Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Motivators can feel low too

A young dashing fella about 14 years old, asked me on my visit to Goa in 2012. I was doing a workshop with one of slum schools there during my visit and he was one of the most interesting children I came across. I couldn't turn my back to his query.

The conversation started with a casual hi and how are you. When I answered I am fine, he instantly baffled me by saying, "I saw you crying sometime back. You are not fine."

Silent for a while, I decided to have a face to face with the child and told him, "I didn't know you noticed I was crying. But I am kind of low, upset, silent and not doing anything much today."

He looked at me for a while and then asked me, "would you like to take me for a small walk by the sunset?" I obliged.

As we walked in silence towards the sunset, he said after a while, "How can you feel low? You are so strong and motivate people all along the way." 

I looked at him and could feel the tears brimming up in my eyes. I wanted to hide my tears but didn't do so. The child looked at me, almost dumbstruck. He probably didn't except to see my tears.

After a silent pause, he held my hand with a firm grip and said, "it's okay. You don't have to say it now. Maybe some other time." I was certainly take aback by this kid's maturity and gained some composure by then. We walked in silence on the beach as the sun was setting.

I then told him, "Thank You for understanding. But you know what, we are all humans. A motivator too has feelings and can be in pain. I agree I always tell others to keep smiling through challenges, but I also tell them it's okay to cry. It's okay to feel sad. It's okay to express our feelings and let go."

The child looked at me and smiled. I smiled back at him too. We sat there and watched the sunset and after sometime headed home.

He never needed to ask me anything after that for the rest of the days I was there. Whenever we met, we had the best conversations and lessons to learn from each other. Today, he's a grown up adult, well established in his life. We remain connected and have lots to share.

"Be blessed thy pain, if not for you, I would have never experienced the meaning of happiness and freedom."

pic courtesy (c)upal_rene, Goa, 2012

Friday, November 15, 2019

Let the Child in You Take Charge

A child raped. Forced into child labour. Forced into prostitution. Forced into drugs. Forced into violence. Forced into pregnancy. Forced into married. The list is never ending. The force is never stopping.
Solutions, laws are there, but the eradication of all these forceful activities against children globally are nowhere close by to stop. 
For each child, their childhood should be preserved. Their freedom. Their rights. Their innocence. But, each is denied in a large percentage globally and in our country too.
The real world should have a holistic ambiance for children to grow up with peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality, and solidarity. But the global scenario for the same gives a different picture which again unfortunately is real. Leaving apart the statistics and the countless researches and initiatives done on a constant basis to ensure a healthy life for a child, we do have a long long way to go.

In many parts of our country children are often deprived of education, right nutrition and care for a healthy and fulfilled life. They are forced to live a life that refuses to give them a space to grow and develop, denied of their right to survive or be raised with protection.
All these factors not only affects the society as a whole, but badly damages the child’s well being, mental and physical. To deny the fundamental rights of a child and rob them off their innocence itself it a heinous crime. But where does all this end? What are the solutions to this ever impending problem? Is there a day in the near future when we will children in the entire world living a healthy, happy and free life?
Well, to write of this or anything related to this on Children’s Day that is celebrated in India today is not to denote anything special. I write this on the eve of Children’s Day because it is important for all of us to remember that only by putting up balloons or cutting cakes in schools we are not celebrating the rights of children.
To celebrate each and every child, we need to ensure the fact that they are given their rights as children and future citizens of the world. 

It is important to remember and to set aside any other discrimination to ensure that each child indeed should and does celebrate his/her childhood. 

It is mandatory to give them access to education, good health, protection and all other aspects that contribute to their overall well-being.
I start the article with the darker side because that is the naked reality. Not to increase the negativity but in hope that each one of us take charge to change the way it is. 

To stand with every child. To give them freedom and to imagine and get a free sky to grow and explore themselves. 

Ending this article with the lines from Imagine by John Lenon - “Imagine there's no heaven, It's easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky”. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Comfort Zones Decoded

What are comfort zones? What makes or breaks them? What defines them? What are their parameters or boundaries?
The existence of comfort zones is the most wanted thing in life. A make belief shield that is imbibed in us since childhood, a comfort zone is created to make us believe that everything in life is comfortable. Stopping us to learn and be prepared for the unknown challenges we face through the entire journey of life.

