Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happiness is a comic-book

 I adapted the idea for this meme from Albus Dumbledore's famous line in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The burden of accumulation

Photo:  Darwin Vegher/Unsplash
One of the things that gives me a sense of satisfaction is clearing my home of stuff I haven't used in a long time, stuff I'd even forgotten was lying around the place, stored away carefully in cabinets and cupboards in the hope they'd be of use someday. Nine out of ten that never happens.

My family and I spent the last few days giving away or getting rid of a lot of things—fictional and academic books, stationery, files, documents, kitchenware, clothes, electric and electronic items, novelties, and other odds and ends—and putting the things we needed in a precise order. I do not exaggerate when I say that, after the job was done, I felt light as if a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Of course, this was not the first time.

The things we accumulate and hoard lose their utility value over a period of time and tend to become a burden, often interfering with our daily lives because the stuff we don't need or have never used gets in the way of the stuff we are actually looking to use at that moment. Five stars if you find it right away.

The way I see it, the burden of accumulating material things equates with the burden of negative thoughts and emotions. Cleaning up our homes can actually motivate us to clear our minds, if only we allow it to.

For, to de-clutter the mind is to lead a less stressful and a happier life.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Poem: Leave the pressure cooker at home

Leave the pressure cooker
at home
Leave it in the kitchen
on a burner
where it belongs
And let it cook
whatever it is
you want to eat.
Let it whistle
shrill, like a train
once, twice or more
But, for God's sake
don't carry it with you
Not to the office
Not to a friend's
Not to the party
Not to a store
Not anywhere
If you must
steam or stew,
in your own
rage, anger, inadequacy,
please do, but
Leave the pressure cooker
at home.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The bread lesson

Photo: Mgg Vitchakorn/Unsplash

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.
— Socrates

I grew up listening to my mother, a homemaker, say “Dhairyak bread” in our native Konkani, a dialect spoken mainly along the western coast of India. It roughly means “To be on the safe side, let there be bread!” She used the colloquial expression in times of a perceived adversity. Every time a political party or a labour union called a strike or heavy rains threatened to flood large parts of the city of Mumbai where we lived, she would tell me to run down to the grocery store and fetch bread so that, at least, we had something to eat. She worried the strike or the rains would cripple the city, forcing shopkeepers to down shutters and vegetable vendors to stay off the road.

My mother would tell me, “If nothing else, we can at least have bread. We won’t go hungry.” It probably never occurred to me to ask her if I should buy eggs, a pack of butter and other stuff while I was at the store.

We never went hungry, of course. But I found the phrase amusing, as did many in our family. “Dhairyak bread! It’s such a peculiar expression. I can’t get over it,” a cousin said. It soon became a talking point for surviving difficulties, even imaginary ones. Dhairyak this or dhairyak that! And each time credit was given to my mother. I think it was meant to help us keep our heads above water and face unpleasant situations as best as we could.

I realised only later that “Dhairyak bread” was not only a metaphor for dealing with a crisis, it was also a valuable lesson in simplicity; the capacity to live with less and be contented. We could, if we wanted to, subsist on something as frugal as a loaf of bread or rice gruel and pickle, and still be happy with our lot.

The expression was a reflection of my mother’s, and her mother’s, generation. Both my parents and their siblings came from middle-class families and often had to make do with less. But whatever they had, they shared it among themselves and with others, relatives, neighbours, friends, strangers. Where they lacked in money and wealth, they more than made up with a warm heart, generous hospitality and abundant humour. All were welcome to their home. No one who visited my grandparents went away without partaking of the day’s meal and an invitation to call again. The bread held the family together.

Perhaps, there was another way of looking at it.

Many years ago, I mentioned to my spiritual teacher how more and more youngsters were taking to religion — visiting places of worship, attending prayer sessions, counting beads and reading holy books, or making significant lifestyle changes — incorporating yoga, meditation and healthy diets into their daily routine. The teacher looked at me and said, “There comes a time in everyone’s life when you look for balance. That’s what they’re doing, they’re looking for balance between their inner selves and their outer lives.”

I like to think of “Dhairyak bread” as a euphemism for less is more, a minimalist approach to life, and an assertion of strong familial bonds whose roots run deep into the ground, never to be uprooted. It is a uniquely different way of life, one that can bring much happiness and more — if only we allow it to.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Write, don't plagiarise

In the dictionary, a Plagiarist is "Someone who uses another person's words or ideas as if they were his (or her) own." In my dictionary, a Plagiarist is no more than a common thief who steals from you.

If it's yours, put your name to it. If not, attribute it to its rightful owner. Even if it's just a line, a quote, a passage, whatever. If you don't know who the original writer is, then say "Author Unknown".

