Sunday, July 3, 2011


Vinita Dawra Nangia

There's a word for each of us, one word that embodies who we are and what we are all about. But how many of us know what that good word is?

At a recent conference in Beijing, a young Buddhist girl disciple asked a close friend why Indians ate garlic. It was her contention that eating garlic makes one angry and hence must be avoided. Here is a transcript of their further conversation.

My Friend-- 'I thought Buddha taught us not to be dependent on external factors such as images, etc. Why should something like garlic be allowed to control your emotions? The question is, does garlic control you or do you control garlic?

Buddhist Girl -- Don’t you get angry after consuming garlic?'

My Friend -- 'No, I never get angry because of garlic. I have learnt to control my anger. I seek to control other aspects that I am not too proud of, but anger is something I have moved on from.'

The Buddhist girl seemed impressed and remarked that my friend must be on the verge of achieving nirvana!

Nirvana or not, understanding oneself and through that understanding, control over oneself and circumstances does make for contentment and peace of mind. What is it that fires you and is more or less the anthem of your life? Each of us has an anthem for life, something that is fundamental to our existence, the song our heart sings, the picture our soul paints. That elusive something that runs as the fundamental thread through our entire lives and nudges and beckons us ahead.

Recently, I watched Eat Pray Love (EPL) at the insistence of a friend. I had started reading the book about a year ago but it didn't hold me, so discarded it despite it being a hot topic of discussion. The movie seduces me to pick it up again.

In the movie, while dining out in Italy, author and main character Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) and a group of friends get down to discussing what is the one word that could describe each one of them best. From here onwards starts Elizabeth’s quest for understanding herself well enough to be able to encapsulate her entity in just one word. This exercise may seem easy at first, but it isn't. Try it! When I asked some friends what was the one word that described them best, almost all immediately came up with a single word.

Before I could say I was impressed, they came up with another, then another and yet another, and so on. And that’s where the problem lies. It is easy for each of us to use many words to talk about ourselves but seems next to impossible to use one word to describe all that we stand for -- our dreams, aspirations, desires, ambition, loves, likes and dislikes, or the quest of our very souls all the things that describe and define us. How do you capture all of that in just one word? It would be too limiting.

And yet, think about it. If you really think long and deep you will realise that if forced to do so, you can identify the one principle that runs through your life, the one thing you stand steadfast by, the one rule you refuse to budge on, the one recurring dream that refuses to go away, the one thought that creeps in unawares -- at your highest as well as lowest moments. And in that action, thought, or dream you will discover the life principle that fires you most. That is the word for you!

In EPL, while still in Italy, Elizabeth is fascinated by a word attraversiamo, which she is told means 'Lets cross over.' However, it takes her an entire year and a journey through three countries to decide that this is the word she wishes to define her life by. The word denotes coming to terms with something, holding the hand of a loved one and helping each other cross over, coming to a decision about life and about yourself and deciding what or who your heart really beats for. Quite often most of us are dithering on the edge of a discovery or decision, hesitating to take the step that takes us over to the other side, waiting for a sign, a prophecy. And then comes the epiphany, and we cross over. A beautiful word. Attraversiamo.

Similarly, each of us can have a word that we live life by. The quest for that word is a quest for the very meaning of life and our own existence in particular. After much thought for a day or so, a friend came up with 'Balance' as the word that defines her life. As she puts it, "Every thought and action of mine is balanced. But my life itself has no balance, so that's what I need to seek now! In Eat Pray Love, the mendicant in Bali tells Elizabeth, "Sometimes you need to lose your balance in love to find balance in life."

Another friend used the word 'Energetic' to describe herself, but then added 'inexhaustible', 'dizzy', 'unbeatable', 'madcap'! before she got all confused. Yet another immediately answered 'Passionate.' She then stopped a minute and said, "Or is it 'emotional'?" After that she got very thoughtful and kind of lost.

