Focussing on Time, Positivity, Purpose, Passion and Vivacity

As I lie awake at 3 in the morning, I am pondering about time. How time is something I never seem to have; for I have this need of seeking out new information and doing a plethora of things. I learned very early that life is too short; too short to waste it on counterproductive things. They say time and tide wait for none. I think it represents a universal truth: time is a luxury most of us can never seem to grasp. It is perplexing and I keep wondering how people have so much time on their hands to whine, plot and scheme against other people. I might sound preachy in this post, maybe some rambling also might follow; but this has been something weighing on my mind since quite a few days.

Here I am, with ambitions to do so much with my life but with no time at my disposal. I want to read countless number of books, watch immeasurable amount of new TV shows, movies and all types of sports, I want to travel the world, I want to write, I want to learn cooking so many different things, I want to indulge in adventure sports; the list of what I want to do is inexhaustible! I have barely any time to do even a quarter of what I aim to do. Yet I see people around me wasting their time bellyaching or plotting someone’s downfall or gossiping. Time for me is a luxury, while for them; it seems to have no value.

An acquaintance of mine has this annoying habit of whining and crying about everything under the sun. Nothing is ever good enough; everything is a negative. She does not find anything positive from anything that happens around her. I do not know how she lives her life like this. She has so much to be thankful for, she has a nice family, a beautiful baby, a great job and a great support system behind her, but she chooses to ignore the bright side and and keeps on harping about the negative side. If a person were to live like that, their life would never hold a purpose. There would be nothing to live for. What a waste of life that would be. Even when darkness creeps upon us, we usually switch on a light, or a candle, to get rid of this darkness. But she sits in darkness I suppose. While I understand that she might have become this way because of something that happened in her life; of which I have no clue about, her friends, including me, have tried to reason with her so many times. Everytime she tells us of a problem, I give her a solution. But she always finds a way to negate that solution as well. For a while it’s ok to keep on giving her solutions, but when someone does this every single day, it becomes exasperating. We all have our own problems and stress to deal with; it becomes awfully difficult to not feel irritated. Circumstances are not in our control, but our own attitude is. David Guetta and Sia’s song Titanium explains this in a very inspiring way:

I’m bulletproof nothing to lose

Fire away, fire away

Ricochet, you take your aim

Fire away, fire away

You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium

You shoot me down but I won’t fall

I am titanium

And while some people whine, some people contrive and manipulate to harm others. They have this need of sabotaging others to progress. It is a twisted way of working on their ambitions. I am sure most people have suffered or gone through something in their lives which makes them a little ruthless. There are times when I try to understand why a person could do something like this. I have seen people derive some sort of a sadistic pleasure by laying a minefield on a person’s path; relatives who have gone above and beyond to create upheaval in the lives of their own flesh and blood, friends turning into foes and co-workers destroying someone else’s careers, just because of a bruised ego or greed or blind ambition.

Do they not have passions? How do they find so much time? Maybe they are incredibly good at time management; following their passions as well as indulging in some megalomania on the side. Or maybe megalomania is their passion. I do not have a clue to how their brains work. I keep racking my brains to try to understand this phenomenon. They may have narcissm, or some psychological disorders which need professional help. Or I may be the odd one, the square peg that can’t seem to fit into the round hole. I think that we stop growing as a person when we intentionally hurt someone. We need to think about how we can go farther in life by doing our own work rather than sabotaging others. We need to cultivate various passions to keep ourselves busy; or just live it up a little.

When I think about my own life and the hurdles that have crossed my path so far in life, I have seen so many ups and downs. Losing two of my closest brothers, being stagnated or even on a downward spiral and heartbreak, has taught me that life is too short. Life is much more meaningful if we were to work on ourselves, work on solutions for ourselves rather than paying attention to what others are doing. Whatever problems I might face, if I was to find the solutions to them rather than making someone else fall, my life would hold much more significance. Focussing on ourselves will make us become better people. We could achieve all our dreams and ambitions by resolving to keep striving, without hurting someone else. This aforementioned acquaintance of mine, not only whines, but also has begun plotting against people. The person, who hated someone for scheming, has turned into one herself. I really do not think that would serve any purpose. We must own up to our mistakes, and still be positive enough to bounce back and vow to not commit the same mistake. We are humans and we are bound to make other mistakes. Life is all about learning and living. We could help those who are far worse than us. We could make time and contribute to the larger society; some people have no limbs, some people have no food, and some people live in the most brutal conditions that we can never even imagine. We are much more privileged than them and we need to do something about it rather than believing that we are the only ones in trouble. All of us have different abilities and interests, why cannot we put them to a better use than lead a life filled with such triviality? We could groom ourselves and take care of ourselves and of our loved ones.

