Tag Archives: mind

Swacch Bharat. Possible? Yes!

People are skeptical. They discuss animatedly outside tea shops. India? Clean? Hah! Narendra Modi is dreaming! They say as they crush and throw down the paper cups in which they just had tea…

Once I was traveling by auto right after a heavy spell of rain. The roads were flooded. The auto driver was whining and telling me that he spent the entire night, draining water out of his home as the rains had caused sewage water to overflow. People throw trash on the road, he proceeded to explain, that goes and blocks drains. When will people understand this, he moaned. As he was saying this he spat out into the rain water and also proceeded to crush and throw some newspapers lying around his seat…

So, yeah…where does one start with this clean India thing? Doesn’t it look too far fetched?

But hang on. I have a theory. The clean India mission needs to be implemented psychologically.  Telling people to clean up their act does not help, because most of us are so used to our action, we don’t even know we are part of the brigade that’s messing up the place. So screening expensive ads on TV channels, if you ask me, will not help. People will nod, agree and go about their business. They don’t realize that when they crush that newspaper and throw it on the road, it goes and blocks the drain.

Now my point is stop talking and preaching. It’s time to show people what clean means. The human brain is a funny thing. When it sees something better it aspires for it. Like, you’re driving a Maruti Swift, but you aspire for that BMW.

So step one. Stop spending obscene amounts on TV ads. Instead, what I propose is, lets take the children of our government schools on a school trip to Japan (or ok, if thats too much to Singapore). SHOW them what CLEAN is. SHOW them how schools can be kept clean, how streets can be kept clean. SHOW them how no one, spits, urinates and throws things on the road. SHOW SHOW SHOW. Their brain will assimilate it all. Then they will come back home to the squalor and find it hard to accept it. At this point – tell them, they are the ambassadors of clean India. It needs to start from them. Their home. Their neighborhood.

Step two. Tie up with the fancy sanitary ware companies. Lets open really really swank, 5 star level public toilets. Full with lovely mirrors, citronella aroma oil, soaps to wash hands and so on. There toilets should be manned and by smart, uniformed employees. They must be polite, yet intimidating. Encourage the slum dwellers to use this facility. But sternly tell them to be kind to the next user and keep the toilet clean. Tell me who can make such a place dirty? It will intimidate them. Yet if they are welcomed, they will use it. And once they use it, can they ever go back to defecating in the open?

The problem I think is that we build for them these regular toilets, which look dirty the moment they are ready for use. The person manning them hates his/her job and could not care about maintaining it. When you privatize it, the name of the organization is at stake. What an amazing branding exercise for the private sanitary ware companies. If they pull it off, they will never again have to have a marketing and advertising budget! They will get all the publicity and goodwill for free! Everyone in the country will patronize them. It’s win win situation for everyone.

Also these two ideas can be applied, pan India. They are not language specific. I noticed that all the Swacch Bharat ads are in Hindi. The message is not reaching half the country!

More thoughts on this soon. Meanwhile, be good. be clean. Swacch Bharat is possible. We have to make it possible.

Final-Swachh-bharat

I’ve finally got it. I think.

You know what, I think I have finally got it. Yeah. This whole jamboree about life and purpose of life and so on. It hit me one day suddenly. What I think is – there is really no higher purpose in life. The point of life is to just be. Savor. Enjoy. And exit. It’s like a vacation. You go, you chill out and you leave. Period.

Now, how did I arrive at this profound thought you may ask. Well, just look at every other creation. They just are. They come to earth. Do what they are meant to do to maintain the circle of life and then they go. So basically, you procreate, enjoy and go. That’s it. There really is no higher purpose to be here. However, if you can lead a life that is useful to others, you get brownie points. If you believe in the Hindu theory of Karma – the brownie points help. It means that you either absolve yourself from another birth and find permanent residence in heaven or you’ve earned enough good karma to be reborn into a ‘good’ life. A chilled out life. The brownie points are also an investment into posterity. Which means your progeny will benefit immensely from all the good karma you have performed.  So that’s why you just need to be. And be good.

Now having arrived at this profound thought, I wonder what’s the point of all this power, wealth, working overtime, getting upset over no increments etc. Or what’s the point of making your children sacrifice their childhood so that they can study and earn enviable degrees and get fantastic jobs that pay them obscene amounts of money. You puff up your chest while they build large houses and own more cars than they can use. And then… the same angst. What’s the point of it all? Nothing. Really.

So the point I’m trying to make here is what you have in this life is really not important. What’s critical is what you leave behind. The memories people have of you. The positive after effects of your good karma. That’s what matters.

