Raged the husband of a dame in distress
Attired in a flimsy “the in thing” dress
The crowds withdrew
As profanities flew
At gawkers and hawkers of such fashionable mess.
Raged the husband of a dame in distress
Image courtesy: values.com
Finish your homework, eat your greens, don’t play video games/ watch television for more than two hours a day, excel in what you do……the list of DOs & DON’Ts that parents tirelessly strive to teach their children is endless. Inculcating these habits early in life, is necessary for the physical and intellectual growth of a child.
Equally important is another dimension of development that sometimes gets sidelined. However this virtue has the power to shape not only the future of children but the capacity to change our world. That elusive X- factor is the ethical fitness of kids – the moral fiber of their being.
The ills that plague our society – terrorism, corruption, cheating, fraud, bullying, violence – at the root of all of this is the erosion of good old-fashioned values. Laws, enforcement, defence forces and policing are obviously necessary; they help stop bad things from happening and punish the perpetrators when they do – Big Brother is watching!
Yet, more than all of this what can prevent us from committing misdeeds is more intrinsic – it’s our moral conscience, our inner compass which guides our actions even when no one is watching.
For a society that increasingly puts us under pressure to be successful, rich, young and thin, unwittingly what’s the message that’s getting passed on to the next generation? That appearance is all that matters – what lies beneath is not?!
In our frenetic pursuit of so-called success and happiness, it’s about time we paused to think. Teaching kids how to choose between right and wrong is difficult enough; even more challenging is teaching them to choose between two seemingly right choices. So while telling them not to steal is easy, choosing between speaking the truth versus defending a friend (who is in the wrong) is a difficult & confusing choice even for adults. Loyalty towards those we love and standing up for the truth are after all both commendable virtues.
I teach a course in Ethics to adults and find that trying to teach people in their mid-twenties and above, that success should not be achieved taking “shortcuts” (read underhand means), results in mixed vibes – so while every last one of the attendees claims that they would never adopt unfair means to get ahead, the body language of most reveals that they say so only since they are expected to and probably since they are afraid of the consequences of doing something wrong, rather than because their deeply held beliefs tells them it’s wrong.
A colleague once told me, “it’s easy for you to speak up against something wrong; you are a woman (the implied message being that I am hence not the sole/ primary breadwinner) and don’t have any kids or EMIs to worry about”. Fact remains that this isn’t an entirely accurate picture of my life. My response to him, was a message I had learnt early in life, from my father.
With seven children and being the sole earner, my father still never felt pressured to side with the wrong, so why would I? He was an engineer, a gold medalist who put himself through school & college through scholarships (he lost his father when he was very young). Working in a steel plant (where taking bribes from contractors – there’s a lot of money in coal, iron and steel – was commonplace), he had both the opportunity and the incentive but not the will to do so. Not only did he not take bribes but he refused to sign on sub-standard contracts, in the process taking on the General Manager and Managing Director of the plant who were involved in awarding contracts to contractors who provided low quality goods, in return for handsome “rewards”. My father thus became a bane for management and a delight for the workers – unfailingly standing against wrongdoings of the management when they were too afraid to do so. It being a government job, management could not sack him easily and as he had to provide for us he did not quit the job though he hated it. For nine long years, he was passed over for promotions whereas less capable people got ahead by sucking up to the higher ups. Even as a kid, I felt his anguish, bitterness, disillusionment, but he never allowed this to wear down his indomitable spirit.
Years later he had a serious accident and needed blood donors. Overwhelming number of volunteers turned up, that was the magic of his good deeds. One of them – a blue-collar worker – said to me, “your father is our hero.” I never felt more proud to be his daughter than in that moment. It’s the few good men and women like him that are holding our world together.
My father was not a perfect man, he had his weaknesses like every human-being. Sure my father did not retire as the MD (though he was more than capable) but he did well in life – raised seven children with strong values all of whom are well placed – all this without ever taking bribes or loans or favors. And he did it by doing good. He taught my siblings and me, without preaching & simply by leading by example, that you can win even when you choose the right (and often difficult) path.
There is no greater reward than knowing you had the courage and self-respect to not bow down before something wrong – that you chose to speak up rather than keep silent or look away when something bad was happening.
Actions speak louder than words so let’s walk the talk. If we want children to not litter, we ourselves must not litter; even when no one is watching. If we want them to tell the truth, we mustn’t ask them to lie on our behalf to get us out of an unwanted social situation. If we want them to win, we must teach them to win the right way. Let’s teach them that happiness is not just measured in material success. Happiness is knowing in your heart, that you achieved what you did by doing things the right way.
Even when none knows and no one is watching, our heart knows. That little voice in our head, that little thorn that pricks us and keeps us awake at night – our conscience – that can be quietened only when we are ethically fit.
Money is very important and it can buy us a lot of things – respect in society, position, big cars and houses but it cannot buy us self-respect and self-worth. Only our right actions can give us that currency.
So let’s catch them young and teach our kids to do well by doing good. Let’s start now, before it’s too late.