It's the first, the least and most decent thing to do in any kind of writing.

P.S.: I own this post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A chance for gratitude

Image: Amaury Gutierrez/Unsplash

Like dark clouds in the sky, the pandemic, lockdown and work from home have a silver lining. In spite of the unfolding tragedy—the loss of lives and livelihoods—the crisis offers us a chance to be grateful for what we have and the things we value and cherish more than anything in life. Consider this.

1. The privilege of being alive, a privilege not granted to everyone, and hopefully to be able to grow old and ride into the sunset one evening in the distant future.

2. The knowledge that most if not all of us are surrounded by our loved ones—our families—without whom we can scarcely imagine what life would have been like.

3. The capacity to enjoy each day, make the most of it before day turns into night, of a life lived so well as to seek nothing more out of it.

4. The good fortune of finding true love, wise teachers and wonderful friends who wait in the shadows, never too far, lest we should need a shoulder to cry and comfort, words that soothe and calm or a spontaneous burst of laughter.

5. The ability to count our blessings each night before we turn off the light and wake up the next morning and thank the One for another beautiful day.

What more can we ask for?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Aliens in our own land

Photo ©  Edwin Hooper/Unsplash
It's hard to believe that India has entered the fifth month of lockdown, which has been partially lifted since it was first imposed on March 25. How time flies! It seemed only yesterday that my family and I spoke of Covid-19 as a transitory bug that would soon disappear from our midst. We didn't think it'd extract such a deadly toll on our world at the time. Impermanence was the last thing on the parasite's mind. It was here to stay, procreate and establish a vectorial colony. Its pandemic journey, so far, reading like the plot of a Robin Cook medical thriller. Only much worse, and frighteningly real.

I can picture the diabolic expression on the virus's genetic code as it sneers at us. "I have come and I'm not goin' anywhere! I'm gonna get you, every one of you. Do you hear me, you pathetic earthlings?!"

Loud and clear. Maybe not.

The virus has made an entire generation, young and old, paranoid and fearful of life and its fragility. Nothing is as it used to be. Nothing will ever be the same again. The laws of the living and the dead have been rewritten in the Human Constitution. Those privileged to be still around live in forced or self-imposed isolation for fear of getting infected and in turn infecting loved ones, while those who have succumbed to premature death rest in their coffins with name tags and no family to lay a wreath and send them on their final journey. The vile and cruel nature of the virus can only be compared to that of a tyrannical ruler or a mad dictator. Neither has a soul or compassion for humanity.

In the early days of the lockdown, when positive cases in India were in the hundreds, I visited the local grocer every four days to buy essentials. I wasn't too worried about the virus and its capacity for laying waste to human life. I was sure that life would soon return to a semblance of normality. After all, we'd endured many terrible events in the past, riots, bomb blasts, terror attacks, earthquakes, cyclones, floods, assassinations. In fact, I even posted jokes about the lockdown on my blog and on social media. One went like this: "As soon as the one-day corona curfew ended (on March 22), I rushed to the grocery shop and came out with an armload of foodstuff, bread, milk, butter, eggs, rice, pulses and OCD." Another joke ran, "I was the only guy at the store until another masked moron walked in, and then we both froze. It seemed like an eternity."

The jokes earned a few laughs, but the humour didn't last long.

As new cases began to spike and fatalities increased, paranoia took over and I stopped going out. Instead, like scores of other anxious individuals, I ordered everyday items over the phone or WhatsApp and collected them at the gate. The logic being that, meeting one closer home was better than meeting many in and around shops. All along, I wore two masks and gloves, kept my distance, came home and washed the goods in the kitchen sink, put them out to dry like laundry in the sunshine, scrubbed the door handles and the doorbell with an antiseptic, took a hot shower and changed into fresh clothes. If that wasn't enough, I inhaled steam, drank warm water and popped a vitamin C.

But still, the doubts lingered.

Did I follow the Covid-19 protocol? Did I accidentally touch my face before washing my hands? In fact, did I even wash my hands for twenty seconds? I Googled the dos and don'ts of staying safe. I put mental ticks against each of the precautions. Not convinced, I then counted the days, like a stressed office-goer waiting for the weekend. Three days later, with no signs of a fever, cough or fatigue, I gave myself the all-clear.

On August 2, several weeks after the last trip to the grocer, my wife and I finally stepped out. We went for a walk in the neighbourhood, our faces hidden behind N95 masks and our eyes suspicious of those who did not. We hurriedly crossed the road every time we saw someone walking towards us without a mask, or wearing one under the nose or chin, like a fashion accessory. Young men roamed about in groups, their faces exposed and unmindful of physical distance. We circled the block quickly and returned home to the now annoying ritual of hand-washing and whatnot. If this was going to be the new way of life, then mask-abiding, social-distancing citizens like us were doomed.

