Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Walk

Bangalore is a beautiful city to be in around Christmas.

The air tastes better,the people seem to be a little kinder, the sunshine is just enough to keep me warm and maybe it’s just a subjective feeling, but I find that there seems to be a little red in everything I see in December.
Winter Wonderland at the Phoenix Mall in Bangalore
Almost everyone I know has a Christmas and New Year tradition that’s close to their heart, something they do very year to make the season all the more special.

Lighting the stars, decorating the tree, writing letters to Santa, family vacations, shopping, baking, wine making, caroling, reaching out to loved ones living far away, midnight mass, exchanging gifts, the list goes on and on and on.
Christmas tree O Christmas tree 
I too have one tradition that is very close to my heart, something I do every year; this month’s blog post is about how it all began.

2000 AD was a landmark year, I consider myself very lucky to have been around when the world as we know it entered a new millennium.

The whole universe at that time was abuzz with the Y2K phenomenon, predictions were being made, concerts were being organized, Every human being on the entire planet seemed to be up to something on December 31st 1999.

I am yet to witness a frenzy surrounding the New Year as insane as that leading to the dawn of 2000, even the whole doomsday affair of 2012 couldn't get close to the mania I was a part of 14 years ago.

Anticipating in advance that school would be closed on new years eve, we had an party in our class just before our winter vacation began.

That morning, I stood before my classmates wearing a very solemn expression on my face.

In a somber tone I told them how there was a good chance that the world would end that year and if they had some unresolved conflicts with their friends they must set things right with them by the end of the day, I remember concluding with the line “You may never get another chance to do this”.

My speech although brief was very effective. The class was quiet for most part of the day, sworn enemies set aside their differences, best friends sat together for the whole day and I finally managed to forgive Anand for breaking my water bottle, apparently he had ‘accidentally’ kicked it while aiming for my leg a few months ago.

We acted as though we were really ushering in the new millennium at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon on Dec 21st 1999 , we changed the date on the board to 01/01/Y2K and jumped around the class for an hour or so hugging each other and screaming the words HAPPY NEW YEAR as loud as our lungs would allow us too.

Back home, the members of our locality had planned a huge party. Preparations had begun months in advance, the venue was decided, the food menu was approved by all residents and yes, we had made arrangements for enough fireworks to light up our skies for at least an hour that night.

The excitement in the air was palpable.

With few hours left to go for the party, something unexpected happened

It was just after lunch, I was in my brothers room.

“Will you be joining us for the party tonight”? I asked him.

“Read this”. He said as he smiled, handed me the magazine he was reading and left the room.

It was the millennium edition of time, the pages my brother had folded for me to read were articles detailing what some of the world’s most popular people had planned to do on the last day of the year.

Many celebrities were traveling to exotic getaways well known for hosting the world’s most lavish New Years eve parties, quite a few of them were performing at times square in New York, many others were looking forward to watching the fireworks display at the Sydney harbor or at the Auckland sky tower and just as I was about to turn the page my eyes fell on a small paragraph stating what famous boxer Evander Holyfield was planning to do that year.

‘Must be something wild’ I thought to myself

Holyfield had written these words - 'I will be spending the night at Church'.

What ? Really? I exclaimed loudly.

For a while I couldn’t believe what I had just read, why would the world heavyweight champion spend the last night of the millennium in Church when he could rather be out do something more exciting.

I wrestled with my thoughts.

The time to leave for the party was drawing closer, but now the excitement I was feeling earlier was replaced by a deep sense of curiosity.

I had to see for myself what spending New Years Eve at Church was like.
Four time World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield
I asked my parents to tell my friends that I wouldn't be able to make it for the party that night and I left for Church with my brothers.

The Church was full, but inside there was pin drop silence.
The bishop was leading the gathering in a meditation of sorts, he encouraged us to keep our eyes closed and think about the year that had just gone by, trying to recollect as much as possible.

After overcoming the initial restlessness I had, that arose out of a feeling of possibly missing all the fun at the party I gave in, I closed my eyes and reflected on all of 1999 that I could bring back to memory.

