#globalite Chandra is torn by the different worlds that coexist, seemingly invisible to most #mindfulmonday #homeless
Today, while having lunch at a burger joint, I happened to see a homeless man rummage through a trash can for scraps of discarded food. I saw him pick up and eat from the trash can. I had just finished enjoying a good meal. People all around him were busy eating, oblivious or deliberately ignorant to his sorry plight. A wave of sadness and pity swept over me. I wanted to help the man but wasn’t able to bring myself to. I had a hundred dollar bill in my wallet, not to mention multiple credit cards. I could have bought the man a meal, one he was in desperate need of. But I didn’t. I just walked away, unable to bear the sight. Even to believe such a thing was possible in the wealthiest nation on Earth. I was numbed by the sight, rendered seemingly incapable of the simple act of helping a fellow being in need.
I then walked past a big shimmering white Mercedes gliding down the road. I might as well have been on another planet. How could these two diametrically opposite visions conceivably coexist in the same space-time? Yet it was true. The same economy that enriched the Mercedes owner and enabled me to get by comfortably had ripped that man’s existence apart to shreds, the last remaining vestiges of his humanity and social propriety falling prey to a viciously cruel hunger the depths of which I could not begin to fathom.
I was consumed by shame at not having had the courage to have offered a helping hand to a human being in distress. What would have happened if I had bought that man a meal or given him the hundred dollar bill? Could my fictitious generosity have saved that man from having to eat out of trash cans? For how long? What about others like him? They might as well be invisible. To Passers by, to Governments. Human souls just like you and me that once knew better times but are now passing through troubled waters. Whose very existence is an inconvenient truth that society would rather not think about. Trapped in their own private hells while the world goes about flashing gold iPhones in leather trimmed Mercedeses.
As Phil Collins sagely reminds us, “It’s another day for you and me in paradise… ”
I do realize that this little writing exercise in no way exonerates my cowardly and inexcusable inaction. If anything, it is just an attempt to shine the cold hard light of reason on my own inner self to analyze my diffidence in offering help and clear the mental cobwebs when confronted with a similar situation in the future. To my own future self, I urge you to not have any second thoughts about helping those in need, especially those in dire, acute need. Err if you must, on the side of action rather than analysis.
July 21, 2014 in Tips & Ideas
Globalites share their one habit or practice to live consciously every day.
Chandra’s daily habit to live consciously:
I have just started writing a daily journal to reflect on my day – what went well, what didn’t, what lessons can be learnt to make tomorrow a little better than today.
July 12, 2014 in Life Lessons
There arise occasions from time to time, where one, in a rash moment of belligerent thoughtlessness, reacts with exaggerated harshness to a perceived slight, and is promptly racked to the bone by feelings of the most intense guilt and the deepest contrition.
Such a situation contrived to present itself today (author’s note: this was written a couple of years ago) when a waiter’s apathetic clumsiness, as evidenced by a spillage acknowledged yet bizarrely untended to, brought out the righteous victim in yours truly, in all its indignant and savage glory. The undoubtedly inept, and possibly overworked lad, having been promptly and rather recklessly reported to his overlord, in all probability received a private dressing down, the mortification being compounded and completed by a public berating and forced apology. The freebies brought out by the overlord as a truce to soothe ruffled feathers, served only to heighten the chagrin and embarrassment ironically felt by yours truly, the aggressor in this situation.
Having subsequently had occasion to ponder and deeply reflect upon the day’s events, what struck out most was that the unfortunate server didn’t learn the lesson that the situation potentially could have taught him, namely, the undeniably strong correlation that exists between customer satisfaction and income. But how could he, doused as it was in the stench of opprobrium? There was a lesson in it for the astute overlord as well, that public tongue lashings and employee satisfaction, and by extension, customer satisfaction, bear an exact inverse relation, which lesson was also undoubtedly lost. Last yet certainly not least, the lesson for yours truly, was quite possibly, the most profound of the lot. It can be succinctly summed up by the question:
“How can our actions in everyday life keep people from going over the edge, instead of carelessly pushing them over it, for a momentary satisfaction?”
Are we really performing our karmic and civic duty by giving free vent to our spontaneous emotions of outrage and victimization? Or can we be better citizens and more evolved souls by taking a deep breath, and several steps backward to view the situation in perspective? Perhaps the object of our frustrations has had a terrible day. Perhaps they are in desperate need of money. Perhaps someone in their family is sick, or dying. Perhaps they are down on their luck and on really hard times. Perhaps they deserve a break. One small yet infinitely thoughtful one that might bring them back from the brink, instead of pushing them over the cliff.
