Why I Decorate a Christmas Tree Every Year?

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I am not religious, and I am not Christian by faith. If you ask me specifics about any religion, I will meet your glance with a blank stare.

But each year, I decorate a Christmas tree.

Here is why.

Happiness.

Of all the strife in this world, decorating the tree is a happy moment. It breaks everything else that has been said and done the days before. No other act compares to decorating a tree for the sake of decorating a tree.

Togetherness

It is an activity that we all do together, the kids and the adults – making the journey from a bare tree to multi-colored piece of work.

Brightens every day

Once lit, it brightens your area every day, like a steady source of light.

A tree is lit in our living room, and it will brighten our days for a month I suspect after which a void will stand where it once stood but only until another Christmas, another end of a year when it will reappear.

 

Twenty Steps

I had smelled the perfume before. Its fruity aroma upset me more than the effect of her nimble hands pulsating through my aging arms, up my spine and down to my legs. I talked to my trembling feet, “Dare not collapse on me now. We got to make this journey of twenty steps, mere seconds away.”

“Are you okay, Sir,” she asked me, her bright red lipstick blinding my cataract-operated brown eyes.

“Eh,” spoke an unrecognizable voice emanating from my interior.

I may have had the unmanageable, grey beard, a collapsing turban over my head, deep wrinkles on my face I turned away from in the mirror, but I remembered another time vividly. A time when I could walk on my two feet.

Camilla’s perfume, lipstick and the worst of all, her hands holding me in double embrace accompanied by another stewardess following us with her hands on my back certain of my fall, played with my mind. The experience proved to be more painful than the pain that incapacitated me. Because I failed to make the journey of twenty steps with my head held high, relying on my two feet, I was a giant mass of crumbling mess to the glaring eyes of the seated public hearing the screech from my dragging feet, my ill-drawn caricature of lips, and my watery eyes.

Ten steps in, a wail slipped from my lips forcing Camilla to stop. Half my size, I could tell she was exhausted.

“Are you okay, Sir?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I could carry her down the aisle with herculean strength. My wishful thinking accompanied me to old age defying wisdom.

Another “ah” sound and a nod signaled Camilla to continue. Through hazy vision of the packed airplane, my eyes saw a different view – one of breezy fields of gold, on sunlit Indian summers.

I could see a set of beautiful, hazel eyes and trembling lips uttering last goodbye. I felt the tug of defiance and the wild chase behind her auto rickshaw with speed my legs had forgotten by now. That was the last time I saw her, my love, one of my loves.

Just like that, arrived my seat too cramped for my body and so did the demise of my disgraceful twenty steps. Camilla tucked me into my seat and fastened my seat belt like I was a baby. Despite the difficulty of her latest chore, she kept the smile on her face intact. I pictured her as a lover. For my heart remained young, fierce, and hungry. “Maybe in afterlife,” advised an inner voice.

“Is Amritsar your final destination, Sir?”

She surprised me with the question.

Now seated, no longer humiliated by having my manhood shrunk to the size of a peanut and having taken a few sips of water, my quivering voice made a comeback.

“Yes.”

She smiled as though waiting for more.

“Going to a funeral.”

“Ah, I am sorry. A family member?”

My heart choked. She stood there unwilling to depart.

“Closer than a family member,” I said.

“Ah,” she nodded, “A friend?”

Nosy Camilla. Maybe, she too saw me as a lover. I should make a move.

“Better than a friend.”

Camilla waited with a faint smile on her face. An attendant tugged on her shoulder, and I labored to turn in my aisle seat to take in her sexy gait to the rear of the plane.

She was young, too young to be told I flew to the funeral of a lover, another lover active in my dying brain. Some would argue my brain concocted my love. Camilla was too young to be told I lived my life without her whose funeral I now flew to. She was too young to know the other endings to lifelong loves, the unsuitable endings to unrequited love. I wanted Camilla to hunger the bookish love. I wanted her to have the bookish love unlike my life.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and focused on the hum of the plane’s engines. An image appeared in front of my closed eyes. I became a dashing, tall, athletic figure. I smiled. I was young again. And I flew.