I remember my brother wanting to live his life and yet being constricted with a terminal illness. I remember just how much he wanted to live and yet the grim reaper was knocking on his door. I remember him comforting us in spite of his own helplessness and physical and mental pain that he suffered from, at the tender age of 19. We are blessed with one precious life and we tend to squander it in such inconsequential pursuits or actions. I have often mentioned that life is a cycle of joys and sorrows; it will keep spinning. It’s like the waves at the beach; they will keep hitting us in succession and we need to be resolute enough to not let the waves carry us far into the sea. We have to be relentless and keep being positive, no matter how many waves hit us. Life isn’t always about being successful all the time and reaching sky high; it is about failing and rising up again. Athletes always find a way to rise up each time they fall. No matter how broken down our soul gets, we have to find our own ways to be stronger and deal with the source of the stress. We have to find joy in the small little things in our everyday lives; a bird humming a sweet tune, the flowers blooming, the wind caressing our face, experiencing the first rain of the season, finding shapes in the clouds and admiring Nature, walking early in the morning and breathing in the cool fresh air, laughing at the little pranks and jokes we share with our friends, celebrating our special days and indulging in our passions and fascinations, etc. There is an abundance of things that we could do instead of being so down in the dumps or causing destruction.

I think failing is more like a stepping stone; what really matters is how we stand up after the failure and strive again and again. If my brother were given a chance to live, he would have used it to a greater purpose than most of us ever would. He never let his disease break his spirit. Why cannot we do the same? No matter how many problems we have, nothing can ever compare to a person who is at the death’s door having endured such malaise and torment. Their life is slipping away and yet they find enough positivity to deal with it so bravely. My brother was a teenager when he was sick, yet he was far more mature and braver than anyone I have ever known. He still makes me think about him and not give up. He did not give up his fight for life till the last moment. My parents who lost a child, can any other problem ever compare to this loss? No, it cannot! Yet they live and go on with their lives so that they could see me happy. They have invested all their energies into making life better for me. They never whine. That’s how we all need to live; make others happy, make yourself happy, find a purpose, find passions and live for them. If life gives you lemons, throw the darn lemons away, or rather give them to your neighbours and buy yourself some mangoes. 

As Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like a bicycle, you must move forward to keep the balance.” 

Festivities Sans Materialism is the Need of the Hour

Disclaimer: This post in not to mock any religion or anyone’s faith, I am just expressing my opinions. Based on my experiences and what life has shown me so far, I don’t feel inclined to believe in religion or God. Though I don’t have anything against people who do have faith; live and let live is my philosophy. But some rituals (actually superstitions) are irrelevant today and there are a few things God wouldn’t have preached, like superiority over another religion or hatred towards people of different races or faiths. And I do have a problem with those particular rituals or ideologies.

The festive season is here. Navratri and Dusshera just went by. Diwali is around the corner and the preparations are in full swing. People are cooking up some delectable delicacies,  buying new clothes, electronics, new jewellery, firecrackers and so much more. This is a joyous period of time, bringing together families and friends.

Normally I don’t have a problem with any of it, but I always wonder when did materialism get associated with religion and that in turn got associated with our festivals? I understand buying electronics or even jewellery as this is the time for heavy discounts. But I don’t understand the taboo associated to it if a person does not buy these things. It’s not ok to judge people based on their buying habits.

Festivals are a time to cut through the differences and coming together and leaving them aside. This is the time to give, rather than show-off and indulge in pretense. How many people actually donate food and money to the needy? People make 1000 kg sweets to enter some kind of record books, but never actually give that food away to those who really need it. Or they waste milk by pouring it on stone idols. (scientifically speaking, the stone absorbs the liquid, so that makes it look like the idol is drinking it… Duhhh!!) How do we become so selfish and stupid to think fun can be had only when we think about ourselves?

I love Diwali, not because of any religious belief, but because it is the festival of lights. Lights symbolize hope, love and joy. That’s what this festival should be about. Not about how much gold people buy or how much they spend on firecrackers. Firecrackers are bad, for health, for our planet, for the animals who are scared to death because of the loud bombs. The poor things have nowhere to go and hide from all the noise. And the terminally ill, the heart patients and old people, they all have so many problems during Diwali. My brother when he was down with kidney failure, he used to have palpitations and breatjing problems because of all the fireworks. Nor is it about how many little light-bulb strings you light up; which is nothing but wastage of precious electricity. Its like whoever spends the most on firecrackers is the most religious person. Is it a race where you have to come first? In that case how do religion or God fit into the equation? Did God ask us to be so competitive with each other?