When I opened my eyes, the service had ended, most of the people in the Church had left including the bishop.

I looked at my watch, there was still time for me to make it to the party, but I didn't care about it any longer.
I had stumbled upon something much more valuable.

I stepped out into the cold and started walking toward home.

My heart was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude so deep that I felt my heart would explode.

I continued walking, purposefully taking a longer route than normal to get home.

Images from the past 1 year of my life raced through my head at the speed of light.

After thinking about all that I had been through in the past year my thoughts turned to all that I expected from the year that was just about to begin.

Gratitude now made way for a unfathomable sense of hope.

When I reached home I felt more positive than I ever had in my life before, I looked once again at my watch and rushed upstairs, something incredible was just about to happen, I could feel it in my heart.

Barely seconds after I stepped on to the roof, loud explosions lit up the sky and I witnessed the finest firework display I had ever seen in my life before.

With folded hands I looked heavenward and whispered the words, ‘Thank You, Thank You for everything that You have given me and for all that I have’.

December 31st 1999 was the day my favorite tradition of the Christmas season started, something I simply refer to as ‘The Walk’.

As I grew older and my life experiences increased both in number and variety the time I spent on the walk increased.

I wonder how long the walk of 2014 will last.

It has been a very eventful year after all.

2014 was a year that taught me how important it was to never give up no matter how hard things got, how sometimes in life quitting is not an option.

I learnt that our hearts beat the loudest when they are breaking and with that realization also came the understanding that pain is proof that we’re alive, that we’re human and that we are still capable of love.

Most importantly, 2014 was the year when I realized that faith hope and love can give us the strength to weather all of life's storms.

I know most of you all have already decided what you will be doing this New Years eve, and honestly all I want for you is to be safe.

In case you haven’t made any plans or are yet to receive those exclusive invites to the biggest parties in the places you live in, do take a few minutes to think back on the year that has just passed, I hope that when you do this your heart will fill up with gratitude for all that has happened and hope for all that is on its way.

I wish for you all that the coming year will be so incredible that you will run out of time counting your blessings 365 days from now on new years eve 2015.

And yes, if you are by any chance in my neck of the woods,spend your new years eve with me, lets walk together.

Until next time.

TGV

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Name is.....Change

The world around us is constantly changing.

We are regularly introduced to newer ways of doing things. From more efficient ways to communicate & faster means of travel to innovative styles of clothing & fresh genres of music we are witnessing revolutionary advances in almost every avenue of life.

Our environment seems to be in a perpetual state of remodeling and even though we adapt and re adapt in order to survive, how much do you think these changes really affect the real person inside us all.

Can we as human beings really change who we are?

If we can, what brings about that change?


Smoking is an awful habit.

The WHO once released a report which referred to it as “the single most preventable cause of death in the world today”

Ever since I was a child, I have seen people around me struggle with it.

Over the years the general attitude towards smoking has changed, awareness has increased, advertisements appear on television and radio from time to time, studies regarding the harmful effects of tobacco have been published, laws restricting sales and smoking in public spaces have been passed, heck, they even started printing the words SMOKING KILLS right on the boxes containing cigarettes, but here is the harsh truth, none of these measures have had any significant impact on people who are already hooked on this habit.

In spite of all the evidence and all the warnings why hasn't the world quit smoking yet? Why haven’t we changed?

Saurabh was one of my closest friends at school, his father stopped smoking only after his second major heart attack, He still considers the day his father flung the two packs of cigarettes in his pocket out of their apartment window the best day of his life.

My pre-university college friend Francis quit smoking after a struggle that lasted over 10 years, dozens of visits to de- addiction centers and multiple attempts at using nicotine gums and patches couldn’t do for him what holding his first born child did in a minute.

Smoking is just an acquired habit, and yet it happens to be something people find incredibly difficult to change about themselves, I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for us to alter more innate traits of our nature and our personality.
Its going to take a lot more than just 60 minutes !!!
Let me now draw your attention to something that happened to me a few weeks ago.

It was a Monday and I was driving back home from the clinic.