I do believe with this one question, I have set off many friends on their quest for the word that defines them and their lives! Such a journey is only likely to empower one and help you get into the driver's seat where your life is concerned. So then, what is the one word that describes you and defines your life? Do let me know your word here ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Vinita Dawra Nangia

As the stranger sat looking adoringly at his baby in a pram, he was unaware of the many thoughts that ran through the watching columnist's head. Would this child one day return in equal measure the adoration he received from his father today?

We sat in a restaurant in Delhi's bustling Connaught Place, people-gazing as we waited for lunch to be served. CP always has an eclectic mix of visitors, each more interesting a study than the last. Very unlike malls that are teeming with similar looking boys and girls dressed like exact clones of each other, price tags almost visible in the premium brand haze they create around themselves.

It was nudging on 4 pm, quite late as lunch time goes, but that didn't stop groups from straggling in and ordering booze. Each table had more bottles of beer than number of people at it. Surprising, for this was no seedy joint. We understood why when we realised the restaurant announced Happy Hours to entice clientele during hours in between meals. Not that we minded, interested as we were in observing those around us and trying to guess at their relationships and stories. We got more grist for the mill this way!

As we finished our meal, in walked a tall bearded guy with straw coloured hair tied in a ponytail, pushing a pram. He adjusted the pram in a manner that it faced him as he sat and ordered his beer. His gaze seldom shifted from the baby sleeping peacefully in it. Once in a while he would reach out and pat the baby adoringly, unnecessarily adjusting the blanket wrapped around it. It was an adorable sight, one that only decency forced us to turn our eyes away from.

It was then that my usually reticent husband made a cryptic remark. "He is looking at his son in the pram with such adoration. Thirty years hence the roles will be reversed. He will be in a wheelchair as his son sits opposite guzzling beer. Will the son then look at his father with as much fondness?" The answer was such an obvious "No" that it cast a cloud on the pretty picture before us.
You seldom see youngsters taking along an old father for a meal or a holiday with as much enthusiasm and pleasure as the father would have taken them when they were small. Many do it out of a sense of duty, but few with the pleasure you would have when you take out a friend. May be this has to do with the fact that parents, as they grow up, often find it difficult to make the transition from parent to friend. As a result, most conversations take on the form of lectures rather than discussions. But whatever the reason, it still is rather sad that a son would not look at his father in a wheelchair as fondly as the father did when the son was on his set of tiny four wheels!

My mind swung back to another restaurant at another time. We were in a cozy country inn in a village on the outskirts of London with some friends. A fire crackled merrily, reflecting on the smoothwith-age polished wood all around. At another table, sat a man with an older version of himself. Both ordered the same dish and ate with equal gusto and relish. Amusingly, some of their gestures mirrored each other too. Conversation was at a bare minimum, but the bonhomie and comfort with each other was palpable. Obviously a son, who had taken time off from family to take his father out for a meal. Maybe it was even a regular once-a-month ritual, we conjectured. A sight that gladdened the heart.

From here, my mind shifted, as minds often do, to a beauty parlour in Delhi. As I gave in to some beauty indulgences there, a lady just beyond let out intermittent giggles, apart from which she kept shouting instructions above the din of a hairdryer being used on another lady. The giggles were because she was ticklish, and each ministration on her foot caused laughter, much to the consternation of the impassive guy applying himself to her pedicure! The instructions were for the harassed hairdresser who was colouring the hair of an older woman. With each snip of the scissor the ticklish lady would shout an instruction on how the ultimate look should be. For the lady under the scissors was the Ticklish One's mother.

When Ma emerged, coiffed and sprayed, the Ticklish One decided it was time to get Ma's nails done. Twisting and turning, causing further trouble for the Impassive One, she kept focused on the ministrations on her mother rather than herself. "Please be careful with her nails, they are brittle," she shouted, followed by a giggle as Impassive One punished her with a tickly foot rub.

"That's her mother," whispered my hairdresser, shaking her head. "Seldom have I seen any daughter-in-law bringing her ma-in-law to the parlour. Only daughters take such good care of their mothers!" Not being able to resist it, I shouted out to the Ticklish One, "Tell me one thing, is the pedicure thrilling or torturing you?" She peered at me through her glasses and said, "Well frankly, at the moment it is a bit of a torture! I am too ticklish for this...." Smiling, I replied, "Ah, so even laughter can cause pain..."

