Sunday, May 20, 2018

So, how are you "Vibing" today.....?!

"Your blood pressure is absolutely normal today," I said to a patient. My voice was tinged with a little surprise.
"You weren't expecting that, Doc?" my patient asked.
"I was expecting it to be better than last time, but this is great. So you have been taking your medications?" I asked
"Yes, I have been taking my prescriptions regularly. But I've done something more that really helped a lot," he replied.
"Oh yeah? What's that?"
"I've been hanging out with people from whom I get good vibes. I think that's helped more than my meds," he replied.
"I am sure it has, but please don't stop the medications," I emphasized.
"No..no, I'll continue to take my pills. But I am going to surround myself with positive vibes from here on. I am sixty now, I don't need negativity in my life any more."

That conversation stuck with me the rest of the day. There was so much truth in those words. There comes a time in everyone's life when the phrase "Peace & Quiet" has more value than any amount of "Glitter & Gold."

Everyone has their own perspective on life. Even in the same social circle, or close group of friends, priorities are different. That does not mean any one perspective or thought process is better than the other. Our priorities in life are molded by circumstances and social pressures. How much one gives in to these pressures, is again, a choice that we all make on a day to day basis.

But one unavoidable truth, which we can all agree on, is that we all know in our hearts in whose company we are most comfortable & relaxed. Now, we don't have to be loud or obvious about it. And that's because of the same "Social pressures or constraints" we just talked about! 

But be socially brave, buck the trend a bit, and hang out more with people who bring out the best in you. Envelope yourself with positive vibes, surround yourself with personalities who bring sunshine into your life. That would be a step towards creating a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside. 

"Vibes, like attitude, are contagious. Are yours worth catching?"


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Sunday, May 6, 2018

"From Bombay to Bangalore...."

Sudha Murthy is the Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. She often writes about real life experiences. The passage below is one of her own. Please read it till the end. It will be worth it. 

It was the beginning of summer. I was boarding Udyan Express at Gulbarga railway station. As I boarded the train, I saw that the second-class reserved compartment was jam-packed with people. I sat down and was pushed to the corner of the berth.
 
The ticket collector came in and started checking people's tickets and reservations. Suddenly, he looked in my direction and asked, "What about your ticket?"
"I have already shown my ticket to you," I said.
"Not you, madam, the girl hiding below your berth. Hey, come out, where is your ticket?" I realized that someone was sitting below my berth. When the collector yelled at her, the girl came out of hiding.
 

She was thin, dark, scared and looked like she had been crying. She must have been about ten or eleven years old. She had uncombed hair and was dressed in a torn skirt and blouse. She was trembling as the collector started forcibly pulling her out from the compartment. 
I stood up and called out to the collector. "Sir, I will pay for her ticket."
 

The collector looked at me and said, 'Madam, if you give her ten rupees, she will be much happier than with the ticket.'
 

I told the collector to just give me a ticket to the last destination, Bangalore, so that the girl could get down wherever she wanted.
 

Slowly, she started talking. She told me that her name was Chitra. She lived in a village near Bidar. Her father was a coolie and she had lost her mother at birth. Her father had remarried and had two sons with her stepmother. But a few months ago, her father had died. Her stepmother started beating her often and did not give her food. She did not have anybody to support her, so she left home.
 

By this time, the train had reached Bangalore. I said goodbye to Chitra and got down from the train. My driver came and picked up my bags. I felt someone watching me. When I turned back, Chitra was standing there and looking at me with sad eyes. 

I told her to get into my car. I told the driver to take us to my friend Ram's place. Ram ran shelter homes for boys and girls. Infosys Foundation supported him financially. I thought Chitra could stay there for some time. We could talk about her future after I came back from my tour.
 

Over the next few months, Chitra adjusted well at the shelter. Ram suggested that Chitra could go to a high school nearby. I agreed and said I would sponsor her expenses as long as she continued to study. I left the shelter knowing that Chitra had found a home and a new direction in life.
 

I got busier and my visits to the shelter reduced to once a year. But I always enquired about Chitra's well-being over the phone. I offered to sponsor her college studies if she wanted to continue studying. 
"No Akka," she said, "I have talked to my friends and made up my mind. I would like to do my diploma in computer science so I can immediately get a job after three years." She wanted to become economically independent as soon as possible. Chitra obtained her diploma with flying colors. She also got a job in a software company as an assistant testing engineer. When she got her first salary, she came to my office with a sari and a box of sweets.
 

One day, when I was in Delhi, I got a call from Chitra. She was very happy. "Akka, my company is sending me to USA! I wanted to meet you and get your blessings but you are not here in Bangalore."
 

Years passed. Occasionally, I received an e-mail from Chitra. She was doing very well in her career.