The Unseen Journey

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Journeys aplenty in this world
Some seen by all like a wedding
Others are unseen, buried deep within
Holding secret fears, deepest hopes

The path from an idea to reality
Unseen but felt by the heart
How life (marriage) should be
And how it will be

To that journey, I say lift
Lift what idea instructs reality should be
Let go the pursuit of what could be
Embrace what is and discover joys unknown

Needed alone is a sprinkle of love
For love is love even if arranged
Love is love even if sometimes dysfunctional
Love is love even if different from the idea

In the chaos of life, hidden is beauty of hope
To you, Sartaj & Komal, hope and dream away
Images of countless sunrises and sunsets
Dreams shall now turn into reality

Respect each other during pitfalls
And sky is the limit during good times
Wish you incredible travels, magically rich life
And the knowledge of being loved by so many

That is all you need for a happy married life
You two, now go on, live your lives
Forget what you have been told
And create your own dream world

The Distracted Human

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The plane screeched to a dusty halt. I rubbed my puffy eyes. I had survived my first flight ever, one that lasted over twenty-four hours with a stop in Bucharest over Air Tarim, Romanian Airline back in 1998. My cheeks remained moist from the heartfelt goodbyes I had exchanged with my lifelong friends from school.

I was a school-goer no more as I stepped foot in the crowded JFK terminal onto the waving hands of my father. In my handbag, I held tear-stained letters I wrote to all I had left behind.

My first important chore upon reaching my uncle’s home was to mail those letters out.

A week later, my father and I drove to St Louis, and I started my first gig in America – an undergraduate student of Computer Science.

It took me another week to buy an international calling card. On that day, a dense foggy Saturday, I slipped out of the back door of my apartment crumpling under the chill of Midwestern August (coming from the burning Indian summers,) I cautiously walked in between rows of cougar lake apartments on campus with all students sound asleep and only a hint of a bird chirp in the air.

I reached a payphone, entered my pin, and let my heart hammer inside my chest. Across the globe, my childhood friend picked up and responded to my hello with a hello.

I choked to complete the conversation.

A week later, I received my first letter, my trembling hands opened and cheek-drenching tears welcomed.

I was old-fashioned back then, still untainted by emails. I am old-fashioned today living in the same world somehow transformed away from the hand-written notes traveling at 35,000 feet across to electronically transmitted binary code messages over the internet lacking the gratification of the two-week long wait. Communicating has become that easy.

With easy, come the blue-glow-lit faces, talking to each other through their phones even when it is just a table that separates them in a restaurant, they smile through the cloud on which they are texting each other from.

The new human is distracted by the phone. And, the old human in me, can’t forget the joy of ink spilling into a blank sheet of paper that took several hands to make it to the loved one.

That is the paradox of life – where we are and where we used to be and what distractions we allow to tear us apart from our reality.

Give Your Child the Gift of an Unrushed Life

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The world is scrambling at a maddening speed. I am perplexed where it is headed and why the rush and yet, sun rises in a lightning and sets shamelessly eating monotony for breakfast. Life, like sand, keeps slipping between the fingers.

Stuck in the middle of all this chaos are little souls who keep no business with schedules. They are involved with sweet business with earthworms and slugs, they search for rainbows over rainy skies. They make sand angels and emit sweetest pitter-patter of the world. They dream of houses with go-carts and rockets. They are the innocence we lose as adults. We get so used to the status quo, the politics at work, or demands of daily lives that no toy in the marketplace can replace the innocence God gave them at birth.

What happens to sap that innocence out to make them adults?

Rush.

Rush to get places. Rush to grow up. Rush to make money. Rush to rise up the chain.

Rush.

