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5 simple truths I learned over 50 years!


Half a century, five decades, fifty years…and life, by now, has most certainly left its imprints on me.  Do I exude grace or resentment? Probably a little bit of both.  What I do know is this process we call “life”, with its finely woven blend of struggle and ease, has brought me to a place of inscrutable strength and also bewildering fragility. Yeah it is hard to explain when they seem so diametrically opposite.  But think of it like a butterfly…. It’s the strongest cocoon when it encloses and shelters a new life within, yet fragile enough to break when life within is ready to emerge.

So in my 50th year I learned a few things that helped bring a lot more clarity and focus into my own life. What I learned about me and the world at large amazed me. So a week shy of my 51st birthday, here’s five lessons I have learned, lessons that have changed me for life:

A healthy lifestyle, not only makes me feel better and brings energy, but also brings more clarity of thinking.

I wasn’t a yo-yo dieter by any means, but weight management through a better lifestyle always was.  My migraines in the past few years have bothered me no end and I’ve tried a combination of low carb eating regimes and eliminated various foods in an attempt to calm my troubled existence. However, it wasn’t until I turned 50 that I found out that it is a combination of healthy eating, sleep habits, regular exercise (without going overboard) and adding supplements to daily diet that actually improves a person’s overall well-being through mind-body balance. I still get the occasional headache (and that I suppose comes with the territory of being a middle aged woman) but they are less often and much less intense! Some of you must be thinking… what the hell??? As if we haven’t heard this before. Yes we have (as I had) but we do little to change our lot. “Having a migraine” is rather trendy. Downing meds is commonplace. “Carrying off “excess weight with élan is a compliment! It’s time to change that! A lazy lifestyle is the reason we have so much time to think about unnecessary things.  Skipping meals to look “thin” is the reason we are fat! Stop thinking “Weight Loss” start thinking “Healthy”! Just think about it if, you are what you eat then to be awesome you must eat awesome! Eat well, sleep well, stay awesome!

Learning and Growing is a Daily Practice

Man is a learning creature and the lifelong practice of learning is what makes us humans and our lives worthwhile. Most of us have one or two areas of knowledge that we strive to know very well — things related to our jobs, of course, and maybe a hobby or two. But while it’s important to develop a deep understanding of the things that matter most to us, it is just as important to develop a broad understanding of the world in general. Don’t just dismiss all the things there are to learn and know that don’t impact your life immediately as “trivia”. Learning

  • across a wide range of subjects gives us a range of perspectives to call on in our own narrow day-to-day areas of specialization.
  • helps us more easily and readily adapt to new situations.
  • a broad knowledge of unfamiliar situations feeds innovation by inspiring us to think creatively and providing examples to follow.
  • deepens our character and makes us more inspiring to those around us in turn giving us more confidence.
  • And, like I said, there’s the whole “making like worth living” thing.

With the entire world of knowledge just a few mouse-clicks away, it has never been easier than it is right now to learn something new and unexpected every day. For instance, subscribe to RSS feed to Wikipedia’s “Featured Article” list. Free Dictionary. Motivational thoughts. Tell me why. Daily Art! There’s so much out there to learn. So go ahead you won’t be sorry! There is, after all, a reason the term “well-read” is a compliment.

Life is a series of ups and downs and you just have to go with it and be in the moment.

Now, I remember how I felt when my Perima used to say, “Live the moment. Don’t worry too much about the future”.  My reaction used to almost always be, “Easy for you to say! What would you know? Live my life and then we’ll see”. I was wrong. After a certain age, you don’t need to live someone else’s life to know how to help them fix their life. My life felt like a scary roller coaster ride, reaching wonderful dizzying heights and then falling to awful lows.  In the lows, I’d wonder why I couldn’t stay at those heights and feel like I’d never get back ‘up’ again. Sometimes during the highs I’d be worried about when it would all end and the lows would come.  Well if you are like me, know that you are not alone! It happens to most of us… if not all! Remember by doing this you can never fully enjoy a high and never appreciate the high when you are at a low… I’m not sure I make sense here J. Just go with the flow… be present and enjoy the heights to the full and live through the lows as best you can, knowing that it’s just part of life.  Each is a cycle and will pass… nothing lasts forever not the ebbs and not the flow!

