Thriving Mindfully

Tag: Responsibility (Page 1 of 3)

On the daily horoscope

There was a colorful supplement that came along with the New Year edition of the newspaper that caught my attention.

It was the yearly horoscope.

Printed in those four colorful pages was supposedly, the collective future of a mass of people born under a certain sun sign.

I somehow missed out on reading that supplement on New Year’s eve. But the very next day, there was another column that I discovered in the leisure section that was of similar nature. It was the daily horoscope.

I wondered to myself,

There must be a lot of people who follow this column. Why else would they print it every single day !’

Yet, I had my reservations about feeding my mind with a generic prophesy about how my day would pan out to be.

I had another system in place which served my mind space much better.

Every morning, I would write down three simple things down in my journal :

1) How I felt
2) What I was going to do on that day
3) Why

One could say, it was a prediction for how my day would look like. And, on most occasions, my day would be in sync with my own predictions. Rather than spending time deciphering the cryptic clues in a newspaper forecast, it was well worth my time to apply myself and strive for what I wanted to do.

I believe that to have a daily prediction for your own immediate future is the best way forward.
When the newspaper prediction goes wrong, you can blame the stars or the person who cobbled up the column together.
But when your own daily prediction fails, who could you blame?

As the saying goes,

The best way to predict future is to create it.’

Why feed our mind with a generic forecast with questionable authenticity, when you can channel your energy towards doing what matters to you most?

Everyday is a good day to do something meaningful. And if you pursue your calling with energy and enthusiasm, regardless of the prophesy of a horoscope, the stars will line up in your favor.

Script your own daily horoscope.
Be responsible.
Make your future happen!


A Farmer’s Demise

Life gives the farmer grains and lemons few,
He take them to sell, with a hope new,
And again he falls for the market’s spell,
He makes a big loss, for all that he could sell.


Life gives Sahib, means to money and more,
He trades all day, hoping the market shall soar,
A seasoned player, he knows the game too well,
He makes a fortune yet, to no one shall he tell


The farmer in agony, comes home to rest,
He pours himself a drink meant for a pest,
Dejected, in tears, down he chugs,
And wreaths and submits to a death meant for bugs.


The Sahib comes home, ecstatic from the gain,
He pours himself a drink, brewed from the farmer’s grain,
Elated, he finds himself in seventh heaven,
And follows the drink with a lick of salt and lemon.


It is high time, Sahib needs an awakening rude,
He needs the farmer, even before there is any food,
Sahib, make a change, make sure that you see,
That no farmer ever dies, wishing money grew on his tree.



When an old man runs

An old man used to frequent a park. He wouldn’t do much there. He would just sit on a wooden bench and enjoy the breeze of the season.
Every evening, he would see a group of three young men meet at the park after work. They would just sit on the bench opposite him and chatter away mindlessly.

The old man could barely see much. But even in a few months of observation, he could sense the gradual deterioration in the health of the young men.

He wished to change things.
But how? He wondered.

The next day, the old man quit his slippers and came to the park in his shoes. Just as the three men came in the park that evening, they were surprised to see the old man walk around the park with his cane.
In a few weeks, the old man felt healthy enough to set aside his cane and walk briskly without it.
Each time he would pass their field of vision, the men would feel a strange feeling inside them. Their talking would stop and all their attention would momentarily be on the old man.

The following month, the three men got a big shock. The old man was jogging slowly around the park with a beaming smile. There wasn’t much talk that day, just a lot of silence.

Next day, the old man got a surprise he was wishing for all along. The three young men were waiting for him in their running shoes. Soon, the three of them were following the old man around like chicks around mama hen.
Even with his slow breezy pace, the old man had moved three mountains semingly set in stone, in gentle onward motion.

For a few weeks they would run like this everyday.
Until one day, the old man didn’t show up.

They assumed that he was unwell and continued on with the running.

Little did they know, that from the vantage of heaven, he was rejoicing the sight of a stuttered jog turning into elegant strides.

Isn’t that the best way to make a change whose time has come?
To lead by example, beyond all rationalisation.

If we seek positive change, then shouldn’t we, at every moment, strive to be either the old man or the three young men?

If we can, we must lead the change.
If not, we should follow the ones who show us the path.

Our little world needs a lot of change.
Passivity breeds deterioration.
Only in running actively, in the direction of solutions would we find the blueprint of a better world.

Run. Follow. Learn.