Despite the chaos Ticklish One caused at the parlour, I walked away with a warm feeling because of the care she took of her mother. Years ago her mother must have given similar instructions to another hairdresser as she cut a tiny Ticklish One's hair!

And so maybe the infant in the pram will one day look fondly at the dad who is doting on him now. Maybe he will take him out for a meal, a beer or a haircut. Maybe he will read out to him or take him to a movie or for an evening walk. Or maybe, he will burst crackers for him one day as the father watches at Diwali, recalling how, years ago, his Dad had held his hands to light the first crackers in his life, admonishing him to be careful.

There are so many ways to show he cares, so many ways he can adore and show respect to the man who sits watching him in total adoration right now in a restaurant in Connaught Place.


Vinita Dawra Nangia

As celebrities are made and unmade each day with impunity, the pressure increases on the rest of us to be stars in our own right!
One of the pressing social needs of our times is the need to be a star! Nobody is happy being just an ordinary human being. In fact, an interesting fallout of self-help books and gurus has been that all are convinced we are extraordinary beings living an ordinary human life.
No longer can you be just a journalist, bureaucrat, teacher, manager, filmmaker, designer or model. You have to be the best! And since all cant be the best, you fan out in other spheres, still in search of that elusive star status.
An explosion of media and peep-hole journalism has ensured celebrities are no more starry specks on the firmament, but an everyday reality within our living rooms. Gossip columns, television footage and now mobile updates give us minute by excruciating minute updates of every move a celebrity makes. You may not be aware that your neighbours have been blessed with a grandchild, but you will have every detail of the labour pains Sanjay Dutts wife Manya underwent and in what order her twins decided to enter the world!
With an overload of celebrity information, where we get to examine not just the starry moments of our icons, but also their feet of clay, is it surprising that each one of us is encouraged to nudge awake the star within us Till the time celebrities were shrouded by mystique, those beyond the charmed circle could only sigh and admire. But once market demands forced celebs to step out and mingle, public aspirations for celebrityhood skyrocketed.
And media has gallantly risen to meet the public demand. Numerous reality shows on television give all an equal chance to win their spot in the sun. Fancy yourself a singer Try your luck with the many shows that promote singing talent. Proud of your intelligence and general awareness Get to sit with Amitabh Bachchan on Kaun Banega Crorepati!
An out-of-work, struggling star who wants to shoot to prominence Get yourself locked up in a house with similar wannabes for Big Boss. No talent and yet want some fame Why, its easy! Just wash your dirty linen in public on Emotional Attyachar. Who cares if you lose a girlfriend or boyfriend in the process! At least you are seen on television, even if at your most ridiculous ! Then you too can strut around like a star and have people do a double take when they see you in public. Facebook, Twitter and other social media too allows an easy path to celebrityhood.
Get onto Facebook and count more virtual friends than you can ever hope to have in your real life. Join Twitter and almost instantly gain some followers just like any celebrity or spiritual guru! Suddenly, the most ordinary person can find himself engaged in a dialogue with Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan! You could be consoling Sonam Kapoor or Deepika Padukone on the failure of their last movies or congratulating Hrithik and Aishwarya on their brilliant performance in Guzarish! The stardust that rubs off with such interactions is exciting and leaves you craving for more.
It sure is easy today to get your spot in the sun, but not all can handle it well. How many of us can stay grounded after we receive some adulation or public attention Even the toughest slip up. Look at what happened to Barkha Dutt. On TV, she was this feisty anchor who won her laurels reporting from Kargil. On Twitter, she showed the chinks in her armour by indulging in inane and flirtatious interactions for all to see with stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. Her tweets revealed a person drunk on power who was further exposed by the Radia tapes, spelling the end of an extraordinary love affair with the public, so far as journalists go. And there is nothing crueler than a public cold shoulder after you have been encased in their hearts.
It is perhaps this need everybody has to be a star that results in the glee with which we strip our icons the moment they falter. People on the lookout for opportunities to grasp their own celebrity moments, jump with extraordinary and cruel enthusiasm to pull down celebrities from pedestals they seated them on. Brickbats fly with much more enthusiasm than bouquets did. Drawing room conversations gleefully take apart the fallen celeb bit by bit. People relish the idea of the pain the fallen celebrity experiences, for it gives them one good reason finally to celebrate their own unsung lives.
Perhaps there is a strange comfort in unseating icons. For when an idol is discovered to have feet of clay, the pressure on the rest of us lessens to a great degree.
Just a thought I leave you withIsnt it far better to live an ordinary life well, minus the pressures and insecurity of celebrityhood Amongst all the clamour for stardust, doesnt a peaceful, content-with-your-lot existence seem an exciting proposition Is it even a possibility any more?