On most Sundays after Church I like indulging in some savories at a wonderful little bakery close to where I stay, I love the doughnuts they make, this Sunday however, I couldn’t go to there.

I was on a 6 km stretch of a wide and straight road, the sun had taken a break from blazing all over the city, the wind was cool and the streets were desolate.

I stuck to the speed limit and stayed on the left.

I was enjoying the ride.

My reverie was disturbed by what I saw on both the mirrors on my bike, two different buses were trying to overtake each other, they nearly occupied the whole road behind me.

I looked back ahead, from the corner of my eye I saw an elderly gentleman who seemed to be trying to make up his mind whether to cross the road or not.

‘Potential Jay walker’! I thought to myself and slowed down a bit.

I could see that he was drunk because as soon as he stepped on the road he started doing a weird dance.


How do I explain this dance to you ?

Got it !

Imagine a zombie doing the Gangnam style… Done ?

Alright, now imagine him doing the moonwalk too and throw in a little bit of the robot dance to the ensemble.

Seems cool right?

I was terrified.

It was a weird situation for me.
Whenever I would think that he was going to cross the road he would pause and return to the curb,
Hitting the brakes meant risking being wedged in by the speeding buses behind me, driving on ahead could have led to a possible collision with Mr. Bojangles on the highway.

I was in trouble.

The buses didn’t seem to slow down and my bike’s horn fell on deaf ears.

The gap between me and the man on the road narrowed.

This was it, I thought to myself. My life as I knew it was about to come to an end.

I took a chance and squeezed down on the brakes.

My mind went blank for a few seconds.

There was a lot of noise.

My tyres and the tyres of both buses behind me screeched before halting, foul odor of burnt rubber filled the air.

I couldn’t believe I was still on my motorcycle; miraculously I hadn’t fallen or skidded off the road.

The Dancer didn’t care, He was completely oblivious of the chaos around him, maybe he thought we all had stopped to applaud his performance.

We watched with mouths wide open as he reached the road divider crossed over and repeated his performance on the other side of the road nearly causing an accident there as well.

Exactly How we felt !!!
Life resumed, the buses abandoned their race and proceeded on their routes as I parked my bike near the sidewalk and sat on the curb.

My hands were shaking and my heart was racing.

A moment ago my life was almost over.

Blood rushed through my veins causing my head to throb.

As I slowly came back to my senses I reflected on the whole incident.

Every now and then I hear people talk about how in our  final moments our whole life tends to pass before our eyes , we supposedly think about all the opportunities we missed, all the things that we could’ve done, all that we would’ve achieved if we had more time and, all that we should’ve done with the time we had.

No such thought came into my head during those decisive few seconds of my life

Just before I hit the brakes I remembered the only thought in my mind at that point of time was this-

"I WISH I HAD THAT DOUGHNUT YESTERDAY"!

All I thought about was missing out on a tiny little detail of my life that brought me a little happiness and a small sugar rush every weekend.


I drove straight to that bakery after the incident and relished every single morsel of that hollow round and fluffy snack as I understood how important the little things in life are.

We are born with a spirit that is endowed with ambition and a passion for achievement, it is what give us a reason to get out of bed each morning  but to sacrifice the small joys of life in order to pursue something bigger is often highly overrated.

That morning in the clinic I had spent considerable time making plans for my future, apparently I had everything figured out for the next 2 years of my life.

And here I was a few hours later sitting on the side of the road thinking how it all could’ve  ended in a few seconds if not for a divine intervention.

I have always known that life is too short. It doesn't matter if we live to be a hundred years old, time flies by.
This incident helped me realize how life is also very unpredictable, things can change without a moment’s notice.

What we see today maybe all gone tomorrow

So can we as human beings really change?

Yes, I am of the opinion that we can, I also believe that it takes really strong personal life experiences for us to pause and re-evaluate our ways of thinking more that just a rapidly modernizing world, it doesn't matter if its breaking a bad habit like smoking or changing our appreciation of life as such.

Be ambitious, follow your heart and chase your dreams but make sure to indulge in the things that make you happy.

