Monday, March 29, 2010

Happiness Boost-- Show me yours and I'll show you mine :)

Why do some people have such a happy influence on us? They cheer us up by just being there. They seem to have some secret magic happiness powder which they have sprinkled all around them and it is hard to not feel enthusiastic and happy when they are around. They are not necessarily boisterous, loud and oh-I’m-so-happy-all-the-time-isn’t-life-great kind of irritating people who seem to think that they know the cure for all of your problems. I don’t mean those extra-jolly types. (though some people naturally are that way—they cannot help it).

In contrast, there are some people who drain us completely and make us feel so miserable. I have even written a chapter ‘Radiators and Drains’ in my first book which touches upon this. I had also written about ‘prickers’ in one of my earlier posts. But the fact is, even if these people haven’t said anything or done anything, one feels so down in the dumps, after any kind of interaction with them, even if they have been really nice. Some people I know truly leave me exhausted after I speak to them. I feel like a bouncy castle that has developed leaks in several places and is deflating rapidly. Ideally, I would like to avoid them, but sometimes one cannot for various reasons.

Why is this so? Why do some people really enjoy life and others do not?  Why are some people naturally exuberant and positive like Tigger  in Winnie the Pooh and some are like Eyeores? Psychologists  have spent more than 30 million dollars in research to answer these very questions. Their findings have led to a movement called Postive Psychology movement, started as far back as 2000. This is not some new age mumbo-jumbo but is a serious scientific study backed by serious empirical support. Do some people truly have the secrets of  happy life?  Why do things mostly ‘go right’ for them?

Doctor Nick Baylis, a psychologist at Cambridge University says that if somebody is happy with life, they are more popular. Everybody likes hanging out with happy people.They are more productive, healthier and live longer. Baylis also says that optimism is a self fulfilling prophecy. If you firmly believe that things are going to get better, they will, as you will put yourself forward more, try harder and will take better care of yourself.
These scientists also believe that happiness and optimism can be learnt. Dr.Seligman who is one of the founders of the Postive psychology movement has elaborated a lot more on this by saying that true happiness can come from three factors—‘Pleasant life’,  “good life’ and a ‘meaningful life’. You can read more about it in this wiki article or this article which appeared in ‘The Guardian’ in 2003.

I know for a fact that I feel happy when I focus on what is right in life rather than what is wrong. Sometimes we are so steeply mired in our problems that we fail to notice the small things. Sometimes the drains and the emotional vampires make our vision cloudy and bring anger, hurt and frustration into our systems.

You know then, that it is time for a spring clean! Throw out the negativity. Stick to the ones who make you feel good. Insulate yourself with a shield of love. Hug someone you love.(A tight bear hug is highly recommended)

Answer these questions ( A thank you to Nikhil who sent them to me this morning)

You can be sure you will instantly feel good.

I am sharing with you my happiness boost for this week:

Beautiful Tulips that I grew in my garden.
(Aren’t they gorgeous?! I have only painted tulips so far from pictures and seen photos of them Now I am growing them in my garden! I grew these from bulbs and how they have blossomed.  Don’t you feel  happy just looking at them?! I do!)

Pssst: I have grown Camelias and Daffodils too :-) Want to see? :-) I'll tell you what--Let's be fair. We'll trade. Share with me your happiness boost and I shall share those with you in my next post :-)  Its only fair, right?

After all happiness shared multiplies!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

True Love--it cant get any purer than this!

I might have become a published author. I might even call myself an avid writer. I might be able to say that I make good portraits. (click on link to see my latest pictures)

But nothing, absolutely nothing I do, can ever match up to this !(click on image to enlarge)

Awwwwww...!! I couldn't help sharing this.

I  felt totally blessed and felt like the luckiest person in the world!

I saw myself through my daughter's eight year old eyes.
To her, I am perfect. (for now.)

Who am I to deny?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Real men do not cry...or scream :-)

We went to Madame Tussauds in London last weekend. It got me thinking. Nopes, I didn't think about how lifelike the wax statues of Will Smith or Michael Jackson and numerous other celebrities were. I also didn't think of how in the world they made  Aishwairya's hair a shade of dirty unwashed brown, as opposed to the gleaming black tresses of glory, one sees her seductively flicking, on the silver screen.I didn't even think about how Satish managed to make me look like a bloated, blushing matron  in a photograph of me posing next to Sallu-bhai  ( he blamed it on the lighting and what a coincidence, he hates Salman too!)  where as I managed to make him look absolutely stunning in a snap I clicked of him posing next to some feisty, busty 5'10" Barbie doll lady with a waist size of 24", in the  very same lighting.