Finding honest critique in the age of constant gratification

In today’s age of hyper-connectedness it is easier than ever before to share your your life, your work of art with the world.
We have cleverly designed platforms that we choose to express ourself through.
While these social media platforms have simplified the act of expression,
It has also sowed inside us, a seed of constant hunger,
Of seeking validation.

Today, the act of creating itself cannot find the isolation it needs.
We are busy sharing that we are going to do something, we have just started doing something…..Up until we are finished with doing something.
We fail to shut the door on the world to actually get to the process of creating something without distractions.
It is the result of the clever architecture of these platforms that are dictating our behavior and psychology.
We need to feel we are relevant,
We matter…
We are but,
human after all.

As a contemporary artist, I’ve always felt the process of creation never finds the isolation, incubation and single minded dedication it calls for.
The continuum of creation is always interfered by the parallel world of validation (read social media) we choose to dabble with.
In a way we are driven to be ‘Like’ minded .

This culture is detrimental to an artist’s growth in the long run in my opinion.

Once an artist shares his labor of love, he expects people to take notice, like it and share it with the community at large.
The feedback comes through a single click,
A like button, a heart shaped button and their many cousins…
This cursory appraisal is only valued when it comes in numbers.
There is no way of knowing how much what you created affected another person.
Maybe a masterpiece of a portrait you worked on for months got 20 thumbs up and a goofy selfie of yours got 200.

But maybe the 20 people were moved by your art, and majority of the 200 encouraged you out of habit and the prospect of reciprocity.

A pertinent question here is,

‘How does an artist find honest critique amid this culture of numbers, of short attention spans and a juggernaut of new feed?’

Here is where good old friendship and mentorship stands strong.

On social media you’re more likely to find cursory attention than love, virulent hatred than critique.

A friend or a mentor on the other hand, cares about your growth. You are more likely to find honest opinion, encouragement and suggestions about avenues to grow, when you share your art with them.
It is a matter of privilege to have these handful of people around.

If you still wish to get a sense of how many lives you touched through your art through social media,
Look for how many people took out the time to write something about your art.
Did anyone feel moved enough to leave you a comment?
The written word means so much more than ten thousand clicks on an icon.
What would you remember more,
A number or an emotion you stirred in someone’s heart through your art?

As an artist, for the sake of better art, we need to stay clear from the culture of constant gratification.

Only when we give ourself the isolation to work with all our heart,
Can our work add up to something remarkable.

Also, as responsible consumers of content, we should choose the written word to express our feelings more often than giving someone a thumbs up.
We are capable of being more articulate about our emotions than that !

Once we look at life as art in making and choose to voice our opinions in a more conscious manner, we will enable a better atmosphere for art to find expression and constructive critique.
And Life,
as art,
will inevitably,



How we are all equally rich

Over the past few months, I’ve had the fortune of travelling in three different countries. While most of my commute during the travel was on my bicycle, I also had the chance to use other modes of transport. I’ve loaded up my bicycle on trains, boats, buses and aeroplanes a few times over.

While using these other modes of transport, I’ve had the chance to observe my fellow travellers.
One thing that I found to be common among all travellers, regardless of their nationality or economic background is the humble lock they all put on their luggage.

It could be a number combination padlock, a tiny lock with a key, an airplane baggage lock tag or even just two zippers secured with a nylon string.

It does not matter if it is a high end briefcase or a tattered backpack, the owners prize the contents inside their bags equally.

For a poor woman travelling back to her village in a bus with her infant children,
The few hundred rupees she’s hidden in her bag and the measly ration of milk for the children to last on the ride is worth securing with a little lock.
To an executive travelling business class, whose briefcase is a thousand times more expensive than everything the village lady has ever owned, the bag mandates even getting a travel insurance!

But once we think beyond the monetary value of the bag and its contents, and think about the absolute value each human being attributes to their belongings,
Is the tattered bag of the village lady any less valuable than the executive’s briefcase?

Extrapolating further, think about the infants in tow of the village lady and the little children of the businessman waiting for him back home.

Is the life of one child more precious than another? Granted they have separate realities of life and in comparison have a completely different future ahead of them.
Yet, they both mean the world to either parent, don’t they?

We are all born with different privileges.
But some things are tendered equally to one and all.
We all have the ability to love,
The ability to be of help,
The ability to smile,
The ability to bring a life on earth…

All of the perceived unfairness of life is mitigated by the solemn realisation of these inherent gifts we are all have the liberty to partake.

The most precious of gifts can never be locked and secured.
It is the gift of life,
Of existence,
The time we have on earth.