The entire journey, however, is to decode the myth of the comfort zone. which is nothing but a notion that makes us wary of facing fears in life.

When it comes to humans, comfort zones take a different turn as it is associated to all good and comfortable things in life. While we wish a good life for ourselves and everyone else, such is not the case always. To learn to accept what exists in our current situation, to practice overcoming fears and disappointments is to take a step ahead out of the comfort zone. To know the limitations of life, to challenge ourselves and take failure as our teacher. To be on a continuous fight to make the best out of life and break the limitations gifted by ‘comfort zones’.

With time, each and every experience in my life has enabled me to give up the set comfort zone, designed in my mind that I thought existed when I was younger. As I grew, I learned to build the best out of the worst of situations and times.

When carrying the baggage begins a burden and we are caught up in a tight spot unable to come out of that space, we must take a step and move out of that specific zone.

Yesterday was another day. Today is another. In such situations, it becomes vital to realize and reset our priorities. Every time I fail, I keep telling myself: This is the worst and the best I have to myself, and I have to live through it. All that is going wrong – it will pass. There is some unseen door which will open at the most unexpected moment. Not only for myself, but for all of us. 

Each time the comfort zones try to scare me, I tell myself, have faith and embrace the unknown. In situations like this I repeatedly ask myself what is important. The finances, yes. More than that, it is my identity and integrity. My mental peace.The moment our fears know that we are stronger than them, they would not try to mess up with us. Dark situations are naked realities we have to learn from.

With multiple issues and responsibilities, it boggles me down at times, like anyone else I am sure. There are days when I find a blank canvas in front of me with no hope. But good grief! It’s blank. I can draw a random stroke across the canvas anytime.

That time is NOW. That space is Hope! That is where freedom lies, to explore and start from zero again. A voice from within tells me, with every comfort zone I decode – I grow one step closer in becoming a stronger human. This applies for all of us, to move with the flow, with what we have. With what makes us. With what we are. And in the process find ourselves.

Create your comfort zone in moments of ‘dis-comfort’, defined by you. Be prepared to face the uncertainties of life, and as you confront each one of those moments, learn to embrace them. To clearly identify the discomforts and accept and overcome them, like the peeling of the dead skin, let go of the set comforts we are used to.

We should take the journey through our ‘un-comfortable zone‘, to prepare us for the hard knocks in life. Taking risks prepare us to face the unprecedented situations in our life. They help us know move out of the ‘comfort zone’ and explore the potential we have.

During the fall, we all need to continue our fight and never ever give up. After a certain period of time, we all realize, that the darkness, failures, the deep painful wounds of life give us the push to go on. There is some light inside the deepest darkest rooms of life.

 That is what we all need to start trying, try to float. Yes, you just have to make it possible to take that one step forward. To just keep going on, for not being ashamed of yourself for anything, not drowning with how people judge us and go on with the flow.

The protected, safe and nurtured zone is a blessing indeed. However, the moment the bubble bursts – we curse life and blame situations or our surroundings. Comfort zones limits us to fears because of the little that we are allowed to know. Nothing can be taken for granted, nothing can be shielded by an unbreakable mold forever. Things will fall apart, things will happen in unpredictable ways, and that will teach us that ‘comfort zones’ are a myth.

 Being honest to ourselves help us go a long way. Practicing self-honesty gives us a better place to confront what is truly bothering you and increase your chance of moving forward.

To move out of the routine, to explore the unknown, to stand on the verge of an edge – We need to do it all to test ourselves. To take the test and to pass through them. Even if we fail, to learn to rise from them and that’s exactly how we learn that the comfort of ‘comfort zones’ are nothing but a myth.

 Comfort zones teach us that the dark is full of evil happenings. Trust me it doesn’t. Explore life, talk to strangers, and take a walk down the untrodden path. Stumble. Fall. Be open to try new things in life. Even if that doesn’t work out for you, know that you will learn something from it. To move ahead and try again. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Rise Above The Shame

Over time, most of the time many people have made me feel that I should be ashamed of my story. The dark part. The bad part. They made me feel and told me that the least I should ever even dare to try to do is speak about the dark sides of my life. They tried to convince me that I will be shunned upon, hated, looked down upon, outcasted from the society. Many times my parent were told that I was way too liberal and restless in nature.