Spend some time in solitude every day.

Our world is just too noisy now. Between people, gadgets, the never-ending cacophony of social media and 24-hour news, the quest for quiet in our existence can seem more difficult than solving the national debt crisis.   And while I always recognized my need for other disciplines, like study or work, I found it difficult to acknowledge my need for silence or solitude.  I felt selfish and dismissed it. “Time for that will come in other seasons of life, but not now” was what I told myself. I see the fallacy of that now. I have been practicing solitude/silence/meditation (doesn’t matter what you call it) for over a year now. And I do believe that it is the best thing I have done for myself. It forces me to stop! Coming to a sudden halt even for just ten minutes was Herculean for a person like me. Do nothing. Don’t try to make anything happen. Just stop doing. Stop producing. Stop pleasing people. Stop entertaining yourself. Just stop everything. Imagine you are a spectator in a tennis match! Hard as it may be, it is one of the most liberating experiences. Imagine your only job is to relax and listen to your inner voice. The incredible thing about solitude is that, it works just about 100% of the time. After all I am in the company of my most favourite person in the world J. Additionally, while you are sitting there, rivers of ideas flow through your mind. You get to think about countless subjects in an uncontrolled stream of consciousness. And miraculously, solutions to the most pressing difficulties I face emerge quietly and clearly, like a boat putting in gently to the side of a lake. The answer that avoided me in the muddy clarity of the day looks clear, straightforward and perfect. What started out with derision now defines my day.

Life is short.

It is!!!  Youth does not appreciate mortality, but at my age I see it clearly. Nothing and no one lasts forever. Health is the only wealth we have. In today’s day and age genetics is not the only factor to affect one’s life span or quality. Party hard, work hard, take a break, get a massage, travel, learn a language, knit, take yoga classes, write a book, take a scenic route once in a while, take a day off for no reason!! There is so much to do. Life is a journey to be savoured not a destination to be reached! And in the bigger scheme of things, the journey is rather short. None of us knows how far the destination is. Nothing shouts out mortality as much as losing a dear one your age suddenly! Enjoy life. You get only one hit at it. Make it worthwhile. And here’s a pro tip… the more you make your life worthwhile for others the more scenic the route to your destination.

 

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Higgledy-piggledy, Uncategorized

 

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Monday


Anyone who is my friend on FB knows that the Cancerian “Love my home” syndrome hits me hard on a Monday morning!!! I am never a happy bunny on a Monday. Not because I had to get out of bed early, or because I partied like a member of led zeppelin over the weekend. Its not about workplace, colleagues, work, boss… I love all of those. Besides, I am really active when I go to work! But still…. Monday bogs me down like no other day! Even after a very relaxed Sunday which I dedicate to everything feel good – shopping, massage, reading, FB, music, movies…. Come 6pm Sunday I start getting jittery and yucky and plain – unbearable sourpuss!!!!! 🙂

And its not just me!!! Except for those select few (who clearly are on something the rest of us have no clue about) who go around sending “Happy Monday” and “TGIM” messages, the world is full of us Monday haters! In fact studies have shown that more people take a day off on Monday than any other day of the week. It is cross cultural. Monday hating has no boundaries. In fact THAT probably unites the people of this world like nothing else does! As Sunday draws to a close everyone has a feeling of dread that the next day is approaching. Some call it Black Monday, some Blue Monday. Any colour and any case, it leaves you feeling black and blue in the heart.

Just this morning I sat next to a woman in her mid-fifties, who was clearly not happy with the state of affairs. She kept looking at me & muttering under her breath and the generally happy me turned around and gave her a look that would have frozen “the Devil” in his tracks. Well she shut up and the rest of the way I came in to work sans an episode, but darn I kept forwarding songs in the iPod to find one that suited my mood!!!! I got off a few stations away and decided to walk to clear the negativity!

So why? Why is Monday as dreaded as it is? Honestly, sometimes I think, if it was a person he would have that, “Nobody loves me L “ syndrome. Why don’t we like Mondays? Why doesn’t anything make it go away? The feeling, I mean… not Monday (if you take away Monday, Tuesday would be the new Monday and that would defeat the purpose)!!! Many a time I have wondered if I would have felt this way had I not to get out of home! Being jobless has no Monday as its greatest perk!!! Its all about earning a living! If someone gave me regular money to stay at home I would!!!!

