Friday, March 21, 2014

'F' is for "Fate"

A happy couple, with two grown-up handsome boys, doing well financially..... and then one fateful day, about 8 years ago..., the 21-year old elder son had an aneurysmal stroke that left  him handicapped. The outlook for the entire family changed that day. This is a story of one of my patient's family. I had a long discussion with the father a few days ago. He has aged remarkably since that time. He smiles, but the sadness in his eyes does not match that smile. But he never complains.

"It's God's will," he said. "We are still trying to adjust to the new normal in our lives. It's our fate, our destiny. We have to accept it."

I have believed over a long time that everything happens for a reason and it is generally for the best. Fate and Destiny have as many definitions as the number of people you ask. But I am hard pressed to find a positive spin on the young man's predicament. So I don't know whether I can believe the phrase -- "Everything happens for the best." 

On the other hand, maybe there is more to events in our lives than what we can see or realize right now. We try to plan our lives but maybe there is a master plan, that God alone knows. A lot of times, I have ended up in places where I needed to be, not necessarily where I wanted to be. We can't control our destiny, but we can definitely shape it by making the right choices in moments of decision.

We all have to believe in something. That's what keeps us going on this journey of life. Whether it be the confidence in our abilities, our destiny, love, God, our gut instincts, our friends....anything that helps us to foresee a positive future. But no matter how meticulous we are in planning our future, there is always a mystique about it. We all know that life, with its many ups and downs, can throw a surprise at any time. And these unexpected turns are more often than not, attributed to fate.

And here lies the crux --  the way we react to these surprises and unexpected events in our lives, defines us and our character.   

"Sometimes, perhaps, we are allowed to get lost, so that we may find the right person to ask directions from." ~ Robert Brault


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

'E' is for the "E-factor!"

I was at a friends house a few days ago, where I got to meet a gentleman, who had recently returned from an overseas trip from a third world country. He was describing a harrowing experience that he and his wife had to go through, while on this trip.
"We were going at almost 180 km/hr, and our driver hit a herd of about 200 sheep. Our SUV ran over at least 50 sheep. Then out of no where, a crowd of about 250 ruffians surrounded us," he paused, as he took a breath.
"My God!" I said, "What happened next?" 
"I then had to give them $5000 cash to get out of the situation," he said.
"Five thousand dollars?" I was shocked.
"Well, you got to do what you got to do," he said, as he walked away.
I looked at another friend standing by me, who had also been listening to the story, but he was remarkably unfazed, and calmly continued munching on his snacks.
"Did you just listen to him? What a narrow escape! And... and it didn't bother you at all..." I said, a little surprised.
"Because, unlike you, I have known this guy for a long time. His E-factor is high... at least 10," he said.
"Which factor?" I was confused. I had heard of the X-factor, but this was new.
"E-factor, bhaji (brother). Exaggeration factor -- his is about 10. Divide everything he said by 10, and you might be close to the truth," he smiled.

Exaggeration is genetic tendency that we all have, some more than others. And we can exaggerate on everything that touches our lives. Especially after a few drinks! The important people we know and how well we know them, golf scores, our knowledge of the world, amazing things we did on vacation..... you name it, we can inflate it.  Except our faults. But our friends (and close relatives) will take care of that!

I am from Punjab, in India, and we Punjabis are especially afflicted with the E-factor. In punjabi, the E-factor is known as the Gup-coefficient! But exaggeration spans all cultures and countries. A good friend, a treasure trove of quotes, says "people confuse thinking big, with remembering big!" People who have a tough time saying "I don't know", tend to exaggerate more. These folks have the neurotic compulsion to portray the impression that they know everything about everything, at all times. Hence the need to exaggerate and confabulate. 

My favorite is how most of us tend to exaggerate our acquaintance with prominent people. Even if somebody's shadow fell on me once, he suddenly becomes a good friend. And then I'll drop his name wherever I get half a chance. And this "good-friend" is probably not even aware of my existence!

"An exaggeration is a truth that has lost its temper!" ~ Khalil Gibran