Stop to smell the roses you see along the way, because you never know if you’ll find them when you return.

Until Next Time...

TGV


Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Dreamed a Dream......

You can be anything you want in this world.

Growing up as children this was something every single teacher told us at some point of time or the other, I always thought that it was one of those common cliches that adults used while talking to kids such as - ‘You’re too young to understand’ , or ‘I’m not angry….Just disappointed’ &  my favorite ‘You’re Grounded’ !!!


I never gave it much thought till an orthopedics theory class in the final year of my study at medical school.

No, my professor didn’t actually say ‘You can be anything you want in this world’, and yes, now that I think of it, at that point of time it had been years since anyone had said those exact words to me.

Post lunch theory classes in any professional college are a kaleidoscope of every possible sleep state imaginable, in this regard it was slightly more difficult for us because our classroom was a mini auditorium in the basement floor of the hospital, sitting there on a full belly with the a/c set to a snug 27 degrees, our white coats serving as soft blankets was like being gently cuddled by a giant teddy bear. 

Staying awake was a challenge, while some students relied on writing down everything the teachers said, others counted on reviving their lost passions for poetry, sketching, and songwriting to keep their heavy eyelids from closing.

All this happened with our cell phones set on vibrate because we all loved the SMS blasts that went out to everyone when something funny or weird happened during the lecture.

It was the first theory class of the semester so I will admit that there was a little excitement in the class which meant that 90% of the students would pay attention to what was being taught for the first 10 minutes of the class, every other day it was the first 5 minutes cause that was when the attendance was called out. Please don’t judge us :-)

The first image came up.

Wait, this wasn’t the image of an X-ray or an MRI, it was the picture of the ocean with an inspirational message, 20 lines long.

My phone buzzed repeatedly.

Texts came from all four corners of the classroom, more than 50% of them had the same content - Did you get that, what’s he trying to say?

For once I chose not to reply to because this time I really got what that message was trying to say.

I don’t remember all of the words that were on that slide, it was really, really long, but here is what I made of it - 

Reality may be different but in your dreams you possess the unique power to create a world of your own, in your dreams you can be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to, and no one can take that away from you.

Just the day before this class happened a classmate of mine had dedicated a funny poem to me which ended with the words ‘You will never be a rockstar’, truth be told I never really wanted to be a rockstar but after the recital when the laughter faded some part of me was left bruised.

The professor proceeded with the topic for the day but I decided to focus on the message that he had just shared with us.

I switched off everything that was going on in my head right then and started dreaming, I imagined a world where I stood facing a crowd of 20,000 excited fans smack down in the middle of Madison square garden entertaining them with nothing but my voice and the sound of my acoustic guitar.

For approximately an hour I sang to them songs taken from my mental playlist, they clapped & they sang along with me. When I stretched out my hands they cheered and as I walked off centre stage they kept asking for more.

I found closure on the whole rockstar problem and like the first slide on my professors power point presentation said, nobody could take that away from me.


2 things happened that day, firstly I lost out on my attendance because I forgot to say ‘present’ when my name was called out, but it didn't matter much to me because that afternoon I learnt one of the most important lessons of my life - to never ever underestimate the power of dreaming and imagination.

The Pursuit of Happyness is an amazing film that is based on an incredible true story, it is among my all time favorite movies.

One of best scenes of the film takes place on the rooftop of a building where Will smith and his son are shooting hoops, the 5 year old seems to be great at the game.

Dejected by a sarcastic comment from his father he throws the ball away, that's when Will gives him some of the best advice I have ever seen on film before -

“Don't ever let somebody tell you... You can't do something, not even me.
 You got a dream... You got to protect it. People can't do something' themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want something', go get it”.

At this juncture in the movie Will is penniless and without a home, his wife has left him and his only source of income is trying to sell a virtually unsaleable 'bone scanner'.  
He has to support himself and his kid while working incredibly hard at an unpaid internship.

Quite simply put he practically has no reason to believe that things will get better let alone dare to dream.

His dream is to turn the internship into a full time job at a stock brokerage.