S-I-G-H…. Let me get back to work now that I have had my whinge 🙂  But before I go here are some really funny Monday quotes

  1. Just once, I would like to wake up, turn on the news, and hear… ‘Monday has been cancelled, go back to sleep.’
  2. Monday is like a math problem. Add the irritation, subtract the sleep, multiply the problems, divide the happiness.
  3. Candy is nature’s way of making up for Mondays.
  4. I haven’t had this bad of a Monday since last Monday.
  5. God gave us Mondays to punish us for the things we did over the weekend.
  6. Monday is great if I can spend it in bed. I’m a man of simple pleasures, really.
  7. Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life!
  8. Sometimes it pays to stay in bed in Monday, rather than spending the rest of the week debugging Monday’s code.
  9. Monday must be a man, it comes too quickly.
  10. All men tend to become angry and irritated on the start of the week. It is the start of the week but is the end of all fun and happiness in life.
 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Higgledy-piggledy, Uncategorized

 

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When East meets West


ImageLast year for Valentine’s Day my husband took me to ‘Nirvana’ a concert featuring innovative fusion tunes by five acclaimed musicians. Zakir Hussain playing the Indian tabla (percussion instrument) led the concert, ably followed by maestros Edgar Meyer (upright bass), Bela Fleck (banjo), U Srinivas (mandolin) and Rakesh Chaurasia (flute). Between them, the artists have more than 43 Grammy nominations and awards, as well as the prestigious Sangeeta Ratna and the Padma Shree awards in India.

To a hardcore music lover this is what dreams are made of!!!!  It was a Melody of Rhythm with the musicians serving up a spellbinding display of largely improvised music, which drew on jazz, Indian classical music, bluegrass and more. Indian mandolin legend Upalappu Srinivas and his countryman, rising flutist Rakesh Chaurasia, took the stage only sporadically but added that much needed texture to the brimming ethnic brew. But it was Hussain’s show, and as he showered the room with intricate tabla dialogues, it was easy to see why so many have dubbed him ‘the best percussionist in the world’. I could have gone on listening for a few more hours.

One year on I was given the opportunity to watch the Sydney Symphony Orchestra perform to the Shakespearean beats – an innovative piece that wove its way through the various ballads of the Bard combining it with the effects of the various planets. Innovative, imaginative, different, masterful were all words that came to my mind as a crowd of 10,000 strong sat mesmerised by the orchestra! But when I returned home as I contemplated comparing the two performances.

There appears to be a difference in my reaction to the two art forms the two major art forms ICM (Indian Classical Music) and WCM (Western Classical Music). While I fidgeted towards the end of a two hour long WCM concert I could have easily taken a few more hours of the ICM. I was very disturbed by my realisation. I love music and have always maintained that music has no borders. Why then did I enjoy one more than the other? Surely it cant be because I have been exposed to ICM from birth (Note that by “Indian Clas­si­cal”, I am refer­ring to both Hin­dus­tani as well as Car­natic). There had to be something else. Something about its form and rendition…Isn’t music universal? What makes one music different from another? Are there sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between the two forms of music that makes one more audible and enjoyable than the other?

I started reading on the subject. Let me share what I found out and what made sense to me…

Com­posed vs Improvised

To a creative mind like mine this reason stood out. WCM is com­posed, ICM is impro­vised. All WCM com­po­si­tions are for­mally writ­ten using the Staff Nota­tion, and per­form­ers have vir­tu­ally no lat­i­tude for impro­vi­sa­tion. The con­verse is the case with ICM, where no ‘work’ is ever writ­ten down, and the Teacher-Student tra­di­tion of learn­ing ICM leads to each per­for­mance being an improvisation. Like Chinese whispers it has changed from its original form adopting improvisations from various genius. A simple composition like “Krishna Nee Begane Varo” has been improvised by thousands of singers to bring in the emotion of a mother calling her child. Each one different, yet saying the same thing. There is a basic framework and the more creative the genius the more improvisation he is able to bring into it keeping the audience engrossed.