So, if you must gift them just one thing – skip past the toy aisle, cancel that meeting you put on the calendar to please your boss, and take the afternoon off. Break that routine. And, linger with your child like you were a child yourself, not aware of the seriousness of life. Children are gifts only for some to enjoy during certain parts of their lives. Because they grow up. Teach them now before it is too late to be unrushed. Career can wait. Promotions can wait. But time we have with each other never returns. So, teach them how to live their entire life, unrushed, just the way God created them.

I do nothing!

“I do nothing,” she said.

I cocked my head up with a furrowed brow. My pen screeched an abrupt end to its scribbling in an unintentional, crooked line. “She does nothing,” reverted in my conscience in a million echos. The slogan rang endlessly in my brain.

The uproar inside my mind was so agonizing I pulled up Wikipedia to learn what the people of the world did. How many were doctors and how many were engineers, how many janitors, how many rulers?

But she did nothing.  Eh….ehh…sigh. Something did not add up.

57% of women are in labor force according to the US department of labor. What about the 43%?

What about those who take care of others and are unpaid? Do they do nothing? Of course, not.

Yet, why does one have to wear nice clothes, sit in a meeting, and bring home a paycheck to be somebody?

When this individual woman said she did nothing as though grooming little hearts, preparing them for life was not a worthy enough chore to be called something, it rang a painful chord in my heart.

I am a working mother. I pride the work I do. And it is true I am unable to stay at home being a full-time mother. To me, getting ready for work, parking beneath a building I call my workplace, and say, making presentations on PowerPoint is paramount to my identity as an individual.

What is a woman who stays at home to take care of her family and home? A house wife? When did being a wife to a person became a profession? And how did it amount to the statement, “I do nothing.”

But you do, my friend, you do. Even though I am unable to do your job full-time. You are a smile generator, a worry squeezer. You are a care giver, a self-less person who puts others before your own self. You don’t do nothing. You shape the future of the world by nurturing the future into decent human beings. What you do is priceless.

You do plenty. Never ever say, “I do nothing.”

Which Job Is Stress Free?

I know what I want. It is not wasting away on an island doing nothing. That is not my idea of bliss. Keeping my mind occupied is goal number one. A close second is keeping the mind occupied with meaningful work! But after a rough day, all I want is that mango martini on that deserted beach with only the sound of crashing waves. And I wonder to myself, what job is stress free?

What makes a job stressful?

Too Much Work

If work continues to outnumber the time we have in a day, guess what? It is fighting a losing battle. Fatigue is not caused by how much work one accomplishes in a day. Fatigue comes from the amount of work pending. It is exhausting to hit the sack knowing all that is left to do. Even more exhausting is the knowledge that no matter how hard I work, the workload is going to increase disproportionately.

Time away from loved ones

When you love your work beyond words, you do not count hours. More hours you contribute, bigger the joy. But there is a line in the sand. If work keeps you from people you love the most on a routine basis, the balance tilts. When you are away from family a lot, it matters if it is from your own personal choice or your company’s demands.

Feeling of helplessness

If I control my workload, how much and when, wonderful. But when corporations expect employees to problem solve with their hands tied, the feeling that here is nothing I can do to make this problem go away is frustrating and stressful

People People People

Once eating lunch with colleagues, we were exchanging notes on what we wanted to do next in our career growth. Most talked about roles and responsibilities. More money? Sure, why not? When my turn came, my answer astounded others. I wanted to work with people I respected and got along with. Period. For me, my work life is people, period. It is about making relationships. A bad relationship can make you feel alone and desolate at work and conversely, can be a magnet that brings you to work with imaginary springs under your heels.

In my opinion, realistic goals and cautious autonomy yields best results. But let us say, we land a job with great people, good money, manageable workload, great work-life balance, would we be stress-free as a floating leaf in a gentle breeze?

My heart stops short in saying no. Because stress also comes from your heart and your reaction to circumstances. Some people can operate in stress and continue to spend time with their families and shrug it off. Some toss into the night.

Managing stress is a direct consequence of your attitude. And I will leave you with a quote I remember vaguely from my ancient history…

You cannot change the world around you but you can change your attitude and when you change your attitude, you will find you have changed your world.