Little did I realize at that tender age, that the activities my parents and teachers got me involved into would make me - UNASHAMED.

What I learnt from my father and mother, some of my teachers and rock-solid friends, taught me in silent words to rise above the adversities and not be ashamed of them.

Yes, I am not ashamed of my story. Because my story is good, bad and ugly. Because I learnt with time that if I can love the good part of the story of my life and that of others, why can I not channelize the bad moments, situations and turn them to driving strengths?
I am not ashamed of my story because it taught me to accept myself, the obstacles in life, face them, collapse and rise up again. All in a cycle called life. Today, I rise above the social stigmas and encourage people not to be ashamed of their story. 

I sit with myself and others to have a tête-à-tête often. What I was deprived of in my childhood and what I was blessed with from my early years makes me who I am today. I have more to learn and grow, till my last drop.

My story - which people thought I should be ashamed of comprised of sexual abuse as a child. I could not speak about to it for years because I did not know it was something to be spoken about. Four decades back there was more of hush hush to talk of such issues and hide it under the table. The stigma still exists. Break the wall!

My story witnessed a disturbance in the marital life of my parents for years due to the influence of other relatives, how they overcame those attempts made by people trying to break the marriage, ruin their life and that of mine - how they fought it together, planting seeds of unbreakable faith and strength in myself for always. Patience and perseverance pays.

The dark side of my story which others decided I should be ashamed of - I am not ashamed of, even today. The dark side of my story only made me stronger, bold, cut throat, a stubborn motivator.
The irony, the society I live in told me in more ways than one that I should be ashamed of myself because I am bold, I am fearless. As a girl, I shouldn’t be so. Hell! No, I am not ashamed to be so.

A marriage out of love became estranged with time. An abortion and two miscarriages. I did not become a biological mother later. 

I was told not to talk about it as not being able to give birth to a child is considered something to be ashamed of in our society. No, I am not ashamed to be labelled as 'infertile'. I am not ashamed of my story. 

Losing my father - my idol; my mother - my bestie to an accident, there I was, broken, shattered, tattered and torn. Turned alcoholic, became an active smoker. I came out from there with strength. No, I am not ashamed to say it all.

A sexual abuse at workplace – in the hospitality industry - which almost attempted to ruin my life, my estranged husband stood by me and fought for me. No, I am not ashamed just because things did not work out perfectly between us. He stood by me and told me, “Do not be ashamed of your story.”

Therein came multiple nervous breakdowns, lying in a comatose state when a miracle called the love of life happened to me. When I was back from the hospital, some people started saying I have gone insane and stayed away from me. I Thank God they are not anywhere around me today.

Some people wearing the mask of well-wishers, wanted to sleep with me. Many suggested my life will turn around if I take personal and professional favours underneath the tables. No I am not ashamed for not giving in to their whims and fancies.

Penniless, broken, I was crawling inside my room. The darkness taught me a lot. My friends stood unconditionally by me. Because I call a spade a spade, does not imply I am not soft. My heart goes out for my friends and even strangers who have faced worse situations in life. It’s all a part of the struggle, a part of the fight, till the last breath.

A woman, whom I trusted to be my friend, stabbed me. A man in the disguise of a well-wisher till date attempts to ruin the social and private life that of myself and the best of my friends because I refused to sleep with him. I gathered my ashes up and am taking legal help. I do not know if Justice prevails in my country, but I will at least be able to look eye to eye with myself, telling, “Yes, I tried.” No, I am not ashamed of my story.

Confused relationships, broken heart, love finding its way maybe to be lost again – I am not ashamed of my story. At every turn I rise from my ashes, I crumble, I cry, I fall, I laugh, I writhe in pain, I have fun times with friends, family and my dogs. I write, I continue working professionally.

I am on a constant drive to empower humans - either through my writing, or through speaking on public forums, raising awareness and motivating myself and others to rise up and say – NO! I AM NOT ASHAMED OF MY STORY. DARE ME IF YOU CAN. PERIOD.

