Pay It forward


In the words of Einstein, “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” I often meditate on this phrase as it makes so much sense to me. It gives me happiness to be helpful to people, no matter how small the effort may seem. Helping people is an element of my daily life and there are countless opportunities to get involved. The only tools you need to be successful are a positive attitude, willingness to help, and a little faith in humanity. I decided, long ago, that I would pay it forward and help those in need as often as I could.
I would like to dedicate this piece, with gratitude, to a girl (name unknown) who helped me push my trolley bags to the bus station in London as I was running late to board the bus from London to Norwich. As I was walking towards the bus station, I was really struggling with my bags, helpless, filled with fear that I might miss the bus and potentially my flight home. Thanks to the helping hand of this kind stranger, I was able to board the bus and catch my flight. This is my story of how I paid it forward.

A few years ago in India, I was on my way back from Lachung to Sikkim, a beautiful location near the lower Himalayan mountains, when I saw an old lady carrying a little girl, backpack and lunch bag a short distance up the road. I walked briskly to catch up with them. The older lady stopped and smiled, I noticed she was tired and struggling. The little girl, in her school uniform, starred at the bunch of wild flowers I had in my hand. I smiled at the child and gave her the flowers. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I could offer to help the woman. I tried speaking to them in Hindi, hoping they would understand, but unfortunately no such luck. I began using my version of sign language, making gestures, trying to ask them where they were going. The old woman pointed her finger to the top of the hill. I gestured to her that I would help carry the little girl up the hill. I squatted down and motioned for the girl to jump on my back and proceeded to climb up the hill. The woman’s face lit up with a smile – a priceless one, and the little girl giggled the entire way.

Once we got to the top of the hill, I dropped the little girl off near the house and turned back to look at the teary-eyed woman with hands folded in Namaste. I touched her hands and said it was ok and that I was glad to help. The old lady normally carried the little girl up the hill every day, but today was different. She was able to rest her back, as a mere stranger carried her little girl up the hill. Even to this day, I never forget the impact my simple gesture made. I had made a difference in her day, in a small way I must admit, but that mattered. I gave a sliver of my time to those in need and it gave them a few moments of joy. As I started my trek back down the hill, I turned back and waved at them, thus capturing the smiles on their faces in my mind forever.

Helping someone without having expectations of them helping you in return is the best feeling. You never know when someone needs your help or is in need of a little kindness. A few simple words, a helping hand, a smile that says, “don’t worry, everything will be alright,” a little gesture to rekindle hope in whatever situation, providing warmth when the world seems cold and gloomy is priceless. Try helping someone you don’t know TODAY, I am sure you will not regret it.

A universal peace prayer in Sanskrit

ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः।

सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।

सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु।

मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत्॥

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
May all be prosperous and happy
May all be free from illness
May all see what is spiritually uplifting
May no one suffer
Om peace, peace, peace

Helping others and being selfless in serving others is more than a penance. Make it a habit that you will never want to quit. May you all experience the pleasure and immense happiness of helping others in this project and pay it forward. Dear Readers, Let’s make the world a better place to live. Shall we?

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Shakespeare in the park


Excited to watch a play in a park for the first time, my joy knew no bounds. One of the greatest play writer, his name is synonymous with ‘elegant writing style’ and his plays filled with range of human emotions and filled with incessant shower of phrases and verses that have mesmerized the readers and audiences around the world for centuries. I have great appreciation for his work. One fine day, I accidentally navigated to Wooden O website, found that the first play of the season “Hamlet” will be performed in a park close to my apartment. The next day was uneventful and I was just looking forward to sitting on the grass in the park and watching the play.

 

On the day, as I started to drive to the park, it started to rain. Nothing could dampen my spirits. Rain or Sun I am going to experience watching the play in the park. I was so filled with enthusiasm – how is it going to be? The actors and actresses? How will the stage be set up? It is one thing to go to a play in a theater in a big city like going to a Broadway show in New York, it is totally different kind of experience to enact a play in the park. I drove to the venue in the rain and saw people gathered, some sitting on beach chairs, some had set up tents, some were sitting on mats and umbrellas were hosted up all around the little makeshift white stage. Behind the stage were three white tents where the actors and actresses were resting, some taking power naps, some drinking sodas and one in particular fixing a hat. I walked up to the gentleman who was holding out programs to the audience. I told him how unprepared I was for the weather and that it is my first time in a situation like that. He said he would give me a couple of programs to place on the wet grass and sit on them. I didn’t feel like doing that so, I politely thanked him and walked over to the booth where the site manager was organizing things. I spoke to him about my predicament and asked if I could borrow a chair. He said that they were selling caps and umbrellas but they didn’t have any chairs. He did find a small fold able stool with three legs and handed it to me. I thanked him and walked with an umbrella, eager to set it up and be seated.

