Wednesday 31 December 2014

My Prayer This New Year

Issue is deeper, issue lies within me - not outside
I hope I can accept this

Things are manageable and in my control
I hope I can realise my own power

Problems are trivial in comparison to the universe
I hope I can understand that I am just a speck

Society, people, circumstances - these are just vehicles
I hope I can open my mind

Am I brain-washed & slave today to society?
I hope I can wake up one day & break free

Is this world as gloomy as it feels today?
I hope I can one day see its beauty & glory

Each new morning is a gift, not my right
I hope I can make the most of each single day

If there is one change in me that I ask for,
I hope I can learn to value what I have & thank God for it

At start of every year, there is a list of resolutions
I hope I can keep one this year & become a better person!

Sunday 28 December 2014

Time & Place

"There is a time & place for everything" - even if everyone reading this post is already tired of hearing / reading this - allow me to repeat it still...there is a time & place for everything! I have come to understand this - I have come to believe this.

The above statement could be interpreted & used in different ways...for example, it can be understood as & used to describe appropriateness of words & actions. Certain things said / done, may normally be acceptable as jest - however, not always is jest acceptable and thus not always appropriate. This highlights that there is a time & place for every action and every spoken word.

Another interpretation of this is applied at God's will & timing. "There is a time & place for everything" - would mean, God knows when & where should things happen. It is His will, which decides actions & their results...not human will. More than that - this interpretation is essentially to cover human inability to comprehend God's will & sense of timing.

I have seen both - have been inappropriate on more occasions that I would want to remember and have understood God's will & sense of timings (though only in hindsight).

We all have the capability to analyse our life in hindsight. To pick any part of our past and see what happened, what we did, what others were we responsible and how others contributed to our life (directly or indirectly). Within all this, we can also see when we were pained, the low-phases of our lives and how we questioned God - "why me?".

Over the years, it has been my understanding that incidents, people, words that caused me pain - have happened for a purpose, to serve me in good stead in the future, to teach me a lesson I needed to learn or couldn't learn in any other way.

This is not only true for pain or negatives alone - it is true for music, books, experiences, travel, friendships, success - essentially, nothing happens before it is supposed to. We take a change of interest in music / books as sign of maturity - I now realise it is designated-time bound and not age or maturity bound. Some people may start reading spiritual word and following it from an early age, while some may die old without ever giving any importance to spiritual word. Some may listen to loud music as kids and grow on to listening to softer music later...while some could prefer one form of music all through.

People may choose to look at "time & place for everything" concept in any manner - I believe it is all about appropriateness. Human society has probably managed to lay down acceptable & appropriate laws, but it is definitely nowhere near understanding appropriateness of God's will to unfold and His sense of timing.

I am writing this post, sitting in vast & open spaces of a secluded & quaint cottage in Ramgarh. It has been many years since I have been to such a quiet place, where I could almost hear myself think. The clear blue sky during day time changed to a star-studded cover in the night. Sitting and looking at the night-sky, seeing thousands of stars shimmering - one can get one of two emotions: either pure bliss at the natural marvel and the fact that he / she is taking a break from big-city lifestyle...or, a big hit on how one sees his life and his problems - this is the feeling of becoming insignificant when compared with magnitude of universal plan. 

The latter thought is a big jump - but a significant one...if I am insignificant, then my problems are even more insignificant. I think this line of thought helps put things in perspective and clear a lot of cobwebs. This helps further in seeing the validity of time & place concept...all of this to get some peace.

Boys Don't Cry - How Stereotypical?!

This post's focal point has been inspired by a stand-up comedian's segment. Louis C.K. (creator & actor of Louie) talked about pressure felt by heterosexual men to maintain their image as heterosexual men. According to him, this is the only sexual group that worries about perception of others of their sexual orientation. Explaining this further, Louis said heterosexual women are not worried if anyone considers them to be homosexual...or if homosexual men worry about coming across as heterosexual. However, most heterosexual men try to be careful of not only what they say & do things, but also how they say & do things, lest they are considered homosexual.

Essentially, trying hard to always live up to the stereotypical 'heterosexual-male-act'! I couldn't agree more...

The stereotypical male act is deeply ingrained in minds of all men. This stereotyping starts, rather unfortunately, at an early age. Boys don't cry...boys don't play with make-up or even is okay for boys to break things / be aggressive. Such strong mental stereotyping can cause a lot of trouble for homosexual boys - almost to the extent of not identifying with themselves from within and obviously feeling as a social-misfit. As soon as homosexual boys / men are able to accept their orientation and tell the world (that matters to be told), they are free. From there on, they are not fighting to live up to any image or one would come to them and say - "why are you walking / talking like that, are you a heterosexual man?".