Vinita Dawra Nangia
Even though living together, families can still be far apart, influenced as they are by disparate elements! How does one ensure bonding.

In a forum organized by Young FICCI Ladies Organisation in Hyderabad on Media - Past, Present and Future, a lady complained that though her children seemed to be aware of all news even before she was, they never read the newpapers! She didn't know whether to be happy about the first, or rue the second. Neither did those of us on the panel. Actually so different are the ways of this generation that rather than evolution, it seems more like a quantum jump, aided more than anything else, by technology!
Living together in the same house,each of us is further apart than would have been imaginable some years ago.We dwell in our own worlds,are exposed to totally different influences and have touch points in our daily life that are nothing to do with each other.The books you read; movies you would like to watch;performances and musicals worth attending, and Malls to be checked out - these are no longer family discussions, but recommendations friends make.
With a whole new set of authors and books coming up for the young,even the books your children read are not the same as you read.Their world is so far removed from what came earlier that they are unable to relate with books you may suggest! The movies they enjoy are different from the ones you like.You may be as wedded to your computer as they are addicted to theirs, but the sites you surf and people you interact with are a world apart from theirs.And not just children, even adults tend to grow further apart as they give in to disparate interests and influences.He goes for business lunches and golf,while she groups up with female friends for girly lunches and interesting outings.
The invasion of smart phones has ensured you are available to office round the clock.So you could be in the middle of dinner when the boss pings you to check on some minor fact. Or you could be putting the children to bed when that critical mail from overseas wings its way with an intrusive beep into your Blackberry!
As such,it has become perfectly normal to be in the same room with each other and yet be wired to completely different gadgets that connect each of you to spaces far removed from the room you are actually sitting in.
In such a scenario how does one ensure a feeling of family togetherness or inculcate the right values in children Obviously one would have to lay down some ground rules and insist everyone follows them.Strange that something which was absorbed as part of daily living together now needs a time,a space and a discipline to be taken in. Children learnt earlier by observing you; today they are so absorbed in their own selves, they may miss out on essential things unless forced to pay attention. Much has been said about families that eat together.And indeed at least one meal together every day is the best way to ensure some togetherness.This time together can also be used for some healthy discussions and bringing everyone up to date on family news. Another idea could be to introduce one topic of general interest at the table and discuss it threadbare.This could be a news item or some other essential general information.
Many families swear by holidays together as great bonding factors.Away from daily distractions,if you choose the destinations carefully, you could indeed use the time away to build strong, lasting memories. And nothing like memories to build bonds and give love a shot in the arm!
I find festivals can be another great bonding exercise for families. Like the much reviled television serials show, a festival when celebrated with traditional fervor and full faith, can teach children a lot about their culture and identity. Praying together is another great cementing factor and time should be kept aside for it.
And if children cannot read the books you suggest, try reading what they are absorbing to understand and bond with your child better! So long as we are all basically secure about each other and care deeply for family bonds and traditions, no matter how far we may travel from each other, the strong thread that binds us together will always anchor us securely.


Vinita Dawra Nangia

If there's nothing left to say, then it spells the end of your relationship. For it's essential to have the intention to share and converse.