Things take a turn for the worse when he loses his savings because of unpaid taxes,he ends up moving from one homeless shelter to another with his child, at one point of time they are forced to spend a night in a public restroom.

A cynic may argue by asking why did he choose to pursue that internship when he could have taken a job that paid him something, but that's the problem with dreams, some of them are too precious to just abandon and move on.

The internship finally comes to an end, Will manages to sell the last of the bone scanners in his possession and spends the evening at the beach with his son, for a change they stay at a hotel and fall asleep watching TV.

The penultimate scene in the movie will draw you to tears.

Will is offered the job and he rushes out to the street, his hands are shaking and his eyes are filling up, the joy in his heart is evident, he looks up at the skies with gratitude and in the background we hear his voice say the words – This part of my life... this little part… is called happiness.


When we dream of seemingly impossible things, the people around us will not always be supportive, it’s not because they don’t want us to be happy, their reasons can vary from genuine concern about our safety or a theory that our plans are too lofty to attain, too impractical to achieve, our closeness to our friends may even lead us to believe that we can’t do it.

There are dreams that we forget as soon as we wake up and there are nightmares but every now and then we have dreams that keep us from sleeping.

If you have a dream that falls into the latter category start by protecting it, like a fresh sapling in a pot that needs to be nurtured feed your dream with positive reinforcement and motivation, work on your plans a little by little, on some days you will make strides on others you will have to take it one step at a time, if you slow down even more, don’t stop, you take it breath after breath but never stop believing never stop dreaming.

There will always be a hundred reasons not to do something, and sometimes the only reason pursue after a dream would be your desire to see it come true, believe it or not quite often that is all that it takes.

As I conclude the post for this month I want you to examine your hearts to see if you have dreamt of doing something in your life and held yourself back, I want you to start believing in yourself again and I wish for you to go after them.

To those of you who are currently working on an impossible dream I pray that you achieve them, and even if you don’t I hope that you can look back on your life someday in the future and say that you went all in, you gave it your everything, you tried your best and that you never gave up because the fact of the matter is this-

YOU CAN BE ANYTHING YOU WANT IN THIS WORLD !



Until Next Time

TGV

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Best Friend !

Silver linings playbook was one of the best reviewed films of the year 2012.

Produced on a shoe string budget, not only did the movie gross over 230 million dollars worldwide, it also brought Jenny Lawrence her first academy award while simultaneously catapulting Bradley Cooper to the status of an Oscar nominated actor.

I love the movie for many reasons, in the backdrop of an unconventional romance between two adults battling demons from their past the film also deals with the intricacies of the father-son relationship while portraying the challenges and difficulties of people dealing with mental illnesses in the most delicate and honest manner possible.

It is also a story of redemption.

The film starts by introducing us to Pat, the story's male protagonist. He is reluctantly undergoing court mandated treatment for bipolar disorder at a facility, out of a job, forced to live at his parents place trying desperately to reconnect with his estranged wife who has a restraining order against him, he also has to deal with frequent relapses of his condition which are often accompanied by angry outbursts and paralyzing memories from his past, and to add to all of this he is incredibly mad at Ernest Hemingway!

Paints a pretty nasty picture for a man in his thirties right?

However, In spite of all the dark clouds in his life, Pat is always looking for the silver lining.

Contrary to all expectations his life turns around, and this begins to happen after he meets Tiffany a recently widowed young woman whose life is equally (if not more) messed up as his own.

There are many beautiful scenes in this 2 hour long film that I go back and watch from time to time, my favourite among them however is the last 2 minutes, Just before the credits begin to roll when Pat recites these lines -

"The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday, That's guaranteed”,I can't begin to explain that, Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else”.          
“But guess what? Sunday's my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy".

I watched the movie on a Saturday evening and these words were exactly what I needed to hear at that point of time in my life.

A few years back while at college I found myself in a weird situation.

I was in my 3rd year at medical school when two of my friends presented me with an offer to be their best friend.


Sounds Crazy ! I know, right? Grownups acting like kids, how often does that happen?