A person who doesn’t know how to read the time on the clock is in fact, as rich as a person wearing an expensive watch when it comes to the time he has on the earth.

Perhaps the moment we start to live life with this realisation, in each living moment,
Each living soul will feel equally rich.

As the gift of existence,
Of time on earth,
Enables democracy over happiness to each living soul.

One of my favourite authors wrote a masterpiece of a novel when he was in Jail. Even the locks of the prison chamber had no power over the gift of existence he utilised to create a work of sublime art.
He used his freedom over time even in incarceration to add meaning to his life.

Time is the yarn we are all gifted by life,
And at each moment we are alive,
We are weaving our story,
In the tapestry of existence.

Let’s realise this gift,
And live a life full of purpose and meaning.



On thumbs up, selfie camera and creating culture

For the past few days I’ve been bicycling in areas where there is no mobile connectivity whatsoever.
No phone calls, no internet, no social media.
There have been frequent stretches that were challenging each an every bit of me. Since I am new to biking in the mountains in such high altitude and UV ray exposure, it only added to the challenge posed by the terrain.

At spots where I thought I had given it all and I needed to stop, a biker would pass by on a motorcycle from the other side and give me a thumbs up. And I would pedal on a bit further, energised by the validation of a fellow human.
Soon, I would meet more bikers and everyone should give a thumbs up encouragingly.
At times, only their heartfelt applause would take me ahead.
By the end of the day, I would get a thumbs by so many people that I would be energised and be able to complete my daily cycling goal.

I realised that even if I do not have access to social media, where I would get a virtual thumbs up, here I was, getting a thumbs up validation in the real world by people who were physically present with me in that moment. That always made me feel that I was on the right track and I carried on.

A thumbs up has great power.
In the virtual world though, we use it far too callously in my opinion.

On social media, each time we hit the like button (thumbs up) we validate the person and his actions.
In the present cultural scenario, social media feed is rife with selfies and pictures people pose for. Natural pictures captured in the moment are becoming rarer.
Especially with millennials, who grew up with the selfie culture and trading likes for validation, a picture can get hundreds of likes by friends. This in turn populates the social media feed with more passive/ posed for selfies.

I must stress that I have nothing against social media and believe it can be of immense value if used wisely.

But as responsible users of social media we have a duty. We ought to be more discerning about what we validate through our likes.
Yes, even in passive scrolling through social media feed, we have the power to validate what we want more of and what we could do away with.

Maybe, we should admire pictures that were captured in the moment, without any kind of posing per se. We should laud pictures clicked by others, while the subject was doing something that was close to his heart, too engrossed to be worried about capturing the moment.

Yes, we might not have friends around all the time to capture the moment, but the selfie camera at times makes friends redundant!
Scary to imagine isn’t it!

The selfie camera should be used as a tool, in moderation, while being mindful that it doesn’t serve as a tool for self indulgence.

Coming back to the like button (thumbs up), remind yourself that you are setting a culture.
You are validating a stream of information.
You have the power to shape the discourse of social culture.

Choose wisely.
Like mindfully.



Smile, will you?

I had been bicycling uphill constantly for an hour and a half. I wished to reach a village called Marhi, 40 kms uphill from Manali, India.

At one point, the elevation was too steep for me to keep the bicycle in motion. I decided to stop catch a much needed breath. My heart was racing like that of caged mice on steroids. I leaned my head down to rest it on the handlebar and slowly let my heart rate drop with each deep breath.

In this incapacitated state, I heard a voice from behind.

‘Hey, where are you coming from?’ asked a man wearing a friendly smile.

‘I have been bicycling from Delhi. Today, I wish to reach Marhi, about 30 kms up from here.’

He took a good look up and down my petite body frame.

With an equal measure of wonder and resolve, he said,
‘I own a gym back home. But I myself feel quite unfit. I used to take a car from home to the gym and then exercise hoping to lose weight.
But today, after seeing you, I promise that I will get myself a bicycle and bike to the gym everyday.
You gave me great energy !’

I wondered, how could I, being in such a beaten down, tired state, could still energise a random stranger on the road?

His gesture eased my heart. I thanked him and continued onward.

At a point where I was vulnerable, this person acknowledged my presence, my pursuit and my grit and replenished me with energy.
I realised how much a person desires to be acknowledged.

Moving on, I saw a board on the highway that grabbed my attention. It mentioned the name of the army engineer who first envisioned and surveyed the Manali-Leh highway. I felt good to know of the visionary man who dared to dream of a highway in such treacherous terrain.