We have all heard of a companionable silence. And yet how long can silence help nurture a relationship? Too much silence between people can sever ties since there is nothing to build on. Conversations have as important a role to play in the building of mutual ties as silent companionship does.
Give each other space, but not so much that the chasm becomes too wide to build a bridge over. Think about this. When two people meet, they trade information about experiences, their lives prior to meeting each other, opinions, et al. After a while of doing this, they discover they are able to talk about the same things as they now have shared experiences. Soon they start repeating themselves, starting conversations with, "Have I told you this before… oh I have? Ok..." And after a while the conversation peters off...
There is nothing left to say. Have you ever experienced this? With a spouse? With a lover? Or, with a friend? It can be scary. There you are all eager to talk and connect, and there is nothing to say! Or, at least nothing the other is interested in! Is this the end of the relationship? If there is nothing left to say to each other, how or why would you enjoy each other's company? What would you look forward to?
This can only happen when neither of you makes an effort to keep the conversation, and hence the relationship, going. For that it is important to educate yourselves away from each other, to make an effort to grow in different directions and pick up new skills as you go along. For, if you have an enriched life and experiences, there is always something to share with your loved ones. Apart from having enough to ponder over and talk about, it is also important to have the intention to share and converse. A friend, Alka, shared this interesting instance of her husband Rahul's attempt to keep meaningful conversation going in their lives. "Rahul has always had this abiding interest in Hollywood films. Somehow, somewhere along the way I had missed out on most of the English classic films.
Whenever he brought up a character from one of these films or quoted instances from these as running parallel to life, the conversation would be kind of one-sided. He didn't really let me know this upset him, till one wedding anniversary, he gifted me a huge box full of the best English classics in films! He told me to watch each of these. As I would watch one, we would discuss it threadbare, from every possible angle. He would give me his take on it and listen to my opinion with deep interest. This gave a new shot in the arm to our relationship and suddenly there was something to look forward to! I consider this one of the best gifts Rahul ever gave me, because with this he gave me a key to himself, to his innermost thoughts and ideas…"
So even good conversations require some amount of work to be put in, some preparation, the intention to talk and share. If Rahul hadn't bothered to make the effort of getting the movies, or Alka hadn't bothered to watch them, they wouldn't have found their new togetherness. So when you are about to meet a friend with whom conversation has dwindled, make that extra effort not just to prepare the eatables and drinks, but also the gift of conversation. Think beforehand of some topics of common interest that will keep both of you hooked.
A colleague would reply to every question asked and every topic brought up, with "Give me some time to think and we will talk about this." And, he wouldn't forget! Sure enough next day he would get back with preparation and the conversation that followed would be well worth the wait! Some deep thinking and a consideration of various aspects would bring a depth to the conversation that would have been missing otherwise.
But what do you do if the other person is just not interested? Jyoti, deeply interested in reading, tried her best to get her husband interested as well so that they could not just share books and visits to the library, but also be able to have interesting literary discussions. But Sanjay was just not interested and any attempts on Jyoti's part to make him read would be met with derision. On the other hand, Sanjay's interest in juicy gossip left Jyoti totally cold. As a result, most attempts at conversation would end in bitterness.
As part of conversation, couple of us started discussing what could have been done by either Jyoti or Sanjay under the circumstances. One suggestion was that Sanjay, even if he didn't want to read, could at least have kept the conversation going by asking Jyoti either to read out to him or share the story with him. Another suggestion was that Jyoti should have at least the patience to hear him out when he indulged in gossip! To my mind, their lack of conversation and of any attempt to show an interest certainly showed lack of camaraderie or the will to sustain the relationship.
And true, sometimes no amount of conversation, nor attempts at it can save a relationship that one doesn't have the will to save.


Vinita Dawra Nangia

If we love those who make us feel good, isn't it normal to avoid those who make us think badly of ourselves?

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you." For years this line has spelt the epitome of romance for me. Love is what you become when you are with a loved one.