According to our traditions, Diwali was celebrated because Rama returned home after defeating Ravana. In those days, the firecrackers and light bulbs had not been invented. Did they not enjoy? I bet they enjoyed much more than any of us. They had nothing but love to share. And there was no materialism that ate away the true essence of the festivities. Why do we make so many mouth watering snacks and sweets? So that we could share all the amazing food with our loved ones and spend quality time with them.

My favorite part of Diwali is, making beautiful Rangoli right at the entrance of the house, to light up the beautiful earthen diyas, to put fresh flowers everywhere and to eat and share the goodies that my mom makes.We light up the Tiffany Lamps made by my parents (only for a few hours) and light up diyas all over the house. The simple earthen lamp lights and the decorations bring out that joyousness in me. Spending time with family and friends, eating all those delicious snacks and sweets, that’s what matters to me.

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Chakli and Chiwda, typical Diwali savory delicacies
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Diwali 2015: The entrance of my house; Rangoli and Diya decoration done by me.
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Our Tiffany Corner

They say that Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth enters all our homes, to bless us with wealth and prosperity. I have no problems with that idea. But can we really believe that spreading pollution and scaring all the animals and birds to death is going to please her? No it will not please her. What will please her is if she sees us doing something meaningful, like helping out the needy instead of wasting our money on harmful stuff. 

Most people haven’t read their scriptures carefully, all the scriptures of every religion have the same basic tenets. To live a clean and uncomplicated life and to love and respect others. I simply don’t believe that if God existed, he/she could teach hatred and intolerance. Or even having fun on others’ expense. On one hand, people preach God and religion, but on the other, they harbor poisonous thoughts and they spew venom on people they deem as inferior to them. Most of the times, the most religious people are also the most poisonous.

I was born on Diwali, that’s why my name is Sampada; it means prosperity and it is also one of the 1000 names given to Goddess Lakshmi. I was born right on what we call as Muhurat (The time when stars align and we can perform the Puja). Even though I don’t believe in God, I still join in all the rituals to keep my family happy. Their happiness matters more than my own beliefs. So for a few days, I put aside my beliefs and do everything I can to make them feel all festive. Though thankfully, my family does not believe in elaborate and irrelevant rituals. Our puja is simple and short.

Of course, I never ever burst crackers; primarily because I don’t want to contribute to the air and the noise pollution and child labor, and also because I miss my brother too much and I don’t feel like bursting crackers without him.

I just hope that people enjoy the festivities without harming the environment and doing something fruitful rather than believe in silly superstitions. Materialism should have no place, it is not something that enriches our lives. Those little moments with family and friends, that content feeling you get when you help someone less fortunate collectively brings out the joyousness; it will bring more peace within us.

May this Diwali enlighten the people with wisdom and bring contentment, prosperity and happiness in their lives.

 

Of Kaveri River, Blue Gold Wars and Divisive Politics

The past two weeks have been crazy. A city gone haywire because of an old unresolved conflict; It was something I never imagined would happen here, it has happened before but I personally have never seen anything like it.

There has been a long-standing conflict over Kaveri River, which passes through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Both the states have been fighting over it, each claiming their rights over it. This was has been going on since the past 100 years. There have been many incidences of violence in all these years.

Last week, the Supreme Court had directed Karnataka government to release some water to Tamil Nadu. This caused a huge amount of tension in the city. We had a full day strike and all the schools, colleges, offices and all commercial establishments had to be shut down. We ended up having an unscheduled holiday. There were dangers of mob violence, I had heard many people went to workplaces and shops and forced them to close up. Though thankfully nothing happened and it turned out to be a well rested long weekend for everyone.

On Monday, I was sitting in my new office, trying to analyze and translate a particularly difficult document, when I got a text from a friend that suddenly something had flared up in a few areas and the police had begun imposing Section 144, which means unlawful assembly was banned. I didn’t know why this happened. So I googled and found that there was a change in the amount of water to be released but it still was not in favor of Karnataka.

That is when hooliganism took over the city like wildfire. There was a lot of stone pelting, vehicle burning and rioting going on. Some of my colleagues were very worried about reaching home as their only mode of transport was bus and the buses were being stopped mid-way and people were being asked to get out. Some buses weren’t even running. I have been driving to work ever since I joined, so I had my car, but these people lived far away from where I lived, so I couldn’t even drop them. So they packed up and left early and somehow they reached home hours later. I left at the usual time as I knew there would be a huge traffic jam because of everyone trying to leave early. And it was a good decision as I was able to reach home in 30 minutes because of lack of traffic. But it was scary too, as the street lights were mostly off, there was no one around and the shops were closed.