I  instead thought and concluded that being born as a man must be tough. It had nothing to do with the feisty busty lady or Sallu-bhai. But what made me reach this conclusion was a section of the museum called Scream. I detest horror movies and I never watch them. There was only one time I have ever seen a horror movie which was before my children were born, and when Satish was travelling. I was all alone in the house and when I switched on the TV, I froze in fright, caught completely unaware. I watched only because I was so petrified, frozen to the spot and could not muster enough courage to grab the remote and switch  it off.The morbid gore filled saga that was being shown chilled me to my bones and I continued watching in terror and horror and all such things, my heart pounding as loud as those speakers in a rock concert of Anthrax or Megadeath, when you stand inside the pit.(Somehow Dave mathews would have made it easier to bear). So imagine my shock when I came across this part of the museum all of a sudden, especially after posing for photographs with Arnold and Van Gogh and Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.

There are boards warning that it is not suitable for children under 12 or pregnant women or for those with a nervous disposition (and I did not fall into any of these categories).The staff too dissuade you, before you enter. Many people opt out at this stage and take the 'escape' route which lets you tour the rest of the attraction. So it is not like anybody is forced to go through 'Scream'. My mother was with us and she and the children decided to take the 'escape route'.  I was in two minds whether to enter 'Scream' or not. Finally the masochist in my goaded me and taunted me till I succumbed. Of course, Satish had to go with me.There was no way I was going in there alone.

You enter the chamber and the door shuts behind you. It is completely dark inside.You are warned that there are live actors too (apart from strobe lighting) and you are warned not to touch them. (A good thing they warned, else in my fright I would have probably kicked out in blind terror) I clutched Satish tightly  and used him as a shield to navigate around. I was holding him so tightly (the poor guy could not breathe) and peeking out from behind his shoulder. The effects are extremely realistic and you are totally lost inside the maze. There is no saying from where the next murderer with blood dripping, will jump out from. They come really close and they are very professional and do a superb job of scaring you. Even though  at the back of your mind, you know it is make believe, yet it seems so real that it is terrifying. I was paralysed with fright. It is inevitable that you scream. (I think they are trained to frighten you till you scream).

Anyway  giggling nervously (only me, Satish was unfazed or at least pretended to be) and finally after what seemed like hours (which was in reality a few minutes) we managed to find our way out of the maze and I sighed with sheer relief. Through out the time I was glued to Satish, my nails digging into his arms, so tight was my grip and I was so glad he was there.He was very amused at my fright and terror. I asked him if he was scared and he said "Of course not. It is all very silly. Besides you know it is make believe "

It got me thinking about how much men have to go through, to maintain that macho image  which they have to live up to. Women are allowed to scream, confess they are frightened and are allowed to cry at movies, allowed to be moody (and even allowed to blame it on PMS), allowed to be mysterious, allowed to be emotional and allowed to do a lot of things that real men just are not 'permitted' to do. Isn't it strange that crying and laughing are two essential emotions, yet while watching a movie, men  and  women will laugh with abandon, but at a very moving scene, it is only women who will admit to crying (I cry easily when a scene in a movie has touched me). I think it is because little boys are conditioned from childhood to 'be brave' and 'not cry like a girl' which is a very good thing too. Imagine going into this museum where the guy runs out screaming and leaves you all alone! :-)

So guys, if you want to impress that  special girl, take her on a date to Tussauds to the 'Scream section'.(Based on the assumption here that like most women she will hate horror and blood and gory stuff)

But please remember not to run out screaming  :-)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Coincidence or something more?

Have unexplainable coincidences ever happened to you? You think of a friend whom you have not been in contact with  for years and that very day the friend calls you. You make a special dish which you make very rarely, to surprise your  spouse and your spouse tells you that, that very morning he had wanted to ask you to make that dish.  During a break from office you see an item of clothing you like, but you do not buy it thinking it is an extravagance and you don't even mention it to anyone. But that very weekend your boyfriend surprises you by gifting you the same and hoping you will like it. You need money desperately and some money which is a dividend from shares which you had invested in and forgotten all about, arrives unexpectedly in the mail.  You get the kind of coincidences I am talking about. Science has no explanations for them and there is no logic or reason behind them. Hence they are  dismissed as 'mere coincidences.' Yet, throughout history strangest of coincidences have baffled humans.