Remember melting into sheer gooey chocolate, being able to hear the blood sing in your veins, having your heart leap into your throat? That lightness of step and body? That thrill? The tingling of your fingernails? All this and more at just the sight of your loved one! When time seems to fly and hours become seconds? When you live for the next meeting, and, when the sound of the loved one's voice feels like drops of rain on parched desert sand!
You know you love him or her. And yet, you know you actually love the way your loved one makes you feel. After all, could you ever love a person who dislikes you, makes you feel small, or humiliates you? Why do we always love the people who make us feel we are beautiful and 10 feet tall?
And why just romance? An appreciative boss, a genuine friend, a proud parent, a doting spouse or an adoring child has a similar effect. All of them can make you feel on top of the world and ready to slay a few demons as you go on your way with a smile on your face and a skip in your step!
All of us love to love ourselves. And appreciation from those we love and admire can have a very therapeutic and rejuvenating effect. And naturally having tasted the heady feeling, we are drawn to people who make us feel in love with ourselves.
Is not the reverse just as true? We tend to dislike people who bring out the worst in us and generally avoid them. They bring out a dose of negativity in us that is best avoided. When you know someone thinks badly of you, being in their company lowers you in your own eyes. Also when you know someone is envious of you or dislikes you, being with them can only put you under a lot of stress.
Clearly there are people who bring out the best in us and those who bring out the worst. Some people in our lives can make us break into spontaneous laughter, while others can at best inspire jaw-aching artificial smiles. There are those in whose presence we absolutely relax and let our guard down and those who make us feel tense and on edge. We talk to some without thought or fear and measure every word with some others. There are those whose presence relaxes you and others who stress you out just by being with them.
There is obviously a certain chemistry at work. Reincarnation experts insist this is a connection from another life. Under hypnosis Brian Weiss and others claim to have regressed people to past lives that explain how experiences with certain souls in earlier lives can explain away certain instant likes and dislikes we form in this life.
I cannot comment on past life connects; but what we all can confirm is that there are moments in life when we instantly like or dislike someone without any clear reason. And, most of the time these instant likes and dislikes are mutual. In a scenario where both give each other positive strokes, the relationship grows steadily since a source of mutual admiration has been found. And so when you fall in love, you end up creating an illusory world for yourself where you feel exclusively loved and admired. You seek more and more of the good vibes and the attraction grows. And then when love sneaks away and admiration gives way to a reality check and some criticism, the adrenaline just doesn't pump as hard as earlier. You no longer feel as beautiful, as loved or cared for.
It is natural to love and seek people for the good they bring out in you. And so, it is equally natural to dislike and avoid them when they bring out negative emotions such as envy, jealousy, anger, aggression or hatred.
We love the people who love us and couldn't care less about those who don't. And there is nothing wrong with that. Why waste time with those who rather than help with your growth, drag you back a few steps? Any two people who really care for each other will always help each other grow.
"I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out."
Somehow I always thought this was Elizabeth Barrett Browning on her equally famous poet-husband, Robert Browning. However, the quote it seems is from Roy Croft, a mysterious American poet, who some say didn't really exist.


Vinita Dawra Nangia

Sometimes even those who get left behind in the race, can end up teaching you a lesson or two!