 

I returned to the front of the stage, found an empty spot on the grass, set up the stool, sat on it and opened my umbrella and held it between my neck and shoulder. I was raining incessantly and there was no hint of it stopping in a next couple of hours. The play started at 7 pm with an introduction by the site manager. As I looked around, I saw couples sitting on their chairs, holding umbrellas and with blankets wrapped around them, lying on mats on the grass wearing caps and holding on to plastic sheets in a desperate attempt to protect their dresses from getting wet, having sandwiches, cherries and drinking coffee. How I wish I had someone sitting next to me holding my hand and watching the play? Well, instead of following that wish filled train of thought, I concentrated on the play, actors’ performances and the familiar phrases, script of the play, wide range of emotions on display. I had gone to watch several plays before….to name a few – ‘My Fair Lady’ in Theater Royale in York, UK, ‘Mary Poppins’ @ Straz performance arts center in Florida, ‘China doll’ in Broadway, NY, ‘Kuch bhi ho saktha hai’ in Bengaluru, India and a number of plays in ‘Ranga Shankara’.

 

This enriching experience of watching a play in the park in the rain was beyond words. My love of English language, Shakespeare, rain – all coming together. Some of my favorite quotes from the play –

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

“If we are true to ourselves, we can not be false to anyone.”

“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.”

“To die, to sleep –
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come…”

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

“Listen to many, speak to a few.”

 

I liked the performances of Hamlet, Horatio and Polonius. It was quite a spectacle actors and actresses walking around with iPad, iPhone and in modern day clothes, enacting a 16th century play that had been carefully adapted to the 21st century, and not far away from the park I could see the silhouette of the mountains. Getting drenched in the rain, feeling cold, having snap sweet peas and enjoying the play I realized how I am spending a wonderful evening alone and totally happy without a care in the world. “Blissful”. How sweet to be able to enjoy an evening of leisure after all the struggles of my life. I am so glad for everything and everyone in my life for everything happens for good. When the play was over and all the actors bowed I jumped up in joy and clapped acknowledging their awesome performances and applauding their talents. I put a few dollar bills in the hat and said bye. A beautiful evening comes to an end.

Wooden O

SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK

http://www.seattleshakespeare.org/

My alma mater


My Alma mater – SSVM

“A place of worship” where I devoted seven years of my life – learning, imbibing values, gaining insight into Indian culture and inculcating habits that last a life time. This place is my school which nurtured my soul, enabled my growth and built a immune system in me against the evils of the society and bad people. I learnt dedication, humility, modesty, forged good qualities in to my persona and engrained in my brain that – knowledge is power.

To think of myself as a kid who was crying not to go to school, seems ridiculous. I have heard this story many times from mom and dad. I was very reluctant to go to school. I was very happy being at home surrounded by a big family. Mom had taught me prayers, national anthem, alphabets of three different languages (English, kannada and Hindi), basic mathematics and I was enjoying happily singing and playing. In the evenings, Dad taught me grammar and used to dictate some difficult words, thus making my learning very challenging. I was very happy at home as it was always play time. Since a few days, things had changed around home. Dad had been busy doing his research on schools to pick the best one for me and mom spoke to the neighbors about the schools, children going to school and the talk at home was about “school”. All I knew was I was going to be sent somewhere for a few hours daily. I was not happy with the thought of staying away from home even if it was for a few hours. Mom sat down with me and told me about new friends that I would make, teachers, books, uniform etc. I listened to all that with rapt attention but a skeptical look on my face. Then the day arrived, I woke up early in the morning, said my prayers, mom got me ready and then i started walking with mom dad holding their hands for about a mile. They kept telling me that everything will be fine and that I will learn a lot of things. There was a teacher in a white saree with green border waiting at the school entrance. Mom dad spoke to her and she smiled. I still remember her dimples. Then she took my hand in hers and started towards the steps that led to the classrooms.Tears flooded my eyes, mom dad were waving good bye and I could not control my tears any more. I started crying and stopped, pulled away from the teacher. Her name : Saraswathi, name of the indian goddess of intelligence and knowledge. So apt,(to think about her now) who lead me to my first stop of learning path- to my school. I began to rush towards dad. Teacher came towards me and lifted me up with her arms and cradled me and told my parents to leave as I would not stop crying as long as they were around. In spite of my pleas to let go and trying to get down she clutched me tightly without letting me go. I guess she had made a resolve in her mind. She carried me to the classroom and put me down in the first row. All eyes were on me, I stopped crying. I was introduced and I saw some smiling faces…I turned pink as I became very shy. Slowly I peered into a book placed near me, took a crayon and started drawing. At the end of that day, I had received applause for my drawings and quick solving of maths problems, some pats on the back from other kids and had shared my lunch with a bunch of other students. My teacher was very happy and I was very happy and hugged my mom as soon as she came to pick me up from school. She carried me home as I joyfully narrated all that happened at school.

Now, I visit my alma mater and refresh those memories….and pay gratitude with tear filled eyes for the wonderful place that created the ambience for my growth and enabled my evolution from a shy, introvert, innocent little girl in to a determined, passionate, patriotic individual. In these two decades, each time I have visited my school or drove near the school area I have been filled with the same delight and joy that I had experienced opening the gates and walking in on the second day of the school.

Dedicated to my school – Sri Saraswathi Vidya Mandir.
English translation – Salutation…. ( Named after Goddess Saraswathi)…Education….temple.