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So, though there is merit in the discipline of the known there is creativity in improvisation that quenches the thirst of an inquisitive listener.

Vocals vs Instrumentation

Vocals are used in both ICM & WCM, but the way they’re treated in rela­tion to instru­ments and accompaniments is where the fundamental difference lies. When vocals are used in ICM, all the rest of the instru­ments are mere ‘accom­pa­ni­ments’ — there are Tan­pooras that act like drones, har­mo­nium that fol­lows the tonal­ity of the voice by pro­vid­ing chords, etc. Whereas in WCM, when vocals are used, the instru­men­ta­tion still car­ries a lot of weight in the over­all com­po­si­tion.  In other words, Voice forms the Basis of the struc­ture sur­round­ing an ICM recital, whereas it is an Addi­tion to the instrumentally-generated struc­ture of  WCM composition.

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In ICM, the indi­vid­ual per­former shines through his impro­vi­sa­tion. In any recital or per­for­mance, there is a lead vocal­ist or instrumentalist, who expounds the raga, while oth­ers pro­vid­ing accom­pa­ni­ment, are rel­e­gated to the back­ground (except for occa­sional inter­ludes where they show off their vir­tu­os­ity). In WCM, the com­poser and con­duc­tor shine as indi­vid­u­als, but the per­for­mance is largely a group effort. It is only in solo works and solo con­cer­tos that indi­vid­ual per­form­ers are under the spotlight.

The term ‘voice’ is hence used in a generic way in WCM and doesn’t always mean human voice. A ‘voice’ can be any theme played by an instru­ment. Thus, one can have a four-voice fugue being played on the piano using two hands, where each hand is play­ing one of four voices at any given time.

Rhythm

ICM uses ‘Taal’ — a cycle of beats cen­tered around ‘Sam’ that repeats itself. WCM doesn’t use such com­plex beat cycles; ‘Shruti’ ICM makes exten­sive use of quarter-tones & micro­tones, usu­ally referred to as Shruti. WCM, however, has largely been restricted to using semitones (though it does have a few micro­tonal pio­neers in recent times like Charles Ives, Julián CarrilloAlois HábaIvan Wyschnegradsky, and Mildred Couper.)

Nature & Spirituality

ICM has a closer, inti­mate asso­ci­a­tion with nature than WCM. Ragas have spe­cific times of day or sea­sons of the year asso­ci­ated with them, while most of WCM doesn’t have any such char­ac­ter­is­tic. The ICM depicts the nine Rasas by its arrangements of notes, and an exponent can beautifully depict a beautiful woman with rag bihag, love for one by rag yaman. It can describe dusk in bhairavi and dawn in Ahir Bhairav. You can just close your eyes and be transported to the scene. This is because ICM’s roots are spir­i­tual and are based on feelings and emotions. Sec­u­lar works in WCM, however, have roots in fac­tors like indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences, sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal events in human his­tory, enter­tain­ment, occa­sions with dance cel­e­bra­tions, and so on.

What better way to sum up how I feel than to let Rabindranath Tagore say it

“For us, music has above all a tran­scen­den­tal sig­nif­i­cance. It dis­en­gages the spir­i­tual from the hap­pen­ings of life; it sings of the rela­tion­ships of the human soul with the soul of things beyond. The world by day is like Euro­pean music; a flow­ing con­course of vast har­mony, com­posed of con­cord and dis­cord and many dis­con­nected frag­ments. And the night world is our Indian music; one pure, deep and ten­der raga. They both stir us, yet the two are con­tra­dic­tory in spirit. But that can­not be helped. At the very root nature is divided into two, day and night, unity and vari­ety, finite and infi­nite. We men of India live in the realm of night; we are over­pow­ered by the sense of One and Infi­nite. Our music draws the lis­tener away beyond the lim­its of every­day human joys and sor­rows, and takes us to that lonely region of renun­ci­a­tion which lies at the root of the uni­verse, while Euro­pean music leads us a var­ie­gated dance through the end­less rise and fall of human grief and joy.”

Note: these are just my opinions… I claim to be no champion exponent of either. I am just a discerning listener with my views on the subject and am more than happy to be wrong 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Higgledy-piggledy, Uncategorized

 

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