Another year gone by. I am 39 years old already and fast approaching the dreaded forties. That’s put me in a somewhat philosophical mood. Suddenly there is this sense of half my life having passed by and so many things I still want to do – boxes to be ticked off on my “bucket list for life”. As the youngest of seven siblings, my childhood days were enveloped in an overwhelming desire to grow up quickly so that I could do all the fun things grown-ups got to do that were forbidden to me as “I was too young for it” – read steamy Mills & Boons novels, watch “A” rated movies, go to college, bunk classes, live away from home in a hostel, be allowed to take my own decisions and not be bullied or criticized………..Ahh, the folly of the young! In hindsight, childhood seems to be one of the finest times of my life – carefree, innocent days with my whole life stretching in front of me. Full of hopes, desires and unlimited possibilities – a time when I still believed I could be anything I wanted to be. Childhood, bolstered by its ignorance of real life, made me feel I was invincible, indestructible and unafraid to try new things. Well, I do enjoy some perks of being “grown up” now and realize that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Sure, I get to do a lot of “cool” stuff (like earning my own money, making major decisions of my life, eating, watching and reading whatever I like) but there are the “unfun” things too – bills to pay, blemishes, warts appearing from nowhere on skin that was earlier problem free, grey hair creeping in, wrinkles deepening with every laugh and frown, weight being a lingering concern after spending a lifetime being a “skinny kid”, knees protesting every time I wear high heels…..urrggghh…so many pressures. Women, I think, tend to agonize even more than men when it comes to coping with aging, perhaps because traditionally we have been expected to be delicate creatures celebrated for our “beauty” whereas men can be bald and potbellied but still be desirable as long as their wallets are as well-endowed as their tummies…lol 😉 I admire people who grow old with grace – those who aren’t desperately trying to hang on to their youth with nips, tucks, flashy, unbecoming clothes and fake, newly acquired accents – hmm….that brings to mind quite a few badly aging celebrities now, doesn’t it?
So how can we grow old gracefully? Here are my 12 ways to cope:
1. Age is just a number: As the saying goes “you are as old as you feel”. I try to remain youthful in my enthusiasm for life. I declare my age with pride and celebrate my birthday by reserving the day for unadulterated “Me” time, doing things that make me happy- this year I took a day off from work, watched a spectacular live show with my spouse, went to the spa, read, lazed.
2. Be comfortable in your skin: I focus on the positives and realize that I don’t have to be a people pleaser anymore. So I don’t envy envy the youngsters their perfect skin and slim waistlines since I recognize the fact that unlike them, I don’t have to worry about grades, boyfriends / girlfriends, college admissions, pimples and fitting in. I am finally at that age where I care less about what others think of me and more about what I think of them!
3. Celebrate your wisdom: Don’t fret over the wrinkles. Each laugh line (and yes the frown lines too) is a testimony to a life well lived and lessons learnt. While gravity is taking a toll on my skin, life has over compensated by giving me much needed wisodm in return.
4. Do not regret the past: The past contributes to what we become. Its our choice to learn from our mistakes, remember the good and work past the bad. For my part, I don’t regret any decision I have taken as I took them with the conviction that they were the best ones at that point in time. I embrace all of it- the good, the bad and the ugly; they make we what I am today. I am wiser, less judgmenetal and stronger as a result of my struggles.
5. Learn something new: Don’t be afraid to try something new- cooking, baking, knitting, rapelling, para gliding, swimming, learning a new language…..anything that challenges you. That’s the best way to feel excited about life and keep your mind and body active. I started my blog a few months before I hit my 39th birthday and I plan to go scuba diving and snorkelling later this year.
6. Exercise: It doesn’t have to be gymming or aerobics if that’s not your cup of tea (I must admit, I hate going to the gym). It can be as simple as brisk walking. It strengthens the body and destresses the mind.
7. Groom yourself: The good thing about being older is that I can now afford some little luxuries that I couldn’t when I had just started working. With some care and thoughtful shopping you can look well groomed and stylish without burning a hole in your pockets. I think I have much better taste now than I did when I was younger.
8. Be confident: Age gives us the advantage of knowing our strengths and being confident in our abilities. I am not so plagued by self doubt as I was in my twenties & mid-thirties. Even if I fail at something, I now have the perspective to know its not the end of the world and it does not define me.
9. Reach out: Ask for help, reach out to people. More often than not people are likely to help if you ask nicely. So if you want to try something new, find a mentor who can help you navigate through your journey. I have many such “informal”, wonderful mentors who guide me on various aspects of my life.
10. Chase your dreams: Don’t wait for “someday” to chase your dreams. Make that day “now”. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, just go ahead and do it. As long as its not illegal or immoral there’s no reason to hold back. My blog is my way to connect and explore my writing abilities- a long cherished desire.
11. Have realistic expectations: Don’t hold others or yourself to some impossible ideal. Be realistic and don’t be too hard on yourself and your loved ones. Life is not a Bollywood movie or a M&B romance but it can still be beautiful.
12. Rock the world: You may not be a celebrity and the world may not know you; but “You” are the world for those who love you. Remember that you rock their world. My family and friends make me feel special.
You are growing older, means you are still alive! Feel young, feel awesome!
Like most first time bloggers, after working up the courage and getting my feet wet testing waters, I faced a common problem – writers’ block, feeling I don’t have enough time to write with my hectic work schedule and commute….you name it.
I felt lost for a while. The cursor on my blank page kept winking at me wickedly, taunting me. Then I remembered why I wanted to write in the first place – for the sheer joy of it! 🙂
That’s beautifully captured in this quote on blogging (by Scott Adams):
“Blogging is like work, but without coworkers thwarting you at every turn. All you get is the pleasure of a completed task.”
I realized that writing requires discipline apart from passion. I promise to be regular going forward and will post at least on a weekly basis. I hope I can keep coming up with articles, short stories, posts that you will enjoy. I know I will enjoy writing it.