The entire day I had been receiving updates from my local friends and I had been relaying this information to everyone. There had been many incidences of people burning the Tamil Nadu registered vehicles and buses coming from there. It was scary and horrible to see the city going haywire. When I reached home, I saw the news and found out that around 55 buses had been burnt and one person had died as a result of police firing and curfew had been imposed on most parts of the city. I could not believe this, I had never seen something like this!

I was in touch with my manager who was on vacation and my entire team was giving her the updates. She in turn had to get in touch with the higher management and it was decided that the next day, we would stay back at home rather than putting our lives in danger by stepping out. I was aghast; rioting and curfew being imposed! The situation reminded me that Jammu and Kashmir faces this situation everyday. It was scary how a normally peaceful city could turn into a potential warzone in a matter of two days. But thankfully, nothing much happened and gradually normalcy returned by evening. There were a few sporadic instances of minor stone pelting but the police forces had taken care of them. Over 300 people had been arrested.

I am neither pro-karnataka nor pro-Tamil Nadu with regards to this water sharing issue; that’s why I haven’t laid out any facts or figures about it here. But I do feel appalled that we couldn’t reach an agreement over an already depleting natural resource. Agreed we might not have enough to share but reaching some kind of a compromise wasn’t out of reach. And we aren’t even two different countries, we are two states in a single country. Yet I saw people expressing extreme hatred towards each other on social media. On one hand we call ourselves patriotic and paint our faces with the Indian flag, and on the other, we voice our hatred to each other. Hypocrisy is an understatement. I have been accused of being unpatriotic just because I refused to paint my face, but isn’t this more of an unpatriotic attitude? Where we stay united for the sake of it but let an issue rattle us and divide us! How is that patriotism? I just don’t understand how people justify all of this!

There have been many theories positing that someday in the future, wars would be fought over water; water is often called as the “Blue Gold”, another dying resource provoking wars. As if we didn’t have enough of those, this would add fuel to the already stoked fire. And these past few days have led me to think that there might just be some truth to this theory.

Last weekend, my 11 year old student was struggling to make sentences in French. So he made a sentence which translated to, “Spain has beautiful Spanish dolphins.” When I said that he would have to come up with a better sentence than that as his school teacher would want it, he asked why animals don’t  have nationalities and humans do. I was intrigued by his question and I think his logic was sound. So I told him that humans are crazy, there is no explanation as to why this is so. But then animals are better than us, they wouldn’t let such concepts divide them. We humans do. We are so divided by so many factors. Why can’t we be like these animals?

We are up in arms for anything and everything, it is sad to see that people don’t understand that if we could just live and let live, we could co-exist peacefully.

But then how would the politicians survive? I guess the root cause of all the problems in this world is politics, that is what fans the flames and spreads the fire further; politics is what exacerbates most controllable situations. And the already frustrated commoners get frustrated even more and wind up getting influenced by these politicians to exactly do what the politicians want them to do; creating more chaos. With due respect to all the natural disasters, it is the politicians who will annihilate the mankind. Mother nature is but a mute spectator to the self-destruct mode the humans have been designed with. Though the trouble is, it is the commoners who will suffer the most, while the politicians will be busy soaking in the sadistic pleasure they would derive from witnessing the commoners getting decimated.

Is this a pessimistic piece of writing? Or is it mostly pessimistic with a sprinkling of optimism? I would reckon it is the latter as I have mentioned that thing called hope again. But as much as I daydream that things resolve and this is a mere hiccup, practicality leads me to think that the depleting resources versus the ever-increasing population will indeed lead to our worst nightmares. But being a commoner, all I can do is hope that our future generations don’t suffer as much we fear. And that we could work at resolving at least some issues on our own too, all the while showing the politicians that we are capable of making some difference despite all their efforts to stop us from doing so.

The Sun Will Rise and a New Day Will Dawn

I was on twitter today when I came across this incredibly amazing tweet:

Sun will rise

This tweet gave me a lot of strength. I wasn’t particularly negative, but it did bring to the fore the stress I have been under lately and how it calmed me down immediately.

Change is inevitable and everything changes. Except, sun rising and setting. The Earth rotates and revolves around the sun without fail. Days change into nights and nights change into days. No matter what happens, this cycle keeps on moving. There are so many curveballs that life throws at us, there are so many hurdles that we need to cross; accepting the changes and moving ahead is the only way we can survive.

