Finding God

Driving through life

I drive an average of 90 minutes every day, give or take 20 minutes. I’ve realised that driving in New Delhi is a lot like life:

A stitch in time saves nine: If I get out of the door at 8.45 am, I will be in office by 9.15 including parking and the journey up the lift. Since we do 8-hour shifts, I can then leave at 5.15 in the evening, which ensures I am home well before 6 pm. However, if I leave home even 10 minutes later in the morning, the traffic builds up on the roads both ways, and I reach home at 7 pm or much later that evening, extending my travelling time more than an hour. So being disciplined in the morning leads to a smoother, shorter work day. Isn’t that exactly what financial planning, time management, preventive health and stress management all about? Short-term effort leads to long-term gain.

Every being is important: A glance through a daily newspaper will lead you to believe Delhi roads are all about hit-and-runs and buses mowing over pedestrians. But those are the exceptions that make it to the newspapers. Ninety percent of the time, people stop, give way, make space, adjust, compromise and watch out for one another on the busy, congested, people-stuffed roads of the Indian capital. We even make way stoically for cows, dogs and other animals. I firmly believe in the innate goodness of human beings and perhaps that’s why I see such examples around me every day, revelatory moments that prove time and again that every being is important, no life is too little, and we must all make space for and respect every being out there.

There are no short cuts: Sometimes you get caught in a terrible traffic jam during rush hour on the highway and decide to take a ‘short cut’ down the alleys or smaller roads running alongside. Bad idea. In most cases, it will take you the same amount of time or even longer to reach home, and you will be far more frazzled after negotiating narrower terrain with worse jams. Lesson: Accept what has been given to you by the universe, and go with it. What you resist persists. Sink into the moment, turn on the music, and make the most of it.

Be in the moment: Driving is sometimes like meditation; you often drift into your own thoughts and lose track of vast stretches of miles or minutes you’ve covered. It’s like you go into a trance and let your subconscious do the driving. This can be dangerous. When we live our lives by default, we are prone to real and metaphorical accidents, and we miss hundreds of opportunities. Opportunities to make us better people or simply make us smile. When we are distracted, we aren’t focusing on our life’s purpose. Like meditation, the solution is to gently lead your thoughts back to the moment, on the road, on the car in front of you. Be aware of what’s going on. Pay attention. There is magic in every moment. Don’t miss it.

Driving is necessary, stress is optional: There are some things we just gotta do, driving, working, bring up our kids, making a living. We can either choose to do them stressfully, zipping between lanes, honking away, adding cortisol to our blood streams, trying to get ahead of everyone else, trying to save a few extra minutes at the traffic signal at the cost of our mental peace and health. Or we can do it calmly, sticking to one lane, chilled out, riding over bumps and turns with patience and grace. Guess what path leaves you happier and healthier in the long term?

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Finding God

Beliefs that serve me

I’ve started a new weekly exercise at my workplace. Every Monday, I share with my team 5 tips on living life to the fullest. The idea is to pass on whatever little knowledge I have before I die. Surprisingly, my team is very receptive and eager for these sessions. It is deeply fulfilling for me and I thank God every day for the opportunity.

This past Monday I shared 5 beliefs I have imbibed over the years that have served me.

1. There is enough for everyone: Contrary to what the corporate world makes things out to be, there really is room for everyone to be a true leader. If we operate from a mindset of ‘there can only be one man for the top job’, well, we’re always going to fight and jostle for our space in the universe. The minute I adopted this belief 5 years ago, the universe actually CREATED new positions for me to occupy. I no longer had to apply for a job. It was created for me by the forces that be.

2. People are good: We’re often brought up to distrust strangers or told that some people are good and others are bad. But one belief that has served me is that all people are inherently good, and if they do commit behaviours that are perceived as ‘bad’, it is because they crave something – love, attention, acceptance, power, whatever – or because they’ve been indoctrinated that way. I truly believe that, given the choice, humans gravitate towards the light. This belief helps me see the good in just about everyone, and this further helps me bring out the best from them. It also keeps me happy and at peace since I do not doubt people’s intentions.

3. Everyone is right: My dad once said this to me when I was a kid and, later, when I grew up, I understood what he really meant. Every human being takes actions that his or her subconscious dictates as the best option for survival at that moment. In other words, if you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you too would do exactly the same deed at that same moment in the same situation as they did. So there’s no point judging others as wrong and yourself as right. This belief has served me in arguing less and accepting others more. I do not hold grudges for long.

4. The universe is a benevolent place: Over the past many years, I have come to believe this deep in my heart that no matter what happens, I am protected, I am safe, that this life is not all there is, and that there is more to existence than existence. I have come to believe that I am deeply loved by my Creator and that no matter how bad things may look, they are really only less than a blip on the radar of the mighty universe. And that, eventually, whatever happens is going to be for my good. This belief helps me bounce back from setbacks time and again, and to be resilient in the face of sorrow.

5. We can only defeat darkness by turning on the light: By constantly focusing on the negative around us, by reporting only negative news day after day, we only create more darkness. What we need to focus on is the light. Once the light is turned on, the darkness automatically goes away. This applies to just about everything: let us publish more positive news instead of negative; let us work on our strengths instead of cribbing about our weaknesses; let us focus on our mission in life instead of whining about little obstacles on the way.

With gratitude. Hari Om.

Seeking God

Both sides

Sometimes, you’re the daughter craving for your mother’s approval. Sometimes, you’re the mother craving for your daughter’s approval.

Sometimes, you are lonely and wish for companionship. Sometimes, you have too much companionship and wish for solitude.

Sometimes, you’re stuck in an office and miss the calm of the trees. Sometimes, you have the trees but miss the stimulation of an office.

Sometimes, you’re a busy editor with freelance writers chasing you for payments. Sometimes, you’re a freelance writer chasing busy editors for payments.

Sometimes, you’re both things at the same time.

Sometimes, you curse the ‘mall culture’ for promoting consumerism and ruining the environment. Sometimes, you head to the mall for just that spa where you can get just that heavenly foot massage.

Sometimes, it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead. 

Sometimes, you enjoy Adele.

Sometimes, you wear a sari and think, ‘Ah, this is so me.’ Sometimes, you wear trousers and a flowy top and think, ‘Ah this is so me.’ Sometimes, you wear a kurti with jeans and think, ‘Ah, this is so me. Too.’

Sometimes, to cleave means to split. Sometimes, to cleave means to join.

Sometimes, you zoom across lanes and overtake others on the road and adrenaline rushes through your veins. Sometimes, you sit back and let others overtake you and it doesn’t really matter.

Sometimes, you give money to a beggar and feel guilty for propagating the beggars’ mafia. Sometimes, you don’t give money and feel like a heartless monster.

Sometimes, you have a pimple on your forehead. Sometimes, you’re acne-free. Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. Sometimes, you frown. Sometimes, you guffaw. Sometimes, you believe Arushi’s dad killed her. Sometimes, you can’t believe he would.

Sometimes, you think about life. You don’t think so much about death. Except that if it comes, you’re pretty happy with all you’ve managed to try out in this life. It’s not been a total waste. Oh no, not at all a waste.

One day in your Gita class, you learn that human existence is all about making peace with duality. And then it all makes sense.

Sometimes, you can cleave a story into two.

Sometimes, you cleave both sides into a story.