Ok chuck the good karma bit. Or the bit about doing good to others. How about you just be good to yourself? You respect yourself a little more and be aware of yourself and your actions. Now stop here a minute and check if you’re breathing ok while you’re reading this post. It’s amazing how many us hold our breath, or stop breathing, or breathe so shallow that we don’t send enough oxygen into the body. Every so often we need to focus on the breathing. Ok. I digress. Where was I? Ah yes… I was talking about being good to yourself. It’s alright to do that you know. Ummm…so what do I mean now? I mean, stop hurrying and eternally rushing to do things. Stop to smell the proverbial roses. To breathe. To hear the waves. To examine your thoughts. To exercise and feel your heart pumping more oxygen into you. To take care of yourself and eat food that’s right for you. To eat on time. To sleep on time. In short, all those things which we don’t think are significant. Before you run around in circles and try to fit ‘helping others’ or ‘social service’ into your already busy schedule – stop, breathe and help yourself. Be nice to your body. It’s the only one you will have in this life. I reckon, if each one of us focuses on being nice to ourselves, we’d be less stressed and we’d be nice to others anyway. This way the world will be a better place. More people will smile at each other. More people will remember us as the nice person who smiled a lot. Yeah. I can live with that. Or die with that, if you know what I mean.

Let me sum up all my rambling then. I think we all need to sit down and redefine the word ‘success’. Right now success is that elusive thing we run after. It’s like the horizon…we think its oh-so-reachable, and then we get to that point, only to find that we need to run some more to reach. And so on.  Success. Achievement. Victory. All these are subjective words. I think we need to understand them in terms of what they mean to us. Not something which compares us to others. I think more important words are contentment, respect and calmness. It’s more like, hey today I wrote a blog post. I haven’t done that in ages. That’s success to me. At my level. It makes me happy. Now, as soon as I post this, I will have a happy grin. That’s what its about, happiness in small things. And to just be, with no complicated, bigger purpose.

Ok…now breathe deeply,,,(ha! bet you were shallow breathing right now)

 

Broken window and all that

It’s amazing how something that’s been shattered can communicate so many unexpressed emotions. It fills me with sadness and guilt. Sigh. And its additional burden that I don’t need to carry. Really…

One fine afternoon, a few days ago, my daughter M and I were coming back from her school. Happy in our world. Full of stories from school. As we got out of the car, the broken window caught my eye. It stopped me in my tracks. I looked at my watchman and he gestured – silently communicating that there had been a fight.

Now this window belongs to the home of the depressed lady that I had written about here and here. She lives in that home with her invalid mother and her bread winner brother. The broken window belongs to the bedroom where the invalid mother usually rests. On several occasions we have heard her feeble lament while crossing the spot.

Now the bed by the window was empty.

M instantly had a zillion questions to ask. How did the window break? Why did they fight? Who broke that window? Did anybody get hurt? Can it be repaired? Who will repair it? What will they do until it is repaired – we can all see into their home?

Even as I tried to answer her patiently, I thought to myself. Yes we could look into their shattered world…

The broken window reminded me of the time the lady came weeping to our home. Her whole body shaking. It seemed like an explosion of emotions. An anguished scream. A volcanic eruption of constantly bubbling anger and frustration.  It reflected the helplessness of the 3 members in that unhappy home – all bound together by fate. The unwell mother who has nowhere to go, nothing to do except wait for redemption by death. The mentally unstable daughter who finds it frustrating to take care of her sick mother day after day after day. She is simply unable to find a source of happiness and hope in her dark, cavernous mind. The brother who works hard all day to earn his daily bread and then comes home to these unhappy women.

That broken window gave me a glimpse into their unhappy, disturbing world. It made me feel like a bad neighbour as I scurried past avoiding those sad eyes. It made me guilty that I was doing nothing to help them – despite subconsciously wanting to do so.

This morning when I came down I saw that the window had been repaired. I saw the sick, old lady’s palm resting on the new window frame. I heard her wheezy breath and her silent lament.

But the window was closed. Their world shuttered again. Like a body neatly sutured after postmortem. I sutured up my guilt too. I have my own burdens to bear. Right?

Pied Piper

Sometimes I feel like I lead myself to gloom. I brood and I allow a thought to grow in my mind like a parasite. And then it corrodes my being. It consumes me until I can think of nothing else.

There are times when I must do things simply because it is supposed to be my ‘duty’. As a wife, a mother, daughter or daughter-in-la I’m sometimes ‘expected’ to do things that I really don’t want to do.  Things that impinge on me. So should I give in and do it? Or should I take a stand and not do it? Or am I simply complicating the issue? How come our mother’s never complained of these things? Or is it because they did it without complaining that now everyone takes it for granted that as a woman your ‘duty’ comes before your will!

It hurts incredibly to do something against my will. But i’m also consumed by guilt if I refuse. Guilt and indignation battle within me. Just two days ago I was forced to comply and do something – simply because it is expected that I will do it without complaining. But what if I do not want to do it?

This is not the first time such a thing has happened. It hurts. Today I let these parasitic thoughts grow in my mind, take control of my thoughts and corrode my actions. I’m angry. I want to let this anger last. For it helps me think clearly. I do not want comfort. I want anger in return for that may obliterate the guilt.

I need to know if, like Pied Piper led the flock of mice to doom, are my thoughts leading me towards the same end?