Recently, I had to cross over numerous hurdles to finally join an organization, where I have always wanted to be. There were so many obstacles in my path, it took me a long time to negotiate the notice period and thrn signing offer letter, once this was resolved, my joining got delayed by a week, and I had to run from pillar to post trying to arrange a certain document. And I had no control over it. It was a document that I needed from one place to submit it to the new place. Somehow I got it after much haggling and I was able to join. But it didn’t stop there. Turns out my team will be moving to a location where there are no direct buses from my home. Spending quite a bit of money on one way transport is my only option, (Uber to the rescue). I hate driving every day but since I know of a few shortcuts, I have cut the distance of 11 kms to 8 kms and I am able to drive without much stress, which is very rare in Bangalore. I was almost in a state of panic, how would I manage to get to work? But then I decided that no matter what happens, this is a job that I wanted. I must tackle the situation calmly and just go with the flow, no matter the cost. What’s the worst that will happen? I will just have to spend lesser on certain things every month; that is no big deal. And who knows, with a little bit of time, I can earn that money back by giving it my 100%. Plus my weekend teaching gig should also get me a little relief.

This is the reason why I haven’t published my blog till now; I simply had no time the entire week. I don’t even know how the week flew by. But the good thing is that the people are nice and I had fun in my first week at the new place. I have no work but I am getting to know everyone and observing the work that they do.

I am digressing here; my point is, there will be many such moments when we see that nothing is going right. Either there will be changes that we never anticipated or wanted, or things will just keep derailing. The past one year has been like that for me, but there were a few things that did go absolutely right and this tweet made me realize that life travels in constant flux. If today I have so much trouble, there will be moments of pure happiness coming my way. I finally did succeed in my goals. I could have panicked, felt hopeless and helpless, but the new day did come and I am much more relaxed now than before.

Recently I had come across a meme online which said, “When life gives you lemons, f*** the lemonade and let’s get drunk!”

I apologize for using the f word here, but this makes sense. Getting drunk is an individual choice, but basically, we just got to get out and have fun. Do whatever that makes us happy. I am reading books, listening to music, watching my favorite crime shows and having fun with my friends. 

And we should never panic, it won’t help. Go for a walk, breathe the fresh air in and out,  and always believe that the new day will bring somwthing good. My Uber solution was a result of calm and rational thought along with the realisation that the reward of working at my dream place was far too important than getting bogged down by the rocky path before it. 

Besides, nothing good in life ever comes easy! 

And whatever may happen, the night will give way to day, it won’t hold back for anything in this world! 

Six Olympics Stories that are Really Inspiring and Touching

The Olympics are usually filled with stories of grit, endurance, professionalism, sportsmanship and inspiration. Every four years, the athletes and their sacrifices never fail to impress. I love the Olympics, not just for the love of sports, but also for these stories. There are six such stories from the Rio Olympics this year that have touched my heart.

Dattu Bhokanal: Dattu Bhokanal is an Indian Rower. I did not know of his background before, I just knew that he is an Army Officer. Yesterday, a woman on Facebook posted his story and it became viral. Now it is on Twitter as well. Dattu Bhokanal comes from a very poor family; his village is located in one of the worst drought-stricken areas of Maharashtra. Farmer suicides and 45 degree temperatures are a regular feature there. His father was a well digger and that was the extent of water he had seen. Water scared him. But suddenly his father passed away and he became the sole bread winner of his family. He had to move out of the village in search of a job and ended up joining the Army. An officer there thought he had the perfect build for rowing and encouraged him.

Despite being afraid of water, Dattu gritted his teeth and began rowing, with the thought that promotions and monetary rewards would help him provide for his family in a better way. Four years of training led him to qualifying for the Olympics, him being the sole Indian challenge in the sport. He had not even heard of the Olympics before, and here he was, competing at the biggest sports extravaganza. He qualified for the quarterfinals but lost out from there. But that’s ok. He made a huge sacrifice in coming to Rio, competing thousands of miles away, while his mother is lying in a hospital bed in Pune, paralyzed after a fall, and she doesn’t even know what he has achieved.

He may not have won the medal for us, but he has won our hearts. With his background, it’s truly amazing that he even qualified to compete at the Olympics in the first place, and then rowing his heart out there, knowing of his mother’s ill health and not showing that struggle on his face, that’s what being a true Olympian means. And, he would have to drop everything to serve the people in times of need because he is an Army officer. He wouldn’t even think twice about it. His story tugs on my heart-strings, he is so inspiring.

Dipa Karmakar: Dipa Karmakar is the first Indian female gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. She is also the first Indian gymnast, male or female, to qualify in the Olympics after 52 years. She too comes from a humble background. She was flat footed as a child; it is her coach who trained her real hard to get the curve as it is better for balance. She trained as hard as she could and she has reached the vaults finals. The final will take place very close to our Independence Day, and whether she wins the medal or not, we will always be proud of her for achieving something no Indian woman has ever achieved before.

