that reality plainly and starkly.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here, or because as an empath I can feel deeply, but this reality always tinges my gratitude.  Being a ‘have’ or a ‘have-not’ is simply an accident of birth.  And our lives will be shaped by what we do with the cards we’ve been dealt.

The holidays are when I get a breather.  Maybe that’s why my mind starts to automatically take stock.  Below are a few things I’ve been thinking of lately.

In a country where making ends meet can be a constant source of worry for most, I’ve been able to create a niche for myself in a place of my choosing because I’ve had the luxury of not having to worry about rent, utilities, organic veggies and well-fitted yoga pants.

At 37 and single, I rent an apartment in a nice neighborhood with no problems.  I don’t have to contend with nosy neighbors interested in why I’m single or when I’m going to get married.  No one cocks an eyebrow when I come home late and I don’t get long ‘settle down now’ lectures from aunties in my building.  In a space dominated by the 9-5-vers, my largely bohemian lifestyle is accepted.  A decade ago this would’ve been impossible.

I’m living  in a country in which people are fueling the growth.  We are demanding more from our leaders and our bosses, from our parents and our friends.  We are choosing to get married later or not at all, and it is being accepted.  We are choosing to use are expensive technical degrees to start  small entrepreneurial ventures which we hope will make big impacts, and we are finding support.  We are trading in the old definition of stability and finding purpose in new definitions.

These are pretty much the thoughts in my mind during this Diwali.

For those of you living in India, do you also find yourself thinking along these lines?  Or am I an over thinker?

Travel

Dhanteras – Relevant to a Yogi

October 17, 2017

The markets are a riot of colors.

A few years ago I spent three days in the Sivananda Ashram near Neyyar Dam (Kerala).  I found out later that the ashram is called ‘Dhanwantri’ Ashram.  And in passing someone told me Dhanwantri was a sage in Indian mythology.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in Delhi looking for topics to write about and helping with Diwali preps.  A common question in most Hindu households during this time is what to buy for Dhanteras.  Delhi markets are in stampede mode.  The police are deployed everywhere and their loudspeakers only add to the confusion.

I started to wonder why we celebrate the acquisition of wealth.  Our culture is known for its vast array of literature, for its scientific approach, for its philosophy.  A day marked by going out and buying jewellery or household vessels seems incongruous with the ethos of our culture.

Turns out that Dhanwantri was the physician to the gods, and the god of Ayurveda.  Until now I assumed that ‘dhan’ meant wealth, but my mother (the Hindi literature expert) told me the word refers to any kind of wealth.  And since Dhanwantri is the god of Ayurveda, Dhanteras is also a day to celebrate ‘health is wealth’.

“But why do we go out and buy jewellery and utensils,” I asked.  “How is that related to health?”

Practice hall at the Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam.

She explained that the idea is to buy a metal.  Metals have healing qualities.  I have a friend who drank water stored in a silver jug through both her pregnancies.  Copper jugs and glasses are commonly found in our kitchens.  In fact, a couple of years ago I bought this bracelet made of the ‘panchdhatus’ at Dilli Haat.  Panch = five, dhatus = metals and wearing a combination of five metals is considered auspicious because they improve the overall health and wellbeing of the wearer.

Dhanteras has also been declared as National Ayurveda Day.  I got my blood test reports yesterday and it’s a negative for the Dengue virus and my platelets continue to be in the normal range.  We can probably trace the roots of the papaya leaf and giloy juice back to Sage Dhanwantri and it’s apt that I’m hale and hearty on Dhanteras 2017.  Also, while we were out shopping I found a beautiful nose pin and decided to buy it for Dhanteras.  I feel I deserve a reward for patiently drinking all that papaya leaf juice!  I tried to get a good picture of the pin.  Can you see the mina work on it and the pretty flower design?

Probably the prettiest nose pin I own.

 

 

So a day when everyone goes out to acquire material wealth is also relevant to us yogis.  Go figure!

Travel

A Yogi in Pune – Day 5

September 5, 2016

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I’m a lover of stories (maybe a collector of stories?).  The house I’m living in is located on Flight Lt Sudhir Pawar Road.  I found out early that Sudhir Pawar was actually related to my landlady.  He was her uncle.  Once on a sortie, the plane malfunctioned and he crash landed.  The government named the road on which he lived after him.  Once upon a time there were several bungalows on this road, however now there are only two left, one of which is the one I’m staying in.  The compound has 3 bungalows within it, and the grave of a fakir.  That piqued my interest.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to my landlady’s father who is a retired architect.  In his 80s now, he is bedridden but his mind is spry and alert.  Deaf since the age of 17, he approached Morarji Desai for permission to travel abroad (in the 50s) to see if there were any doctors who could help him with his hearing.  Morarji Desai provided 400 pounds and letters of references to top doctors in Austria to help him out.  He set sail.  While on a quest to find a cure for his hearing loss, he managed to get a job in London, rented a Viscount’s house, learned lip reading from nuns in Birmingham, travelled all over Europe and finally decided to come home to get married and look after his younger brothers.  Still deaf, he decided on a final jaunt to Dubai for work before he came to India to settle down and start his own architecture firm.

So I decided to ask him about the fakir’s grave.  “No no he doesn’t walk…he doesn’t go anywhere.”

“What?” I was puzzled.

“Yes, he doesn’t walk anymore.  We’ve created a walkway for him and given him a house, so he doesn’t bother us.  He stays there only.”  So he was talking about the fakir.

The house he’s referring to is right behind the room which I’ve taken.  There’s a tree under which the fakir lies.  For obvious reasons I choose not to dwell on that right now.  However, I will try and get a picture of that house and tree one of these days.

Ganesh Chaturti is a big deal in Maharashtra and today was one of the first holidays pomelo_20160905130314_save.jpg(besides Sunday).  I realized this only last night and I got so excited when I realized last night that I could actually read all night if I wanted to.  That’s exactly what I planned on doing, but stumbled upon ‘The Painted Veil’ on YouTube.  I’m having issues putting the book down these days, and I was curious to see how they’ve done the movie.

I could hear ‘Ganpati bappa moriya!‘ as my hosts brought their Ganpati home and I went up later to see what they’ve done.  Family members have been visiting all day and festivity is in the air.  Tomorrow is the visarjan, where they will take the idol and submerge it the river.   Good to be in Maharashtra at this time.