However, things are not quite that 'straight' for heterosexual men. They have been brought up in a manner that screams "boys don't cry" (used as a metaphor - for strength & control over emotions). Over time, they themselves start believing in this to be the truth of life - which makes them go hiding their emotions and, sadly, ignoring emotions all together.

Heterosexual men wouldn't claim openly that they like mushy movies, love ballads...or even that they hope for happily-ever-afters. They wouldn't show concern for emotions, if not of the opposite sex, then definitely not for their own sex. Feigning strength, it is impossible for heterosexual men to share pain & show tears. Are any of these stereotypical acts unhealthy, not sure - is it necessary for heterosexual men to be in touch with their emotions and also be good at sharing...again, not sure. Fact is, for those (few) who want to break this stereotype, have to do so at the cost of being considered less of a 'man' and possibly made fun of (in his social group - at the very least).

The problem is rather simple. Heterosexual men are made to believe and actually think that it is them who define manhood...the symbol of logic & strength. They think feelings are less important, actually believe that they think using their brains (not heart)...often forgetting they are not always led by brain!

Interestingly, this is the only sexual group that has three active & capable decision making organs - brain, heart & balls. In order to live up to the image of manhood - which is anyway incorrectly assumed as synonymous with heterosexuality in men - they curb the heart, lose their brains and end up acting purely on instincts led by their balls.

If only this sexual group could be woken up to be told that life is bigger & beyond perceptions of others about their sexual orientation and the image associated with this perception. If only they could truly learn to use their brains & believe more in their heart...over their balls. But then, if only...

You Are The Only Blessing I Need

Sitting here in the lap of nature,
You are the only one I want

Sitting here all alone,
You are the only one I miss

Sitting here, looking at the sunset,
You are the only light I ask for

Sitting here as cold engulfs me,
You are the only warmth I crave

Sitting here at it gets dark,
You are the only ray of hope I require

Sitting here as I think of tomorrow morning,
You are the only blessing I need!

The Ramgarh Bungalows: A Perfect Retreat

A rare decision, unsure days leading up to it, a nervous few moments - all of this ended up with Tina & I finding ourselves in the lap of quiet & blissful nature. Our last hill-destination holiday was in Jan '07...since then we never came around holidaying in hills, until 2 weeks ago when the idea came to us once again.

One major reason for avoiding hills was sheer commercialization at places such as: Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie...However, this year - Tina found a perfect retreat for us - The Ramgarh Bungalows (a Neemrana property). Nestled peacefully away from maddening crowds of Nainital - at a driving distance (approx. 340 kms from Delhi) and promising the best of comfort along with experience of pure nature!

Until a week before our travel date (25th Dec), it was snowing hard in & around Ramgarh. Roads were blocked and we were told to wait until 23rd Dec before making any further plans. At the same time, we were comforted by weather forecast - it was supposed to get clear & sunny soon...and it did.

We started early on 25th morning, in order to reach our destination well before evening hours - we figured, what-ever the roads & weather had to offer, it would be easier to manage during day time.

The quality of road all through was decent to good - patches of broken road & pot-holes were definitely encountered, but overall the drive wasn't bad. With 20 minute breakfast break at Gajraula, a refueling halt and snow on both sides for last 5 kms of hilly road - we still managed to reach our destination in a little over 7 hours.

Unlike all other properties that we have been to - this was 5th Neemrana property that Tina & I were visiting, The Ramgarh Bungalows is quite unique. This property comprises of different cottages, each at a different height and most surprisingly, not in the same complex / area owned by the property.

(Image courtesy: The Ramgarh Bungalows' website)

This picture is the best to explain the above mentioned uniqueness - the green roof building in left of the picture is the oldest building, where they have their reception, kitchen, driver's dorm & also 3 cottages (Old Bungalow, Rose Cottage & Vista Villa). Move to the right, past small walkways & shops, is the Writer's Bungalow (red roof) - a 2 room, quaint cottage. Further to the right and 500mts. of steep climb, comes the most exotic, 4 room cottage - Ashok Vatika (green roof). Lastly, the red roof building on the right most of this picture is known as Cliff House.

Tina & I stayed in Yellow room (Ashok Vatika). Breakfast & dinner is served here - but for lunch, one needs to go down all the way to the Old Bungalow & then climb up. It may not sound much - but 500mts. of steep climb was a challenge and in our 3 attempts, we never managed the entire climb without a breather-break. I think this is part of the charm, part of the experience that no other place offers (Glass House on the Ganges has similar distances, but not steep climbs).