Michael Phelps: He is a legend, he is a machine, he is insane, and he is Michael Phelps. He has individually won more gold medals than a lot of countries collectively have won. 21 golds so far, the next records for most gold medals is 9, by Larissa latynina, a Gymnast. The gap between the two being extra-ordinary. I was a big fan of his since the Athens Olympics in 2004, his grit, his talent, his discipline, everything inspired me. He is always a real pleasure to watch when he plunges into the pool. But after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and more so after the 2002 London Olympics, I could see that he was becoming arrogant, he was getting rapped for DUIs, not something you would expect of an Olympian. Though I felt sad too that he was retiring, I also felt a bit weird as I was used to idolizing Roger Federer, someone who has never indulged in such things. But that wasn’t the entire story.

Just as the Rio Olympics began, I was excited to see Phelps make a comeback. The fan in me wanted him to win even more. I slept at insane hours and woke up at insane hours just to see him swim. That is when I came across a video about him. What I saw was a complete different picture of him and by the end of the video, my perspective completely changed.

Abandoned by his father when he was just nine and diagnosed with ADHD, he got into swimming by chance as he had accompanied his sister once and swimming was the one thing that helped him vent out his feelings about his father. His coach from his early years, Bob Bowman, has been with him all through these years till date and is a father figure. He usually trains very, very hard and he is much disciplined when it comes to swimming.

After the 2012 Olympics, he had hit rock bottom. He kept getting bored, he freaked out from his newly found independence from rigorous training and gained weight. He lost focus in his life.  In 2014, a certain professional Basketball player, who was his friend, presented him with a book to help him. He checked himself into rehab and followed the book. He said it changed his perspective towards life. As soon as he got out of the rehab, he called his coach and said he wanted to swim at the Rio Olympics two years later. His coach said that it wouldn’t be possible to train to that level in two years. But he did not give up and trained rigorously for two years and succeeded in qualifying for the Olympics. He had also gotten back and proposed to his girlfriend just 3 days after getting out of rehab. On 5th May 2016, he became a father to a baby boy, naming him Boomer.

This year, he came determined to succeed, he has already won 3 Golds, his 21st overall Gold medal. During his 200m butterfly final, his rivalry with the South African swimmer Chad Le Clos came to the fore. A day earlier Le Clos had tried to play mind games by shadowboxing right in front of Phelps, while Phelps gave him a death stare. The very next day, Phelps outsmarted him; he let his swimming do the talking, and won the Gold, while Le Clos was so obsessed with Phelps that he could not even get a podium finish. Though the most beautiful moment came during the presentation ceremony, when Phelps went to where his family was standing, he kissed and cuddled his baby while his mother stroked his hair, while in tears.

The point is, we all mess up our lives, several times. But what really matters is how we realize and admit our follies, and rise up from them and rectify those wrong choices. That is what Phelps has done. He turned his life around for the better and he is already out there achieving his dreams, again. It’s truly remarkable.

The Refugee Olympic Team: This year, the IOC created a special team, comprising of the few very talented refugee athletes who have no home to call their own. All the athletes in this team have gone through very adverse circumstances, but they are trying to rebuild their lives by participating in the Olympics. Most notably, there is a swimmer, Yusra Mardini, who was fleeing Syria with her sister, when the motor of the boat they were in stopped working. She along with her sister and a couple of people, who could swim, swam and pushed the boat for three hours to reach Lesbos.

Yusra qualified for semifinals and finals of a few swimming events but so far has not earned a medal. But what is so inspiring about her is that she has overcome several odds to reach where she has today.

Simone Biles: Simone Biles is an African-American gymnast who has won several Golds already at Rio. Her mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict and couldn’t care for her or her siblings. She was adopted by her grandparents and they encouraged her into getting into gymnastics. She is just 4’8” in height, which I personally find even more inspiring as I am of a short stature and I admire how short people succeed so much.

 Kristin Armstrong: This amazing cyclist won the Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And then she retired; she wanted a family. Her son was born in 2010, which motivated her again to get into cycling and prepare for the 2012 Olympics. Her dream was to have her son Lucas, be with her on the podium. And she did it, she got the Gold and little Lucas joined her on the podium. And as if that wasn’t enough, she competed in the Rio Olympics and won her 3rd Gold in a row, this time a 6 year old Lucas joining her on the podium. This is an amazing story of a mother’s love for her child motivating her into doing the extra-ordinary.

And there are many, many more such stories that I am reading each and every day. I am enjoying watching the Olympics, sacrificing my sleep for them. But these are the stories that really get me going. My utmost respect goes out to each and every Olympian there. Their exemplary  achievements are what legends are made of. There are 10 more days till the curtains are drawn over the 2016 Olympics; and many more stories are waiting to emerge.

