Respond, Don’t React

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.
-Wayne Dyer

I read this quote of Wayne Dyer, an American author and motivational speaker. Initially, it seems like a simple statement about life in general. It, in fact, reminded me of another management lesson of how we should always respond and not react.

Both these quotes convey the same lesson, i.e., we should watch how we behave while responding to what is done to us. We should observe if our reaction is a knee jerk response to everything or if we understand the situation and reply accordingly. Many times, it leads to either resolving conflict or aggravating a simple misunderstanding into an all-out war.

Coming back to Wayne Dyer’s quote, when we are in a situation, there are several ways to handle them. Some are knee jerk responses, while some are strategic moves planned to build a brighter future. Some may be conniving schemes that create destruction. The situation we land in may not be our karma or our destiny. However, our response to this unforeseen situation will create our karma. If we handle it gracefully and peacefully, we build good karma. By taking out our anger and seeking revenge, we only create bad karma.

To better explain it, I will narrate a small anecdote. It occurred many years ago, but it highlighted this quote.

One day, my friend and I entered the bank and met an old acquaintance. This lady lived in our neighbourhood previously, and she was notorious for her unhinged rants at passers-by. I saw the same lady verbally abusing another person. This person was thoroughly embarrassed in front of all the bank employees and customers, so she ran out crying as we all watched in shock. Now the lady saw me and started abusing me. She recognised my friend and spoke ill of me to her. But I ignored her as if I had no recollection of her. As a result, I did not react to her abuses, turning my head and going about my business. My friend acknowledged her, and while calmy speaking to her, she led the lady out of the bank. Once the lady went out, everything went back to normal. Everyone in the bank praised my friend for handling the situation. They appreciated me for not fighting back.

The lady created a situation where three different people were embarrassed. We each responded differently. The first person reacted emotionally and ran out. I ignored her and carried on with my work. My friend intervened intelligently by removing her from the bank and stopping any further conflict. The lady’s behaviour was her own karma, but each of us created our own karma while we handled the situation. Thereby, one ended up in tears, and another (my friend) ended up as the hero. Isn’t this thought-provoking?

Nothing Comes Easy

‘I wish this topic was easier’, ‘why do these exams have to be this difficult’, ‘why can’t all my problems just vanish away like the fairy tales’ and so on. Every one of us has complained like this at some point in our life. We all crave a smooth road with no bumps, blind turns or speed breaks. Such a turn of events is an impossibility, yet we dream of it. We even pray for it to come true.

Imagine, if life suddenly removed all obstacles in your path and it became a smooth ride for us, would we be able to enjoy it? This very thought made me think, and I had a fun discussion with my family about this.

If life suddenly became easy, I would not trust it for quite some time. I strongly believe in the saying, ‘if everything is coming your way, you are probably in the wrong lane’. I would be suspicious of everything that happened. I cannot enjoy something that I have not worked for because I have a constant fear that it will be snatched from me.

My mother said that if it happened to her, she would enjoy life for a little while. Finally, life would be an easy path after a lifetime of difficult decisions. Eventually, she would lose her sleep if she did not have anything to worry about or any crisis to resolve.

My sister said she would grab it with both hands and run. Considering how hectic her life is, I was not surprised by her answer. She did not believe in staring a gift horse in its face. She spends her day running around her two sons, so she waits eagerly for a slow day.

When I asked dad about his reaction to such a situation, he said it is impossible to get a smooth road. He would not bother to waste a thought on it.

My niece felt that if all obstacles were eliminated, there would be no learning. Since she is young, she believed that she would miss out on the experience and the fun in dealing with tricky situations.

Based on all these reactions, I can only conclude that most of us will not really be happy if life removed all the obstacles in our path. Complaining about our problems is a fun process in itself. We just wish life would go easy on stacking up problems all at once.

Going Back to Roots

This past year has been an eye-opener for many reasons. For one thing, it has highlighted some of the problems that globalization brings. We all speak of the economic and social concerns. This time, globalization brought forth a new health and science scare. The pandemic was exacerbated due to relaxed boundaries and free and easy travel. It has also strengthened the fight against it by creating a global forum for vaccine development and distribution.