#beproudofyourstory #empoweredwoman #strenghtofwomen 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My beautiful wife…

He does not tell her most of the times how pretty she is looking. He does not ask her for a selfie when he wants to see her. At times, when she teases him asking him how she is looking when she is going for a party or has dressed up for an occasion, he just says one thing, ‘my beautiful wife.’
He addresses her as his beautiful wife not because he feels that she is good looking. It’s because he believes and knows that she is a beautiful human being from within.
At a time she did not realize who or what she was, he silently watched her and told her in unsaid words, ‘you have it in you.’ He appreciated her for strength, her confidence and her grace all along.
When her strength was breaking, he was right there to hold her and give her that lift. Every time she was splitting up, he remained calm and patience because he believed in her.
When she fought with him over silly reasons, he kept up with her. He fought back and they both made up by being there for each other irrespective of their differences at times.
When she was sick, he didn’t care whether her hair was unkept, whether she did not have any make-up, what she was wearing – he wanted to see her no matter what every day, every moment. The smile on his face lighted her up. Yes, indeed, she felt she was beautiful for who she was and what she is.
With all the years that passed in-between them, he for once did not let the courtesy, gratitude and care wear off. The same person, whom, once upon a time, one she would thank for little things, now felt and realized what she actually was worth.
The unsaid words, his untold conviction in her paid off. Every time he reached out to her, he made her days filled with opportunities to tell how fulfilling the relationship meant for both of them.
Like all humans, she knew there were imperfections. In fact, she had a lot of flaws that she hated to admit. But he knew them all and he loved her anyway. When they both said "yes" to walk together, giving a meaning to each other’s life, they became companions forever.

On the beginning of another year of togetherness, she thanks him for choosing her. She thanks him for putting up with her. With all the imperfections, the flaws, the scars, the trials, he made her truly feel, “his beautiful wife.” 

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Gift of Rejection - dedicated to Maggie Lawson

When she was 7 she was given a doll for Christmas. As she grew she realized nothing much changed apart from developing more appropriate ways for figuring out how things work. Well, this part I copied from the profile of Maggie Lawson, with her due and kind permission.
I started my communication with Maggie, based in New Zealand on LinkedIn just a couple of days back. I may never ever meet her in person, but I felt like I knew her for ages. Quoting from one of her posts, "“I also wanted to thank you for the gift of rejection because it’s an opportunity to grow. As disappointed as I am, I am also grateful. I’m learning to stand tall in my own skin and this experience has been instrumental in that process.”
This triggered me to start off my communication with her. Again with her due permission, I am quoting from the inbox messages she sent to me. Apart from being one hell of a woman who’s not only standing tall in her heels, she’s one hell of a powerhouse of inspiration and motivation.
Sharing some of her message threads:
“Hi Upalparna, together we are stronger. I appreciate your honesty and respect your struggle.” Just like she respects her own. “You remind me of me. There will be no pity, just compassion.”
“I think we're going to be great friends Upalparna” – by then I already felt a connect with her, somewhere, somehow.
“In our childhood we held the world in our palms. They were not fantasies, they were our birth right. That is, until our dreams are stolen from us.”
 “There is a special connection between us. I feel it too. I should tell you now, I don't believe in God. But I would never treat someone differently because they do.”
“Can I call you Upal? Is it rude to shorten names there? Upal reminds me of opal - a gemstone with many beautiful sparkling flecks... Kind like you” – I replied, no it’s not rude at all. You can call me Upal.
I was away from some time, so I wrote to her a sorry for being away. When I told her there are times when some demons dance inside my mind, she wrote, “That's OK, you are my ocean, roll in and out with the tides, I'll sit on the pier and enjoy you.” 
“ It's the jealous demons who won't let you be yourself for themselves opel. The more you see them the louder they will get. Do you know how I know? I have them too. They keep me from reaching out; they tell me it's for my own protection. To stop me getting hurt. But I've learned I'm bigger and stronger than my demons. Soon they will weaken. Loosen their grip. And you will be free like me. Promise me, you'll hold on. And ride the tide, in and out up and down. Do me one small favour, every day, Please!  Send me just one heart, you don’t have to talk, if you don’t want to.  But I care. I need to know you're here. I have lost enough for seven lifetimes.”
You are quite good for me opel. You inspire creativity. I love how you write, you even reflect some of the concepts I'm supporting at the moment. Beautiful!
One concept she picked up from my writing: Slowly, gradually, just by being yourself. Just by sinking into your own skin. This here matches up with a theme I'm exploring called #FullSpectrum. I'm writing post to encourage people to throw away definers, things that limit us to fit popular ideas of what we're supposed to be, like professionalism which seeks to strip us of our uniqueness. Instead I'm encouraging people to stand tall in their skin, in their full spectrum self.
I just take a U-turn (The second concept) - this one I've been calling #pivotpoint. The idea is that every single situation has multiple faces, all of which are relevant perspectives of the same situation. At any point we can pivot whilst being in the same point in time and choose to look at the event differently, we can literally turn it over in our hands to see it in a way that works for us for whatever journey we are on. A wall can be a path from a different perspective, reality is fluid
The reason I focus on pivot points is because I can’t control what events will happen to me and I don't like that so I need to take ownership of some part of it. I do this by owning how I will use the event. It can be hard to do especially when wrapped up in hurt but I have found that being able to crawl from beneath the event and then climbing on top of it I'm able to gain new heights and take my power back.