Day 1 was spent soaking in the the place - letting the freshness & purity get rid of our journey's tiredness. Hot coffee & vegetable pakoras for snacks was just the thing we needed to re-energise ourselves. Though the sky was cloudy, but the cloud-cover too was unique. 

I just sat there looking & admiring the sky for sometime - living in Delhi, there are a few things that we forget completely - vastness of sky & freshness of air. Both of these were abundantly available for us and I made the most of this opportunity. Evening was spent around a small bonfire, making friends with another couple.

Service staff needs special mention here - post dinner, they suggested we use hot water bottles to warm our beds. With temperatures going below 0 degrees, it was definitely cold. The multi-layers of blanket & quilt, along with room heater, would have been insufficient had the hot water bottles not been placed in our beds well before we settled in to sleep.

Time between retiring to our room and finally getting into bed is a bit boring. There is absolutely nothing to do (surely, you don't go that far to watch television - though there is one in the common area). Tina decided to get on with her book-reading, while I sat down to write. The few hours' experience of a fresh & peaceful place was inspiring enough. I managed to strengthen some of the ideas floating in my mind, give them a rough shape, something that can be built up on easily.

We woke up early the next day - to a clear blue sky & brightly shining Sun. After breakfast with new friends made the previous evening, Tina and I were ready to try one of the suggested walking trails. 

The shortest trail was 45 minutes one-way (from the Old Bungalow). Both of us realised that for city-dwellers like us - walking 90 minutes, on such terrain isn't possible. We decided to remove any objective / destination from our trail walk (reaching streams / rivers / orchards are some of the trail-end objectives). We decided to walk for 20 minutes downhill - so that we were left with enough energy to walk back (uphill!).

Most of the trail was cemented walkway - some parts were 'kucha' road. The view of hills, greenery and clear blue sky was breath-taking. More-over, it was absolutely quiet. We stopped at times, not to take a breather, rather to try & hear something...even if that sound was distant. No vehicles, no humans and no animals around - made this walkway clean & peaceful. It was clean enough for us to sit in the middle, or lie down if we so wished to.

We returned to our cottage (Ashok Vatika), post lunch and realised Sun wouldn't be brightly shining for long. It was a no-brainer, to sit outside and get as much reading (for Tina) and writing (for me) to achieve.

Though I too had a book to read - but the atmosphere was such that I couldn't soak in everything this place was offering along with what my book had to. Instead, I felt a strong inspiration to write.

With time passing, sun about to set, temperature started to fall and wind became chillier. Tina went inside, giving up the pleasures of open spaces, giving in to the falling temperature. One can wear adequate layers to protect oneself from cold temperatures - which would include gloves to keep fingers & hands covered. But - I was on a writing spree (actual paper & pen writing), I couldn't wear gloves...neither could I get up, go inside and lose my inspiration. 

Since I had already given a rough shape to my ideas, it was all the more a reason for me to want to sit & write. I had 2 strong ideas at the time...and the location inspired me to pen down a small poem for my beloved. The next three posts on my blog have been written there. I can't remember the last time that I wrote as much...all thanks to the perfect setting there.

Sun had set behind the hills by now, but was still active - colours in the sky were truly mesmerizing. Day 2 ended with a lot achieved.

Day 3 was the day of our return. Once again we started early - once again we had a bright sunny morning. I finally decided to read up the last 30-40 pages of my book (quite an appropriate locale to read up about Yogis & Yoginis and the magical-sounding world of saints - 'Autobiography of a Yogi').

The Ramgarh Bungalows has a small jam factory - which sells jams to all other Neemrana properties and guests could purchase as well, choosing from a wide variety of options. Tina picked up two - and that was the end of our refreshing, re-energising, inspiring & extremely comfortable stay at the Ramgarh Bungalows.

This post will be incomplete if I don't mention that all meals were excellent - ranging from local cuisine to international as well. Staff is well trained, helpful & exceptionally courteous. I think such high standard of food & staff runs common across all Neemrana properties.

Now I am back in Delhi, it is half past three in the morning - but my experience of The Ramgarh Bungalows has been such a superior one that I couldn't wait for morning to put this post out!

You could click here to see a snapshot of our stay & the fun we had.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Life is for living

Life isn't easy
Life is a journey
Life is the greatest teacher

Life isn't all fair
Life is a challenge
Life is a lesson

Life isn't only party & games
Life is a mix-bag, comes with the good & the bad
Life is a gift

Life isn't all smiles or all tears
Life is inexplicable, incomprehensible
Life is to be lived as it unfolds

Life is for living!