Anyway, my post is not about globalization or the problems thereof. The whole conversation started off during a fun discussion between my friends and me about how the situation felt like an Indian soap opera. The year marked the return of the rebellious kid back to his parent’s home.

If you are confused, let me explain. Mankind and his best friend Science walked out of the family home after a dramatic fight with ayurvedic medicines, herbs, sheltered living and other such traditions. Mankind, with the help of its trusty sidekick, Science set out to carve a new and better future, away from their parents Nature and Earth.

When faced with the magnitude and ferocity of the pandemic, Mankind was stunned while Science was overwhelmed. They were inundated with too many variables that were out of their control. They were forced to return to herbal and natural medicines like ginger, giloy, neem, tulsi etc., to keep up immunity till Science found a cure or a vaccine. Like a rebellious son returning home with his tail between his legs, Mankind returned back to Nature to heal its wounds.

Covid-19 posed a risk too huge and widespread for Science alone to tackle. We had to use traditional techniques of isolation, herbal teas, natural immunity boosters and such remedies till we could find the vaccine. Social media was flooded with various recipes of health foods, natural sanitisers, herbal disinfectants and such.

Nature also got a break from all the interference that Science brought. Without any road traffic, animals started coming out and visiting us. With factories on break and road pollution at an all-time low, stars seemed to twinkle brighter. This has been a big boon that the lockdown has brought for us. People also stopped and took a forced break from their busy schedule to spend time with family.

By the end, my friends and I were joking that in true soap opera style, we could hear a fast-paced tune on sitar and tabla playing in the background to indicate a happy ending.

I Did It My Way

As a part of his vast repertoire of music, Frank Sinatra sang the song My Way. It was written by Paul Anka. I love this song of his. Though I love the song, I never really paid attention to the lyrics until the other day. Earlier I always felt the song was about a person celebrating his successful life and the journey. As I listened to it, I recognised something about it. The person is not only celebrating his success, but he is also taking full responsibility for all his decisions and actions. That part struck a chord with me. How many of us can truly take responsibility for our choices?

It is a common complaint we hear among youth that they have no control over their life. They say that all decisions are made for them, either by others or by situations. I agree that in many of the cases, it is true. We are often under obligation to choose a path, or we are forced by societal norms to be a certain way or coerced by family emotionally to adhere to rules. It would seem that we hardly had a say in the decision.

An old saying comes to mind when I think of such situations, ‘We can take a horse to the water, but we cannot make it drink the water’. Same way as we can be forced to choose a particular path, but no one can make us walk it unless we want to. So, when we walk down a road in life, we have to remember that at some point, we consciously choose this path too. We have decided on this course of action, either due to lack of a better choice or lack of will to resist. We realised the benefits of this decision. We may disagree with the decision, but we have accepted the decision.

I would like to add a disclaimer here that I am not blaming anyone here. I do not intend to put the guilt on your shoulder and absolve everyone else. My intension is to remind us that we decided to follow the path based on logic and reasoning. We have chosen to sacrifice something to gain something else. There was a rationale behind our choice. We made that choice because this option outweighed the others. As long as we remember this rationale and reasoning, we should not doubt our decisions. We should take responsibility for it.

Whether our decisions lead to failure or success or took us on an uncharted path, we can only find peace and happiness when we remember our reasoning and rationale behind that decision. As long as we blame others for influencing us and forcing their decisions on us, we can never see the beauty and adventure in our journey of life. More importantly, as long as we remember the reason for a decision, we can be proud of what we stood up for and what we sacrificed to get to this position in life.

When Mom Is Away, Pups Are At Play

As I was cleaning up my folder of photos, I stumbled upon a set of photographs from a few years back. They brought back fond memories of 2 pups in my neighbourhood. They were the most mischievous pups but had the most adorable face, as is the case with all puppies.