I am speechless with the touch of love & friendship. Her knowledge and depth empowers people, just the way it empowers me.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Inspire and awaken the soul of others

To him beauty must be strange and exciting and sad, it must evoke some degree of passion and leaves a hole. That is how an illustrator with a mind of his own defines his art. He in fact defined some illustrations made by him as ugly, and when I asked him how he would define ugliness or beauty, that was his answer. His knowledge and thought process evokes the will to know life up-close.

When she’s panicky about meeting targets, little does it show that deep within she is calm as ever, confident she can do it. She’s often taken me back to the times when I was in my 20’s with her fearless and bubbly self. She again vents out when she sits to paint and sketch. She does it exceptionally well. Then she is a mature woman and yet remains so grounded.

His voice reaches out across miles, when he has to call out to the labours working in the project with him. A whistle, and it kind of blows up everyone’s ears. He transforms to a man of steel in his workplace, living life on the edge most of the times. But as he sheds that professional skin, there’s a fantastic cook and a singer inside him. He’s passionate about mountaineering, been there, done that. When he laughs, it’s infectious. When he is himself, it’s like having a rock solid man as your best friend.

When she walks, it looks like she is setting up to fly. She looks all ruffled up from her get-up when in a hurry, but that’s the last thing she is from within. She’s composed and calm. And when she sells spaces to her clients, little can one know that she has a strong flair for art. Over a cup of tea, I have seen her sketching up like a pro standing on the roads. Handling her young son, managing her home away from home, she is one hell of a strong woman. Balanced and breaking taboos, she can set the world on fire if needed.

Each time I saw him roll up grass in his cigarette, standing alone in one corner, I often wonder what exactly he is upto. When we were introduced, I couldn’t resist asking him how many drags he smokes up a day. About 10, he said. Yet every-time he was always so composed and calm and silent. He performs his task as an editor diligently till the wee hours of the night, drinks only once a week, and gives an opinion only if someone bugs him into giving one. He’s one hell of a role model. A perfectionist to me.

She was a petite introvert girl sitting in the last bench when I first saw her in high school. 
The fear of being thrown into an unknown zone showed all over her face. Our conversations started in class gradually. And I could see her evolving out of her shell. She could not complete her education after 11. But her dream of being a beautician kept her going. After years of being an ideal home-maker, she pursued a diploma, and started her own beauty parlour from one of the rooms in her house. Her health really was giving up with many piling up issues, but nothing stopped her.

When he’s writing a HTML code or designing a software program, little did I figure out that he’s such an intense writer. When I read his first writing, I was deeply moved. His writing delves into the deep shades of life, often unfolding the hidden secrets of the human psyche. Again when he’s doing his job he’s sunk into perfectionism. When he’s sharing his thoughts, it amazes me the way he has emerged as a man triumphing over his serious health issues and failures. His writings are indeed moving, giving food for your thought. 

The list is never-ending. People I have known for years, each in their own professions, but role models in their own ways. People like them and more are each an inspiration in the journey of life. 

They win and lose, accept life just the way they accept defeat. It intrigues me time and again. They are tycoons, they are the stalwarts. Does it make any difference that they are not owning million dollars, leading lavish lifestyles? 

To us, they are as big as any big celebrated names in our society. They are grounded and true human being, they are men and women, whose passion drives them to make it happen. They are fighters and I am proud of them. I want the world to know that people like them can make all the difference in life.