Consider these  perplexing  coincidences which include the well known Normandy invasions as well as the bizarre coincidences in the lives of Abraham Lincoln and J.F Kennedy.  (click on link if you do not know about them) Or look at these weirdest of coincidences coming from authenticated sources like Readers Digest, BBC, Science Digest and Ripley's Believe it or not.

There are many such things for which science has no explanations. We know today that is it indeed possible to go to the moon, but if you had said so even two hundred years back, you would have been dismissed as a lunatic or a dreamer.
Most sceptics  and cynics would perhaps ridicule these coincidences as mere chances and nothing more. Yet there are many who believe them to be signals from the Universe--all a part of the grand plan or destiny, in which you are a mere cog in the wheel. Deepak Chopra  (who has written more than 45 books and that have been translated into 35 languages and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide) says that coincidences are not accidents but signals which can guide us to out true destiny. William Burroughs said  "In the magical Universe there are no coincidences and nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen."
 I have read all of Brian Weiss's books too and he says (to put it simplistically) there are reasons for everything that happens.

Personally, I have experienced many such coincidences. I have blogged about one such coincidence here. 
Another such coincidence I am sharing here.I used to teach at a preschool in Bangalore, many years back. I used to interact with the parents a lot. A few years later, long after I stopped teaching, I moved to Pondicherry. I had a strange dream about a child's mother whom I used to interact with in preschool. Imagine my utter astonishment when I ran into her at Pondicherry, the very next day! She had come on a holiday and her hotel was very near to my house! I had not thought about her at all for years. She wasn't even a 'friend'. Her son whom I had taught when he was four, was now a ten year old who did not remember me but when he was at pre school he was really fond of me. This was one of the strangest coincidences I have experienced. Many more such 'coincidences' have happened to me.Some are too bizarre and would sound incredible if I mentioned them.

A good friend and I were discussing coincidences and he sent me this quote from the movie "Pi"

Hold on. You have to slow down. You're losing it. You have to take a breath. Listen to yourself. You're connecting a computer bug I had with a computer bug you might have had and some religious hogwash. You want to find the number 216 in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. 216 steps from a mere street corner to your front door. 216 seconds you spend riding on the elevator. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. "

But there are many many things which happen by pure chance especially when you are not 'seeking coincidences' even in your subconscious  mind.

Perhaps Science will advance enough someday to find explanations to things like these. And then the future generations would say, back in 2010, people thought they were coincidences. They were not very advanced like we are today.

What is your take on this? Have you experienced such coincidences?Do you think of them as 'signals' from Universe or do you just dismiss them? (I urge you to read the historical and documented coincidences which I have linked if you haven't heard of them)

I would love to hear what you have to say about this.

Monday, March 08, 2010

You and I , its a beautiful world--1



I made these last night on the back of my old business cards. More of these to come soon. :-)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A hole in your socks ,doggie texts and chuckles

Really sorry--I have had to remove this post as it will soon appear in a book. Making it available online would have been very unfair to my publisher who has placed so much trust in me. I hope you enjoy the other posts as much as you enjoyed this one. A heartfelt thanks for your support and understanding.Thanks for continuing to read what I write.

Monday, March 01, 2010

On the role of books in raising a child

Sometime back I had written a post (On role of a whiteboard in raising a child) which had got a huge response asking me to write more such posts on parenting. This is the second in probably what will be a series. Please read the disclaimer in the above mentioned post if you're new around here. If you already know me by now, read on!

The Cat In The Hat. (Meez Photography) Pictures, Images and Photos
A few years ago, when my children were much younger (my son was about 4 and my daughter was just a 6 month old baby) I joined a 'Reading group'. It was not a formal group but just a few of us, mothers, with children in the same group who had got together and formed this group. There were a few common factors which bound us tighter than Fevicol, apart from the common love of books. 