Its uncanny how the offer came to me from both of them on the same day, a few hours apart via sms’s that had almost the same exact wording.

For now let’s call them X and Y.
Here is how the first chat between me and X went down-
X : "Hi, Can I ask you a personal question"?
Me : "Yeah, Go ahead".
X : "Who is your best friend"?
Me : (I tell X who my best friend is)
X : "Stop kidding, are you serious "?
Me : "Yes, 100% serious".
X : "Well,Would you like to be my best friend"?
Me: "But I thought Z was your best friend, you guys have been together for 3 years now right?".
X : "It ended today".
Me: "Why" ?
X: "We’ll talk about it tomorrow, Got to study now, Bye".

A few hours later, I had the same conversation with Y, the only difference being that I mentioned to Y that X had texted me earlier with a similar request.

X and Y were close friends too, so the next day when we met in class we decided to act like ‘rational adults’ and discuss the ‘terms and conditions’ of our best friendship over lunch.

After an hour of intense discussion in the afternoon where we aired our opinions on friendship, talked pros and cons, do’s and dont’s we came up with a set of rules that would help us stay friends forever.

Sounds ridiculous, i know, but you have to trust me guys I'm not making this stuff up!

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

In spite of all our negotiations and deliberations that afternoon, things didn’t work out as planned.

I remember feeling very silly that day even during our little lunch break meeting, How did we end up there ? How could we even think that it was possible for us to actually enforce something as beautiful as friendship on the basis of some elaborate policy.

I have often wondered why the three of us weren’t able to cross that elusive meridian of going from being just good acquaintances to best buddies? 
What really makes someone a best friend?

Let’s go back for a sec to the lines I quoted from the movie at the beginning of this post.

Here is what I make of them.

I don’t care how strong a person you think you are; the world will find a way to break your heart.

If you are the type of person who loves wearing his or her heart on the sleeve you are going to have it broken more often than everyone else.

Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING hits harder than life itself.


Sometimes life will beat you down to your knees and kick you in the solar plexus till you hit the ground.
When you least expect it, life will step out of nowhere and deliver a knockout punch right to your face.

In the end when you have been reduced to a pile of misshapen pieces you are left alone with the daunting task of putting yourself back together.

I'm sure that at some point or the other all of you have been through such situations in your lives too .
Now ask yourself this question.

Who stood beside you when things started falling apart, who tried to hold you together when you began to crumble and finally who helped you put all the pieces of your life together again when nobody else was to be found?

Does anyone come to mind?

That person is your best friend.

My response to the question, Tom who is your best friend, has been the same for the last 14 years.
It elicits a different reaction almost every single time.

Some respond with skepticism, some smirk, some even get angry or laugh at my face.

When I look back at my life there have been numerous incidents where life left me forlorn, grappling in the dark, wrestling forces and situations beyond my control, On every single occasion I have found my way back, not because I’m immune to hurt, but only because I have had a friend whose has held my hand and walked with me through it all.

A friend who has always been there to answer in my time of need, A friend who has always believed in me in my time of doubt, A friend who has forgiven me whenever I have fallen short of grace, A friend whose presence in my life is not subject to well thought off terms and conditions, distance, mobile network connectivity or time zones.  


He is my best friend and His name is Jesus Christ.

Winnie the pooh is one of the most beloved cartoon characters in history, Its incredibly hard to resist this cute little bear who loves his ‘hunny’.               

Pooh too has a best friend, a little pig called 'Piglet'!

If you pay close attention to the conversations between Pooh and Piglet you will come across some of the sweetest words related to friendship that are guaranteed to melt your heart.

Take these for example -

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?”asked Piglet.
“Even longer”,' Pooh answered.”

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today," said Pooh.                                                  
"There there," said Piglet. "I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

“I wonder what Piglet is doing," thought Pooh. "I wish I were there to be doing it, too.”


Cute right ? Simple yet blissfully profound.

On behalf of all the sentimental idiots in the world to all those Best friends who have been there for us, Thank You, we wouldn’t have made it this far without you.

“Sunday's my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy".


Until next time,


TGV