The 2016 Curse; the Winds of Uncertainty and How to Tide Over Them

2016 has been bad. 2016 needs to be fired and replaced by 2017. I hereby fire 2016 with immediate effect, kindly leave and never come back. And I welcome 2017 with open arms and wish that things change for the better.

If only it were that easy!

That’s how the circle of life works; Good times and bad times keep rolling in constant alternation. Sometimes this becomes overwhelmingly difficult to deal with. This year has been like that. Many of my friends have confided in me that 2016 has been one of the worst years for them.

It hasn’t been the worst for me, but it has posed some serious challenges and it has thrown quite a lot of curve balls at me. Somehow I have been scraping through, ray of sunshine beginning to shine through only recently. It’s still challenging but small resolutions have presented themselves to ease it out just a bit.

The violence and terrorism has increased this year, causing havoc all over the world. There have been close to 30 major terror attacks all around the world, including the Middle East; and only half a year has gone past. Just as I am writing this there was an explosion in Germany. This is just ridiculous! Contrary to the older terror groups, ISIS seems to be targeting smaller targets, to create intense fear and spreading terror all over the world.

The humans all over the world were downright inhuman towards the animals, killing puppies, killing a baby dolphin for a selfie, throwing a dog off a roof, burning stray dogs alive, the list goes on. I cannot even describe what I felt reading these horror stories!

Roger Federer has been suffering from a spate of injuries, which began a day after the Australian Open and he hasn’t caught a break till now. A knee injury and the subsequent surgery, 2 bouts of flus, back issues and then back to the knee injury. He played intermittently with ease but ended up faltering at crucial points. And now he has announced that he would not play for the remainder of the season, which came as an utter shock! We had expected him to take part in his potentially last Olympics. But that won’t happen. What’s more, when he rejoins the tour in 2017, he will be out of top 10 after more than a decade, and that is a thought that is unfathomable. This is when you realize the magnitude of this Man’s achievements, No one can imagine him being out of top 10. He did not win a single title this year, another unfathomable consequence of an injury laden year. He will not make an appearance in the World Tour Finals at the end of the year after 12 consecutive appearances. The consistency with which he has played all these years, this seems like a horror movie.

He has of course exuded a very optimistic attitude in his Facebook post, saying that he is only calling it this season as his Doctor has advised him an extensive rehabilitation and he plans to come back stronger and play attacking tennis in the 2017 season. And it is a smart move on his part. But we fans are just too used to see him play so much that these 5 months without him on tour will seem like a vacuum to us. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to watch tennis, as of now it doesn’t seem to be a possibility. Only now as I am writing this, I feel a sense of positivism that he will surely be back. He is the only one who makes me so emotionally invested in him. That’s his fault though, nobody asked him to be so inspiring and admirable.

Tennis in general has suffered a lot in 2016, with the match fixing scandal and Maria Sharapova doping scandal; it has been tough on tennis this year.

Even the Rio Olympics have been riddled with numerous  problems; the most bizarre things that happened there recently was the kidnapping of a New Zealand athelete and the F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s mother-in-law. I seriously have no clue what to make of this. Not to mention so many athletes withdrawing either because of injuries or of the fear of the Zika virus as well as almost the entire Russian contingent being banned because of doping.

This year many celebrities lost their lives, some of them absolute legends who left a huge void; David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Doris Roberts, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, to name a few. All of the above, inspired me so much! It was really heart-breaking to know that we had lost such gems. Perhaps Anton Yelchin’s death can be factually associated with the 2016 curse as his death was a freak accident, just like how it was in the Final Destination movies. His own car rolled down and pinned him because of a software glitch resulting in the fatality. Its really weird how such a brilliant young actor lost his life.

2016 will also be really cursed if Trump gets elected. What a scary thought! Though if this happens, we’re heading for not just one year being cursed, but 4 years being cursed.

And there’s still 5 months left for the year to end; but the winds of uncertainty have been blowing off my wits. Things have begun to fall in place for me; but who knows what’s in store for me? Sometimes I feel the more I celebrate a good thing, the more things go wrong for me. So when I got a new job, I felt like it could just go away. It’s only now that since about a fortnight remains for me to start working at the new place, I have begun feeling positive. I was so self-conscious that I only told a handful people of the new job offer. But now I have begun telling everyone that I have taken my career in a proper direction. And I had to really work hard to get this offer; which makes me think I crossed a major hurdle.