What We Can All Learn From The Solar Eclipse?

It was that type of an event where a gaggle of women working out together pulled out their phones in the middle of a workout to check the weather for. The solar eclipse was a big deal. And as the astronauts, scientists and regulars like me cheered, the philosopher in me also chimed in with an emphatic yes, yes it was great, and I hope most people in and around its path took a moment’s pause. Yes, I hope we thought about what the solar eclipse meant not just in the grand, scientific manner but in life in general. With my philosopher hat on, witnessing the moon eclipse the enormous Sun taught me a few lessons.

All darkness is transient

Darkness falls and it moves away. In life, when the going gets tough and it feels like we cannot take the darkness another second, remind yourself darkness will travel out as hurriedly as it rushed in. Hang in there.

The enormity of life

Our lives revolve around a tiny sphere. Ever stood under the shadow of a giant mountain and felt small? Well, the solar eclipse reminded us of world outside of our tiny troubles consisting of real objects in motion, and how do such large bodies in motion maintain such order? How close are we to chaos, after all?

There are things beyond our understanding

It is okay to admit to blind spots and to realize so much of our own life is outside of our own control. It is easy to feel the control when focusing on objects around us, finding the right job, tackling work problems, finding the right life partner, but in the grand scheme of things, really, are we the masters?

Something so small can eclipse something so large

How can the little stuff bother great humans for life on end? A tiny Moon, 400 times smaller than the Sun, is capable of eclipsing it, taking from it its light, its power even if for a few moments. Conversely, never judge a person by how less they have. A small person can move great things by doing the right thing at the right time. Nobody is too small to succeed. If the small pebbles can hurt the most, small efforts can pay off big dividends.

So I will thank the solar eclipse of 2017 for reminding me how small I am compared to the grand scheme of the universe and lending a unique perspective to me, one that I will carry close to my heart as I get ready to face a new day in the morning.

 

 

 

Silent Conversation With God

Without a sighting or a hearing
Without a clue, I still believe
I believe you are out there, my God
For in the middle of turmoil, I see a sliver of hope

I fight with you for wants small and large
And sometimes, I admit it is hard to believe
In something that shows itself to none
Is a mystery for the intelligent and gullible, all in one

But I believe you are out there
For when I look back, I know the future
My worries of past feel misplaced now
For in hindsight, every missing piece fell in place

And if it did in the past, the future is safe and secure
Chaos will continue and so will your order
A big sigh, a light heart, yes, my God, I believe
It is all destined to be.

What we can learn from coffee and tea drinkers?

Once upon a time, I would look at tea/coffee drinkers with a furrowed brow. For the greater part of my life, I have been an avid water drinker. I socially drank “the tea” or “the coffee,” but it was never a necessity of my day until recently.

A tea drinker’s day works like a clockwork. When the tea hour strikes, their senses heighten, they smell the imaginary aroma and hunt for a drop of its taste, a behavior I termed as “an addict behavior.”

Until I succumbed to its sweet bosom myself. When I had my third child, sleep was a rare commodity, and coffee kept me going. Now, I truly can appreciate my daily tradition, one of sitting down and sipping coffee. For those on the other side of the fence, there are lessons we can learn from the tea and coffee drinkers of the world. I know because I have lived in both worlds.

  1. Learn to take a pause
    Days come and vanish at a lightening speed. Daily tasks keep us wound. But tea drinkers stoop to their habit, cut the cycle of chores, and take a pause to reach for that cup, sit down and relish its taste. A pause is a necessary barrier of an endless stream of life.
  2. Relax
    There is something relaxing about a hot beverage. The daily habit pays by delivering subconscious relaxation.
  3. Socialize
    It is a great way to socialize.
  4. Create dreams on paper
    Coffee/tea is writers’ choice of beverage. To me, coffee belongs next to a pen and gets the creative juices flowing. Words bubble on paper and take meaningful form with each warm and sweet gulp.I do not regret jumping on the tea/coffee drinker’s bandwagon.

 

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