SITTING in the stands, as we cheered on the athletes participating in the Men’s steeplechase event at Commonwealth Games, we saw the Papua New Guinea representative, Sapolai Yao, fall behind. He maintained a steady pace and didn’t falter despite being several paces behind the pack that thundered away, sailing over hurdles and splashing through water.
As the distance between him and the rest grew steadily, never once did he allow the pressure to get to him. He neither increased nor decreased his pace; he just plodded on. There came a point in his seventh lap when the rest crossed him and were now running a complete lap ahead of him. This too didn’t affect him or his pace. He plodded on.
The race had finished for the rest when this guy started his last lap. Keeping the same, steady pace, he ran through the hurdles, jumping, running or splashing where required. He had the crowd’s complete attention now. Rest of the athletes cooled off and moved away. He carried on. When he finally reached the Finish line, he got a standing ovation from parts of the crowd. Agreed, most people clapped more in mockery. However, I would like to believe some of us applauded his spirit too.
What was he thinking as he ran? How was he feeling? He knew his was a lost cause and he was shooting to prominence in front of an international audience not for his achievement, but for his grand failure. And still, he just went on....
I heard my elder son ask his brother, "If you had been in his place, would you have carried on or given up?" The younger one replied, "Of course carried on! There is no option. You have to carry on for your country. What about you?" The elder brother replied thoughtfully, "Yes, I would have carried on too. But poor guy, how must he feel!"
Any Games throw up plenty examples of courage and fortitude; lots of records set, broken and crossed. For me, this "loser" as most would call him, gave me many moments of introspection. Would I have carried on or given up in his place? I have no answer. In the face of such immense pressure, with a stadium full of people and beyond them, an entire world, watching me! The guy must have had nerves of steel, that’s for sure.
Did he go back home satisfied that he never gave up nor pretended an injury, or did he cringe at the ignominy of finishing last? Whenever you follow a game closely, be it lawn tennis, badminton or cricket, you can clearly figure out the moment at which the player gives up; the eyes tell you all. And from that moment onwards the faults and the mistakes begin. And the outcome is clear.
On the other hand, if you keep your fighting spirit alive and put in the same efforts till the last, even if you feel sure you are going to lose anyway, that’s when Destiny may surprise you. The trick is to keep focused on what you are doing and not let anything disturb your equilibrium. As Sapolai Yao did. All he was focused on was finishing what he had set out to do.
Yao had everything going against him. He was from one of the "smaller nation" participants to these "friendly games". He is just under 5 feet tall — the shortest amongst the participants in this race. The Delhi heat didn’t help either. And then of course he was last to finish.
And yet, Yao left an impression. Not just with me. Not just in India. He was also popular with the Melbourne public at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 for his efforts in the steeplechase! But I still don’t have an answer to the question — would I have carried on with such dogged persistence if I had been in his place? I don’t really know… Would you?


Vinita Dawra Nangia

Instead of trying to change the one thing you do not like in your loved one, how about focusing on the many you love?

Is there anyone in the world you like totally? As in, approve everything about that person, all the time? Even if you are wildly, obsessively in all-consuming love? Even if you have your rose-tinted glasses pushed right back up your nose? Can you honestly say there is nothing at all about your loved one you would rather change?

Surely not. It cannot be possible to like everything about even the one person you love most in the world — be it a parent, a child, or the man or woman in your life! There will always be at least one trait you dislike, one negative you would rather wish away.
And therein starts our quest to change those we love most. If only that teeny weeny thing about them could be changed — a habit given up, a personality trait dropped or another acquired! Parents go beyond the formative years of kids and waste precious time and energy trying to change their adult offspring! People even attempt to influence a change in traits of old parents!
And yet one negative trait cannot possibly make you give up totally on a loved one. A recent article in Los Angeles Times talks critically of a therapist who advised a woman to totally sever all ties with her father since he was “evil”. When the author, a social psychologist Carol Tavris, asked the woman if she thought her father was 100 per cent bad, she replied, “No, I think he’s a normal guy who made some mistakes.”
For one negative, you cannot possibly give up an entire relationship. Couples spend entire lifetimes trying to change each other to tally with their idea of perfection.
How much better life would be if we just accepted each other as we are! And just learn to turn a blind eye to the little things we don’t like, even as we make the most of the vast things we love about each other.
Why is it compulsory to like everything about a friend? You can pick on what you like and focus on that, turning a blind eye to what you do not approve of. Must you go around trying to change the world? You can value a friend for her loyalty and generosity and forgive her for her streak of cattiness. You can love the side of her that you cherish and simply accept, even ignore, the one you disapprove of. What a sense of peace that brings to a relationship!
Now, if nobody can be perfect, no one can be all bad either. Even in the worst of humans, we can find some goodness we can relate to and appreciate. How can anyone be all good or all bad? How can you be all right or all wrong? You wouldn’t be human if you were! Gods and Goddesses too have their weak spots and moments. It was the wonderfully good, maryada purushottam (finest specimen of a human being) Ram who turned away from his devoted wife Sita.
Tavris in her article goes on to talk of Gandhiji ‘who reached the highest moral stage and yet often treated his wife, family and followers in a harsh manner’; Martin Luther King Jr, ‘who led the civil rights movement and gave up his life for it, yet was a womaniser’. Vietnam war hero John Paul Vann, ‘who performed astonishing feats of bravery, yet was an obsessive seducer!’
In her latest book The Power, Rhonda Byrne urges, “Notice the things you love in other people, and turn away from the things you don’t so you don’t give them any feeling.” She goes on to say, “If you can’t love the good in someone or something simply turn away … turn away by looking for the things you love in life!”
I have yet to read the book (even though the Newsweek review urges all to stay away from it), but to me the extract seems to echo what I am trying to say here.
Much like you would do at a buffet, take the best from each human being and from every relationship and enjoy it to the fullest. And just as you would walk past the dishes you don’t care about, do not focus on what you don’t like and so get hassled or make futile attempts to change it!