I don’t believe in astrology at all, but it looks like 2016 might be cursed after all. Whether or not I really believe in curses, I do feel that this year needs to end fast, so that we can start afresh. It’s like, waiting for the sun to rise, after a long and cold winter night. But till then, how do we deal with the uncertainty? I’ve been told that patience is the key! Somehow we will need to be patient. If the universe is throwing multiple curve balls, then we need to find a way to dodge them. Or if we get hit by them, then just keep getting up. Roger once said that, “I don’t quit mid-match, you gotta drill me one in the eye, then maybe, but otherwise I don’t quit”. That’s what I need to do, what we all need to do.

Enjoying the little, trivial everyday joys, or finding a creative outlet to vent all the anxiety; ought to do the trick. Like a few days back, I went on full geek mode, constantly tweeted and shared the San Diego Comic Con videos and news, watched Star Trek Beyond and totally enjoyed it. I ate all the food I craved to eat, and I even slept for two hours, three days in a row in the office dorms. I am not supposed to do that, but since I am on my notice period and I have no work, I figured what the heck, why not? Patience and Enjoyment; we can make it a mantra or even a rap,

“P & E, are the key, to spend 2016 with glee…”

So this goes out to the victims of the 2016 Curse, we need to find the strength within ourselves and be patient and find happiness in the little everyday things. We need to show these terrorists that no matter what they do, they can never drown our spirits. I wish that all the people who died in these senseless attacks are up there in Heaven and enjoying a better time than here on Earth. I wish the laws against such horrible animal cruelty become really stringent. And I wish Roger gets better soon and comes back on tour with a bang in 2017.

And I hope 2017 proves to be a better company and it doesn’t get influenced in any way by 2016.

Hope, Move Ahead, Continue, Don’t Ever Give Up, Keep Calm and Keep Swimming!

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Have you ever been on the cusp of an achievement but somehow lost it to an unknown opponent at the last minute? Or you know you are about to lose it and you feel helpless. How do you deal with it? Do you become pessimistic and feel you are doomed? Or do you feel optimistic and hopeful and feel that there is something greater beyond this debacle?

Hope is a funny concept. It asks you to keep it within you till the last moment. But when that moment comes and goes, it still asks you to stick with it. It encourages you to hang on, and when you fall, it still asks you to keep it. You might be at the edge of the world and about to fall off, it still asks you to keep it. It keeps telling you that something better is around the corner, and yet when that elusive “Better”, does not even show up, it asks you to keep it. Why does it do that? Oops, did I say funny? I meant annoying. Hope is this clingy chap who refuses to let go and let you just bash up someone when you need to vent and release all your emotions.

Life is indeed full of disappointments and lost battles; every time you think you have it made, you fumble or the carpet beneath your feet gets pulled. But how do you rise up? How do you fight for your survival? How is keeping that clingy chap hope going to help?

Well, that comes from within you. You may need help, maybe some much needed pep talks from the people around you, or maybe a creative outlet or doing something that makes you happy. I have four ways of tackling my bouts of negativity. One is writing, another is watching Roger Federer videos and another is listening to songs with inspiring lyrics and lastly food, lots of it. Sometimes I may need a dose of all.

And hope means never stop fighting, keep fighting for your survival. No matter how many times you fall, hope will help you get back up and kick the universe’s ass. We need hope to be clingy, that’s how it was designed and that’s how we can survive.

I write when I am frustrated, I pour out all my feelings in writing. When I am done, I always feel a little light. Not that I would post all that junk anywhere online, but it could be like a personal diary which I delete after writing. I have a few friends who write some amazing poetry for every emotion they feel, but I am better at prose, poetry is not my cup of tea.

By now everyone knows my love for Federer; watching his Wimbledon videos beat the crap out of the negativity in me.

Food is always my companion; I cannot control my cravings!

When it comes to songs, I have an entire playlist of inspirational songs that I keep on my phone. But the one song that really gives me a lot of strength is David Guetta and Sia’s Titanium; the lyrics and Sia’s voice resonate deep within my soul.

“I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium!”

There is another song that really gets to me. It’s called “You are loved (Don’t give up)” by Josh Groban. Josh has a God Gifted talent. His tenor voice just melts my heart and the lyrics of this song are truly amazing and inspiring.

“Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When your heart’s heavy
I…I will lift it for you
Don’t give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I…I will break it for you
Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved”

I also always remember this gem of wisdom from Finding Nemo, when Marlin is sad and Dory says to him:

“Hey there Mr. Grumpy Gills! When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”

This is a perfect advice. No matter what happens, we have got to keep moving ahead. That’s the only way to live. If something we want doesn’t work out, we have to move on and have faith that something better is definitely out there. If a certain goal has proven to be a setback, find a different goal and work towards it.

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The above message in French means, “Success is not definitive, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”