Further down the road, I saw construction workers toiling away under the full sun, building a section of the highway. A few kilometers ahead, there were people laying down optical fiber cables.

And I wondered, the names of these people will never appear on any sign board saying that they helped build a highway, or they laid the cables for the high speed internet we would enjoy.
Then, at that moment, I remembered how much I’d liked being acknowledged by the gym owner in the highway.

It is such a human quality after all!

Right then, I made a decision to wave at or give a thumbs up to each person I find working on the road.
And thereafter, no construction worker was ever left without a smile.
Some of them were apprehensive to smile. That just made me realise how rarely were they even acknowledged as humans.

This experience only made me believe that we should acknowledge and celebrate these name less faceless humans who work hard in oblivion to ensure our lives run smoothly.

Next time you find someone whose work would mostly go unacknowledged, choose to just smile at them, give a thumbs up, or if you can afford the time, talk to them for a bit.

Your attention and affection are precious.
Choose to ration a little of it to people who go unnoticed.
All of sudden, the world around you will embody more love and brotherhood.

It all boils down to your choice.

Smile, will you?



On Good Gossip

For the past four days I have been riding in the mountains near the lower Himalayas. Most of the other vehicles on the road run on fossil fuels. There are motorbikes, SUVs, buses and Army trucks for the most part.
I barely saw another cyclist on the road.

And while all other vehicles on the road have it much easier, my vehicle runs on pedal power. All throughout my journey I have seen people mumble the word ‘cycle’ across the windowpane of their car. If it were a bus or a motorbike, I could hear the word, ‘cycle, cycle’ in the conversation that followed after spotting me.
I could make a good guess that for another five minutes, the people would be talking about the bicycle, the challenge and the spirit of human endeavour.

After a point, I realised how natural it is for people to talk about other people!
Some people like to call it gossip.
The word gossip has a bit of a negative connotation. But can gossip not have a positive spin to it?

As I imagine it, there could be two ways how we can create a culture of positive conversation.

1) Do something remarkable, something positive so that people can notice and talk about it

2) Always be on the lookout for good things people do. Try to start a conversation based on that inherent goodness.

I believe that by bicyling uphill in such a challenging terrain, I inadvertently gave people a positive topic to talk about.

Our actions need to be engineered such that they are remarkable, sharable and worth talking about.

While we are doing something as natural as talking about other people, we should also be mindful of the culture we are creating in the process.

Next time, when you’re with friends, choose a positive aspect to talk about and when you’re busy with work, always strive to do something remarkable, so that others have good things to talk about.

We can’t help but gossip.
Let it at least be refined
Let it be inspiring.



Lesson from bicycling to the highest motorable road in the world

My bike ride uphill was already in its 7th hour. I was ascending towards the mighty mountain pass named ‘ Khardung La’ arguably, the highest motorable all weather road in the world.

I had reached an elevation above 5200 meters. Oxygen was scarce and I had to push my bicycle at times just so that my heart rate stayed under control.
Patiently, with all my soul, I moved on.

Past a hair pin bend, I saw a milestone:

‘Khardungla – 1km’

Excited to know that I will be at the highest motorable road in the world soon, I got on my bicycle and pedalled onward.

After 15 minutes, I, with my racing heart, finally reached the summit.

I felt an inexplicable calm at that moment.
I had anticipated that I would jump and sing after achieving such a challenging goal and crossing out one of the tasks on my Impossible list.

But I felt tranquil and meditative.

At that moment, I wondered,’Have I changed as a person because of this achievement?’

‘Am I any different at the summit as compared to who I was at the last milestone?’

To my heart, there wasn’t any difference at all between the two states of being at the two different places.

Then I extrapolated this thought further.

‘How was I any different at the last milestone as compared to the second last milestone?’

‘Extrapolating further, how was I any different at the beginning of the ride uphill as compared who I was at the summit?’

I realised that I was much stronger in my mind at the beginning than at the end.
To dare to bicycle up Khardung La is no mean feat.
Especially when you don’t know the terrain, the temperature is low, the UV rays are burning your skin and you have limited oxygen to inhale.
At the beginning of the journey my mind was steadfast.
And I made my first decision.
Of choosing the right path.

The second decision was made out for me by the road itself.
There was a milestone after every kilometre of the road, giving me constant feedback about the progress.
Even if I was moving at a measly average pace of 4.5km per hour, each milestone informed me that I was on the right path.