Vinita Dawra Nangia

Are you able to distance yourself from your problems and look at them objectively? Take control of the crisis before it takes you over!

WE grow up hearing platitudes like "This too shall pass", "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" or "Trust in God, all will be well. " These are the ways friends and relatives console and try to give strength to a near one in trouble.
Strangely, however many times you may have heard them, these words still end up comforting you when repeated in the midst of a crisis. It's like a reminder that troubles are temporary and will be followed by better times.
People react in various ways when in trouble. I saw a woman emerge from a hospital the other day, sit on a bench and start wailing. She didn't seem in pain and was accompanied by two young girls who ignored her distress except to tell her to stop making so much noise. This was obviously one woman who believed in making her distress public and seeking attention. In contrast, the girls stood in dignified silence.
Some people tend to draw succour from a clutch of people surrounding them during troubled times, others prefer to withdraw into themselves. The former seek advice from all around, the latter hold their own counsel and work on it. Some become irritable and snap at those around, while others remain calm and collected. Some prefer to close their eyes and almost wish troubles away, others get into warrior mode and take matters head-on.
The first thing to do when in trouble is to take control of the crisis before it takes you over. Typically with a health problem, you could get bogged down by the differing opinions of doctors and people around advising you to turn to alternative medicine or home remedies. In a marital crisis, you could be wondering whether to walk away or forgive your spouse, while friends confuse you with passionate, wellmeaning but wildly differing advice. Are you able to distance yourself from your own problem and look at it objectively That is the first step in resolving your problem. Ultimately, you are the only one who can take your own decisions.
While it is very easy to go under and give up hope, the survivors are the ones who look for a handle on the situation and just don't let hope die. One of the ways of doing that is to strategise in a crisis as you would for a business situation. Break up the situation into parts and segregate issues that are beyond your control and those that can still be dealt with by you. In a health crisis, you may not be able to reverse the situation, but at least you can take better care of yourself now onwards. In a relationship, only you know what you can live with and what you can't.
As you control and manage the manageable parts of the problem, you start gaining selfconfidence and see a glimmer of hope. This then shows you the way ahead. Confidence in yourself and hope are indeed the two qualities you need to keep alive during any crisis if you are not to become a victim to the situation.
While there is no harm in taking advice from well-wishers, remember most people dole out advice for lack of anything better to say. You have to be intelligent enough to be able to pick up the right nuggets and ignore the rest.
Some people tend to withdraw into a shell when surrounded by problems. They become quiet and reduce communication with the outside world. This is a way of conserving much-needed energy. Silence helps one focus on the issue and look at it objectively from every angle. It also helps one arrive at decisions with least interference from outside noise and with more clarity.
And then of course the belief that there is an end to every problem, whether you can see it or not, keeps you going. And however troubled you may be now, you can always look forward to a better tomorrow. That is the law of Nature. This too shall pass...