Firstly we were all stay at home mothers, who had given up Corporate careers because we wanted to be at home when the children were growing up and secondly we were women who truly understood what it meant to take care of two children all by yourself, being on call 24x7, with no respite from sleepless nights, diaper changing, timely feeding, routines, vaccinations, illnesses, rushing to playschool of older child, managing school projects, packing lunches, taking care of a thousand unforseen minor (and some major) emergencies and still smiling at the end of it all. We all also kind of missed our single days when we could go out without checking if the restaurant had kiddie meals and without looking at any outing from the children's point of view.

The best part about the reading group was that it was for children, but the mothers involved had so much fun as well. The main requirement was that you, as a mother (or a father--though we did not have any fathers in our group) had to be present along with your child. It was not a dumping place where you left your child and came later to pick the child up. We met for about 2-3 hours (the duration depended on how much fun we were having) each Wednesday at one of the homes of the mothers who were a part of this group. We took turns. There were about ten of us --so it meant that your turn to be hostess would come only once in ten weeks and so nobody minded being the host.

The mother whose turn it was to host it, would take all the children inside to a bedroom and would read them two childrens books. The other moms would have a nice tete e tete, sans the kids, discussing a lot of useful stuff (as well as some fun stuff). The choice of books to be read to the children, depended entirely on the host-mom.  After she read them the book, we would all join in. She would have organised an activity--usually a craft or a science activity--which the children would do along with their mothers.(she provided the materials as well) After that it was 'healthy' snack time. The host mom had to provide a drink and a snack for the children and the mothers. We were all, without a doubt or exception, totally against junk food and fizzy drinks  and we learnt to have so much fun and learnt to innovate a lot and be very creative with 'healthy food'. Healthy food need not be boring. I learnt that stuff like tri colour sandwiches and carrot cakes could be as delicious as they looked.

On womens day, all of us mothers went for a girls night out, leaving our children with our husbands who babysat. We had so much fun! Reading group was not only about reading. 

It was in this reading group that I discovered the importance of reading poetry to your children. I still read a lot of poetry to my children, apart from stories that I read to them, even now, almost every single day. (They both love it even though they can read on their own.) The poems I choose vary in range from fun poems to silly rhymes to profound poems and poems that make you think. A marvellous book that I recommend is 

The Puffin  twentieth Century Collection of Verse.

Each and every poem in the above book is  worth a read. Some are zany, some delightful, some small, some profound, some crazy but each one is so rich!

One of my all time favourite poems is a short one called 'Squeezes'  by Brian Pattern. To read this poem and many more by him, you can go here.

I have a large collection of more than 400 Children books (collected painstakingly over the years and all chosen with great  care. In the picture above the cupboard on the left has the Children's books and the one on the right houses mine and Satish's favourites) The stories I read to my children are mostly  stories of courage, stories from mythology, stories from everyday life and also biographies of great people and true stories from history. I have read them inspiring stories like the biography of Abe Lincoln and just yesterday I began to read to them, the life of Kalpana Chawla. My daughter wanted to know about the  Partition of India (as Kalpana's father arrived in Karnal as a refugee from the Partition) and how it affected people and why couldn't people just stay instead of deciding to move. 

The Montessori method of education (which I am a big fan of) says that Fairy tales should not be read to children. But I disagree. Fairy tales are important too. But the thing is there is so much beyond fairy tales. Life is not always a bed of roses like in the Fiary tales.(They discover this the first day that they are at school, where they are just one among 40 or 50, where as at home they are the undisputed little Kings and Queens.) One will be poorer if one reads only the well known fairy tales to one's children.

The other day I read a story by Oscar Wilde to my children. It was 'Nightingale and the rose'.
My son felt very sad about it. My daughter said she hated Oscar Wilde because he writes stories that make children want to cry. Tears are a part of life too, I explained to her. There will be sorrow along with the joys, and one should have the courage to face both. And the most important thing is that there isn't always a perfect ending. She nodded her eight year old head solemnly. It had sunk in deep.

Stories shape characters. Stories are very powerful.
So choosing stories with care and reading them out with love (and later discussing them patiently and truly listening to what your children say and more importantly listening to what they do not say) go a long long way, in raising a child.

Ps: Do you want more such parenting posts? Let me know. 

Addendum:  I have since then moved many cities and many years have passed. I no longer am in any reading group as my children are now 12 and 8. However it was very useful  when my children were much smaller.