The pups were barely a few months old at the time when my aunt had to step out on some urgent work. These two pups had been veritable angels until then, so my aunt left them out in the yard to play while she finished her work. This decision proved to be her mistake.

My aunt took two hours to finish her work and return home. The pups utilised this window of opportunity to explore the lotus pond and redecorate the yard. This is what greeted her when she returned; two energetic pups who proudly displayed their creativity.

My aunt was shocked beyond words that her angels could come up with such mischief. She had to tie them up to the gate and use the water hose to wash away all the mud and dirt. While my aunt was fussing over how to clean them and the yard, we kids had a laugh taking pictures of the dogs and their antics.

It is a memory of a fun day that brings a smile to us all.

We Are All Strong Until We Face The Test

They say that in the face of adversity, our true self comes forward. Some of us stand up and take the lead, while some step back and follow a leader. Some of us crumble and break down, while some of us straighten our back and weather the storm. It is hard to predict with certainty how one will turn out.

Just because we are timid and avoid conflict, it does mean that we will crumble in the face of hardships. A faint-hearted person may not stand up and fight, but they know how to survive. Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean that one cannot face disagreement. It merely means that one does not like it, they do not believe that quarrel resolves problems.

Most people judge and conclude on our strengths based on our everyday behaviour and attitude under normal circumstances. I learnt this the hard way. I believed that I was a very patient person, and counted it was my strength. The truth came out when I faced my test. Here is the whole story by which I came to the realisation.

Before joining my job, I considered myself patient because I could deal with a few difficult people in my friends’ group. While my friends would get flustered, I was able to stay calm while dealing with them patiently. When I joined work, I realised that my patience magically evaporated in front of my manager. That person was my test of patience. I realised that I got very irritated when he picked on my work, every comment he made grated on my nerves. Though I did not lash out at my manager, I took out my irritation on my colleagues.

My sister gave me a bit of wise advice, and I realised that my manager’s influence is limited, only to my work. If I say yes in that minute and keep calm, he will move away. This advice helped me replenish my reserves of patience and believe in myself again. That was until I met my niece. My niece is a bundle of curiosity and energy. She likes to play and has a short attention span. This was another test of my patience, unlike my manager, my niece did not have limited working hours. I can’t say for sure if I passed this test. I just bid my time and waited for my niece to grow up. Now that she is in school, I can recharge my reserves again.

The point is that one can never take our strengths or weaknesses for granted. Until we face a test, we cannot be sure how strong or weak we are. We can not say with a guarantee when our strengths will abandon us or our weaknesses show an alternate technique of survival. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Keep Faith And Do Your Job

I know I am being irrational,
But I can’t seem to form a rational thought
I can see that I need to be brave,
But I can’t seem to find the courage
I know the problem is small,
But I can’t help finding it insurmountable

How do I overcome this state of mind?
How can I find a way past this hurdle?
How can I see past this fear that is blocking my sight?

Subconsciously I asked God for help.
Subconsciously I chanted his name asking for guidance.
Subconsciously I heard his answer to keep the faith and do my job.

It’s Not Yours Unless You Take It

The first time I heard my manager say this to me, I thought he meant to encourage me to reach for my promotion. The next time he said that to me, we were discussing my team’s poor performance. The team was performing poorly due to the willful actions of a particular member of the team. This was dragging the entire team down. I felt that since I was the team leader, it was my responsibility. I tried to correct, teach, chastise even threaten that particular member, but to no avail. My manager felt that the person was a lost cause, and I should not waste time on him. In both situations, the same advice taught me to work for my ambitions, and let go of the dead weight.

Many years later, I heard the same advice from my friend when I complained about an insulting situation I had to face. She advised me that the insults were for me as long as I took them. Once I stop taking them, they are just words that hold no meaning to me. I thought that she was being just philosophical and not practical. Now I see the true meaning behind the words.

It is not yours till you take it, be it a promotion, responsibility, insult or praise. Be it happiness or sorrow, it can only affect us as long as we let it do so. A problem is ours to solve, only if we consider it as our problem. Responsibility is ours to carry only as long as we choose to fulfil it.