[Image Credits: Sastha Prakash, taken at Elanad, Thrissur]
July 6, 2014 in Health
To run is to experience a freedom that was in abundant supply in our sepia-tinted childhood days of yore, yet has been severely constrained and squeezed out of our busily unimportant lives by the pressures and strain of everyday living. To push off, shaking the dust of decades of indolence, to hear your heart beat like Zakir Hussain on the tabla in a fit of follicular frenzy, to feel the unfettered vagabonding wind brush your face like a mother’s gentle caress, to feel the blood pumping through your dusty arteries and fueling your emaciated muscles in unison onward onto a journey of liberation from the chains of corporeal mediocrity, is to experience a bit of heaven, a sliver of nirvana in the midst of our humdrum daily routine. Incidentally it is also rumored to be good for your heart, metabolism, mood and hair.
I fancied myself as a bit of a runner in my childhood. One of my earliest memories was of racing on a beach with my brother and cousins, with the race being abruptly suspended due to my unfortunate cousin, Mahesh, accidentally straying onto a mat of putrescent fish laid to dry. The smell and mortification lingered for a while, the memory a lot longer. I have no memories though of winning anything remotely of consequence. The closest I came to childhood glory was 2nd place in the heats in a school competition. My illusions of greatness were quickly relegated to their rightful place in the finals, where I finished an ignominious second, from the rear. I would like to say that I took heart from at least making the finals and persevered with running, steadily improving my stamina and speed, slowly but surely climbing the ladder of success, until one day I breasted the tape leaving my unworthy opponents cursing and biting the dust. But nothing of the sort happened. The manner of the defeat rather than the outcome itself rankled and took the wind out of my highflying sails. I shifted my loyalties to cricket, where too incidentally, I didn’t exactly set the stands on fire, being more a grim accumulator than a flamboyant dasher.
My dormant, rather extinct, interest in running was rekindled recently, when my wife, not the most athletically inclined person, as part of her post-maternity fitness program, strangely started running, daughter in tow in a jogging stroller. It culminated in her participating in and easily finishing a 5k run to my utter surprise, awe and envy. I made up my mind to start running and even went for a couple of solo runs. Huffing and puffing after a few minutes, with pride as my only remaining fuel, I managed to complete a couple of rounds of the block with great difficulty, my lack of fitness embarrassingly evident. Running went back into cold storage for a few months.
Then I moved to Simi Valley, where a friend casually invited me for an evening stroll in the park, little suspecting what lay in store. As soon as I hit the park, a powerful, inexplicable urge to start running gripped me. My wife had earlier educated me on the technique she used to get started, called interval training, consisting of alternating intervals of running and walking. I started out with a 1-minute/3-minute run/walk cycle using an iPhone app called Interval Timer, dragging my poor friend along in tow. It was surprisingly easy initially, although I was sweating like an equatorial hog in a Turkish bath after a couple of rounds. I did that for about a week, by which time I had grown emboldened enough to contemplate intensifying to 1.5/2.5 run/walk. That proved far more difficult for the first couple of days. But I dutifully kept my nose to the grindstone, and a week later, was comfortably lapping a couple of rounds. My ego now bloated like an oversized balloon, I ratcheted it up to 2/1 run/walk, which rate too I was rather surprisingly able to cope with without too much discomfort. I then got over ambitious and tried 2.5/0.5 after only a couple of days with disastrous results. The combination of higher effort and lower recovery time utterly depleted my still fledgling reserves and I had to mortifyingly switch back to 2/1 at the end of one round. The next day my body was screaming murder, and my running program was effectively setback by at least a few days.
The lesson here for me was to let things take their natural course, to not push too hard, to not go against the grain but with it, to not fight the river but ride it. As Pooh Bear would say, “Things just happen in the right way, at the right time.” (from Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff). Another lesson, heard ad nauseam, but whose truth can only be appreciated when one actually follows it, was that all it takes is one small, almost inconsequentially trivial step to start a journey of a thousand miles. In my case, just turning up at the park triggered my new running habit. Yet another learning – small efforts, almost comically trivial at times, consistently, unfailingly, unflinchingly repeated daily add up, compounding over time into great, towering, magnificent edifices. So, I urge you, whatever the journey you are contemplating, to boldly take that first step into the unknown, to cross that invisible barrier that separates success from failure (for lack of trying is also a kind of failure), to do just a little, but to do it every single day, to not fight obstacles too hard to overcome, but to go around them, to flow with this river called life towards the destination of your dreams.