As restrictions ease and economic activity reopens, many countries around the world, including India, are seeing record spikes in new cases. European countries such as Belgium, Spain and Germany are reporting a resurgence in infections, fuelling talk of a second wave and likely imposition of another lockdown. The fears were voiced by none other than Boris Johnson. In a July 29 report on its website, The Washington Post quoted the British Prime Minister as saying, "Let's be absolutely clear about what's happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends. I'm afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic."

Not quite. Researchers and epidemiologists warn that the world is still in the throes of the first wave. Infections are rising again because people are back on the streets, in offices, in parks and on beaches, and inside supermarkets. In many cases, throwing caution to the wind, jeopardising their own safety and that of others. Basically, what they're saying is that if the life-threatening microbe doesn't get you first, reckless human behaviour will.

Months after the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a global health emergency, the UN agency, on August 1, hinted at the "anticipated lengthy duration" of the pandemic and called for response efforts over long term. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned, "The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come. Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks." As if that wasn't alarming enough, Dr Tedros told a virtual press conference on August 3, "We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there's no silver bullet at the moment—and there might never be."

As I write this piece, it is 132 days since India imposed the world's strictest lockdown. With no end to the relentless march of the virus and no sight of an immediate vaccine or cure, the only humane thing to do is to stay safe and, equally, keep others safe. Adhere to the protocol like our very lives depended on it, which, in fact, they do. For this, though, the world needs a booster dose of sensitivity and compassion. There isn't enough going around. We have already seen both among front line workers—doctors and nurses. Their heroic struggles to heal the sick and prevent the very sick from dying at great risk to their own existence ought to be a great lesson for the rest of humanity; particularly those who behave as if Covid-19 is a harmless planet-hopping extraterrestrial en route to some other planet or distant galaxy.

The fact is, the virus is already home—and it has turned us into aliens in our own land.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Antiviral: A verse in 100 words

© Sarah Kilian/Unsplash
No matter
How strong my immunity
How many vitamins I pop
How healthy my diet
How fit and sound of mind
How suitable my blood group
I'm never safe
Never ever
If I don't
Keep my distance
Wear a mask, or two
Stay off the road
Remain at home.

COVID-19 doesn't care
A farthing, for my
Clean bill of health
It's in its nature, to
First Invade
Then Ravage, and
Finally Destroy
Guerrilla style, with
Lethal weapons
In its deceptive
Viral armoury.

Beware, the hidden enemy
Our human body
This beautiful gift, is its
Endoscopic battlefield

Don't let it be.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

Sunday, May 31, 2020

I fall only to write again

© Charles Deluvio/Unsplash
In my personal capacity, I write what makes me happy. In my official capacity, I write what makes my clients happy. Either way I make sure I enjoy whatever I write.

When I write for myself, I'm not limited by boundaries and conventions. I have the freedom, the artistic license, to give expression to my thoughts and ideas, and put it down on paper as best I can. I'm not a perfect writer—far from it—but I strive to create the wow factor in the reader's mind.

Not everything I write is readable but everything I write should have been worth writing. Even if it means crumpling the paper and tossing it into the waste basket a dozen times, and starting all over again. In our times the delete and backspace keys work as effectively—and ruthlessly. I never hesitate to use either, for it wipes out any trace of shoddy writing, which, in my opinion, is inexcusable.

I have my share of bad writing every day, every week, and it's enough to piss me off. But I know each time that happens I have to get up, dust myself and try again. I fall only to write again.

To me, writing is like a solitary journey where the experience of travelling is more gratifying than arriving at my destination.

My word.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A wedding anniversary in lockdown

Never in my dreams did I imagine my wife and I'd be celebrating our wedding anniversary—30th and no less—in lockdown. And yet, we did so on April 22, with simple and delicious home-cooked meals.

The celebration was subdued but we derived joy and comfort from being close to each other and knowing that our children, our son, daughter and son-in-law, were safe. That, soon, we would put all of this behind us, come together and have a reunion befitting birthdays, anniversaries, the celebration of life itself.

For, no matter how successful we are in our careers, the rungs we climb to positions of leadership, the wealth we amass, the influence and power we wield, none of these matter if we do not find contentment and happiness in our homes, with our loved ones and in our hearts.

To be able to return home every evening is a blessing. To be able to return home to a family that cares for us beyond and above everything else is a greater blessing. We are the lucky ones. Not everyone has this privilege.

Tragic as the reasons for the lockdown are, it's a rare occasion to know our families better, and love and cherish them more than we already do.

I'd like to think of it this way: A family is to die for.