I realised that along with my willpower, these two decisions of choosing the right path and having milestone markers made sure I reached the summit.

Without any of the above three,

a) willpower
b) the right path
c) milestones

I would have not been able to scale the mighty Khardung La.

Drawing a parallel to how we approach a challenge in life,
We ought to have these three factors in place to achieve something.
We need to develop the willpower to persevere, we need to choose the right path and finally we need to have little milestones that reassure us of the correct direction we’re headed in.

Say, if someone has the goal to be a better artist,
He needs to

a) Show up everyday to practice his art and stay away from distractions (willpower)

b) Choose a way of life that ensures maximum learning (the right path)

c) Have an archive to see how better he is as compared to a time in past, have a mentor who could give him honest critical feedback (milestones)

If one designs a way of life based on these three simple steps,
Progress will become a way of life.
Scaling summits will become a habit.

The path sculpts a man into who he could be if he chooses to get past milestone after milestone while demonstrating the willpower to keep moving no matter what.

Coming back to the question I had posed myself earlier,

‘How was I any different at the beginning of the ride uphill as compared who I was at the summit?’

In the begining, while downhill, I had only the sight of a goal, a solitary summit I had to scale.

At the end, while at the summit, I have a vantage.
I have gained a wider panaroma, a broader worldview,
And from here,
I can choose the next summit of the many that I gained access to.

You climb up, not just to enjoy the view, but to gain a perspective,
to choose the next summit in sight,
Higher, mightier,
But never beyond
the undying spirit of human endeavour.

I wish you too choose a summit of your own to climb, and from there scale on further and gain wisdom and perspective in this elegantly revealing process.

May you realise more of who you truly are.

Crossing off an ambitious goal from my Impossible List,
I am ready to dream bigger,
Dream anew.

To the undying spirit of human endeavor.



On Age, Marriage and Responsibility

‘You have grown up quite too much now!’ remarked my mother over a phone call on my birthday.

‘Well yes, I have turned 28!’

‘Now it is time to be more responsible in life !’ she alluded.

‘We are not talking about marriage mom !’

Laughing at her fruitless attempt she said,
‘ But you are at the right age to take the next step in life.’

‘Will you listen to what I did today Mom before we continue further ?’

‘Yes , surely. Tell me.’

‘Yestersay, while trekking up a hill in the lower Himalayas, we noticed that there was a lot of garbage lying around everywhere on the route. It left me quite sleepless the whole night. The next morning, with our heavy backpacks and a garbage bag, we set forth to do our bit to make things better.
All throughout our 5 hour downhill journey, we knelt down and picked up as much trash as we could. In the end, my friend and I had collected a total of 5kgs of plastic from the trail.
Now, my dear mother, tell me,
Am I not taking responsibility ?’

‘ Yes, I am glad to know about how you decided to do your bit, when it was easy to just walk past and not do anything.’

‘Mom, I feel that one should not wait for an age to start taking responsibility.
I cannot promise to bring a bride home,
But I promise to be a responsible human being at every living moment.’

‘Do what makes you happy my son.’ she said encouragingly.

The conversation with my Mother on my birthday made me realise how we use an age as a benchmark to start being more responsible.
At a certain age, you should take responsibility of another person, start a family, earn a living, buy a house etc…
And most of us in the urban middle class succeed in doing all these things.

But accomplishing all these life imperatives does not necessarily mean we are being responsible.

Let me cite an example.

If one is not responsible enough to take care of his own health, exercise, eat well and sleep on time, is he in a position take care of another person?
If someone chooses to jeopardise his own health with vices and endanger his life,
Is he being responsible about the gift of life that has been bestowed upon him?

Once someone is responsible about his own health and well being, does he seek more responsibility to change things in the little world he dwells in?

Only when we start looking at the act of taking responsibility as a way of life, do we head in the direction of creating positive change both within and without.

Maybe while talking to kids, instead of saying ‘Be Careful’ we should say ‘Be Responsible’ more often.

I urge you to think about how responsible you are being about the immediate world that you interact with.
And try to be a little more participative, a little more responsible with each passing day. It should be a way of life !

Today, as I was approaching the end of the downhill trail, I saw two contrasting events.
Behind me was a group of young urban yuppies, choosing to throw wrappers on the trail.
In front of me was a group of village kids, sweeping the streets to keep the lanes litter free.

Who is older?
And who is being more responsible?

I leave you with that thought,
And the promise being responsible holds.

To a better world of our own making.



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