A few years ago, I was invited to deliver a lecture in San Francisco for Kannada Koota, an organization where families who speak Kannada meet and organize events. The lecture was in a convention hall of a hotel and I decided to stay at the same hotel. When I checked out of the hotel room and went to the reception counter to pay the bill, the receptionist said, "Ma'am, you don't need to pay us anything. The lady over there has already settled your bill. She must know you pretty well." I turned around and saw Chitra standing there.
 
She was with a young white man and wore a beautiful sari. She was looking very pretty with short hair. Her dark eyes were beaming with happiness and pride. As soon as she saw me, she gave me a huge smile, hugged me and touched my feet. I was overwhelmed with joy and did not know what to say. I was very happy to see the way things had turned out for Chitra. But I came back to my original question. 
"Chitra, why did you pay my hotel bill? That is not right," I said.
She started sobbing and hugged me. "Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay to Bangalore..." 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Kama Muta" // "Psychological Elevation"... Is it actually a thing ?!

"Hey Doc, give the patient in room 2 a few minutes. We are warming him up," the nurse called out to me.
"Warming him up? What do you mean?" I was at the free clinic, a couple of months ago.
"Well, he gave his only winter coat to his room mate at the homeless shelter," the nurse replied.
"Why?! It's freezing outside," I said. 
"He says his room mate needed it more than him," the nurse replied.
I had no words for a moment.
"How is he going to get back to the shelter?" I asked. The wind chill was in the single digits outside.
"Oh... We'll rustle up something from the clinic. Everyone here wants to give their coat to him," she replied.
At that moment,  I would have given him mine in an instant. Imagining a homeless person give his only coat to someone who needed it more than him, was very touching. This was a collective sentiment of whoever heard about this patient's magnanimous act of kindness. It's a ripple effect. On hearing about random acts of kindness by complete strangers, a surge of goodwill & generosity envelopes people. 

And this sentiment is more common than you may think. A recent opinion piece on CNN.com rekindled memories of this particular incident. What is the neuropsychological basis of such sentiments, when we witness or hear about acts of kindness by almost total strangers?

Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at UVA, called this positive emotion "Elevation" -- a warm, uplifting feeling that we experience when we see unexpected acts of kindness. It often makes us want to help others. And some psychologists call this emotion by another name -- "Kama Muta".

'Kama Muta' means "Moved by Love" in Sanskrit, and has been used in ancient Indian scriptures through ages. This emotion has a few distinct features. People may feel chills, goosebumps and some even might tear up seeing an unexpected act of kindness or love. After the initial intense feeling has passed, many folks may have a sense of buoyancy and uplift. The feeling is contagious and one good deed leads to another.

So please, everyone, let love and kindness flow. Inspire and be inspired. God knows we need compassion and humanity in today's turbulent times. Open your hearts and give without remembering. Real charity doesn't care if it's Tax - deductible.

"If you don't have charity and kindness in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." ~ Bob Hope

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

"#March for our lives"....... a day with a purpose

I was fortunate to participate in the "March For Our Lives" rally this past weekend. The emotion and energy of the people was palpable. And the speakers.... wow! Most of the speakers were teenagers and amazingly eloquent. They were focused on clear objectives. Is this a moment in our nation's history or will it be the beginning of a sustained movement? Only time will tell. Judging by the passion of the student leaders, I hope this results in some meaningful change.

Later that day, I was reminiscing about the rally with a friend, who is a Preschool teacher. The discussion veered towards guns, gun violence and impact of the same on young children.
"We practice "Active shooter" drills once a year for students," she said.
"In your school?" I was shocked.
"Yes, in my school. And my students are 4 and 5 year old kids," she said.
Images of 4 and 5 year-old kids, in all their innocence, hiding under tables and closets immediately flashed through my mind. It was an extremely distressing thought.

The same evening, my wife and I attended a First Birthday celebration for our friend's daughter. As I looked at the angel-like birthday girl, my brain warped back to the afternoon conversation. In 2-3 years, would this sweet little girl be practicing "Active shooter" drills in her school too? The mere thought made me nauseous.

I might be wrong, but I think we are the only developed country in the world, where kids have to go through "Active shooter" drills, starting from Preschool. You think that should be the normal way of life for 4-5 year olds, in any community, society or country?

Social activism is born when a perceived injustice has gone beyond a certain tolerance point. No wonder one of the slogans of these young crusaders is "Enough is Enough."  These young students have started something. They are not politicians or lobbyists. They have no ulterior motive, except one. They just want to be afraid of only their grades and Algebra when they go to school, not bullets. But they will need help and support to sustain this movement.

We are at such a place in our country at this time, that the question these days is not if a mass shooting will happen again, but when and where. When a society deems it "normal" to have "Active Shooter" drills for preschoolers, something is terribly wrong. 

When social issues are at stake, we must always choose sides.

"Neutrality always helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" ~ Elie Wiesel

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