These words can be understood in two ways. It can be used as a way to either shirk responsibility or get rid of an unnecessary burden. To ignore good advice or to undermine praise. To brush off insults or to seek out blame. Which option we choose shows our attitude in life. When you feel burdened or stressed out in life, or if you lack direction and purpose, then maybe it is time to change your attitude.

Welcome 2021!!

I wish all my readers, fellow bloggers and friends, A Very Happy New Year!!

In the past, I would have wished everyone for an exciting year ahead, that was filled with travel, adventure and parties with friends. Considering what happened in 2020 and the new social norms, I have updated my new year wish for everyone.

I wish everyone good health, a safe home, company of your good friends and peace of mind.

For this New year, let us make a resolution to take care of our health. Be patient and tolerant with everyone around us. Stop judging people before we know the complete story.

Here’s to wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a Joyous year ahead.

My Budding Love For Photography

They say A picture is worth a thousand words. We can easily convey our emotions and moods with images in situations where words fail us. This thought motivated me to take up photography as a hobby. I imagined that I could capture the complete mood of the scene through my lens, and I only needed to aim and shoot.

I bought a few books to learn the art of taking great pictures and practised with an old SLR camera that we had.  I diligently learnt about focal length, aperture, shutter speed etc. Read about how to use filters, different lenses for different effects. Tried to practice taking pictures. I encountered only limited success and became disillusioned by the process.

Call me daft, but the science involved behind a good picture flew over my head. I ditched the SLR and picked up a DSLR, thinking that it would make things easier. I was initially met with limited success, and my shots were average. The lenses and filters needed to take great pictures were very expensive. I did not invest much for expensive equipment due to my weak photography skills. I tried to practice more with my existing equipment for as long as I could. Despite my shaky hands and limited knowledge of light and photography, I took amateurs pics like the ones below.

With the latest smartphones, I feel like a professional photographer now. They come filled with a wide variety of features and settings that do not require any filters and knowhow. Here are a few photos I took with my smartphone

It is safe to say that for me, photography is more of a skill than an art form. A talent, I am not able to master, yet I needn’t give up on my love for it as long as we have smartphones.

Being Straightforward Vs Diplomatic

This topic has been a pet peeve of mine for many years. Growing up, while in college, I always considered it better to be straightforward as against diplomacy. My friends and I were proud to be called a forthright person and proudly proclaimed it. So what changed now??

Well, life happened, and we realised that being straightforward is not suitable for everyone. With limited exposure in college life, we did not see the pitfalls of this attitude. As we were among equals, we spoke honestly, and there was a limited range of responses to expect. We either appeased the group, or we angered them. We either hurt feelings, or we invigorate people. Whatever was the reaction, we knew the response that we could expect. Things were simpler.

In the present day, I see people being straightforward and notice the same set of reactions as before. However, what has changed now is that I have become conscious of the emotional toll it takes on the listener. It is a different thing when you hurt a person and make them cry, the ones to take special notice of are those who get hurt and not express it. Either, they have accepted our remarks as truths and diminished their self-worth, or their hurt is getting pent up. It will express itself violently at a later time.

The same applies when we freely express our discontent and dissatisfaction. It causes the opposite person to become demotivated, disheartened and lose faith in the process. This would not matter earlier because there was much less stress in the society and the youth. Nowadays, everyone is so high strung that a small remark is enough to start an avalanche of emotions.

As compared to being straightforward, a diplomatic person manages to soothe or appease the fragile mind of the opposite person. Such a person is not necessarily a liar or someone on the fence. They just don’t forcefully express their views as compared to a straight talker. It may appear that a diplomatic person is not firm and steadfast in conveying their point of view or that they are people pleasers. However, I feel that there is nothing wrong with softly and sweetly relaying one’s opinions rather than being forceful. I believe that it is not worth hurting a person just to make a clear statement by straight talk.

What are your opinions on this matter? Do you agree with me, or do you oppose?