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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

With all the crazy hype about US Presidential Elections, and the uncertainty after the result was announced, I needed a break. Wherever I looked, people were discussing the elections, to the point that it was getting on my nerves. In this scenario, a colleague from a remote area shared a photo of an 8-year old girl from an underprivileged family. This girl was a drug addict and has recently been detoxified with the help of local community organizations and volunteers. That reignited my hope in human spirit and bonding! I shared this news with a colleague who said “that made my day!“. Indeed, it did make our day. Years ago, I read this quote:

“There are those … who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” (H.H. The Aga Khan IV)

Am reminded of it again today. May we be blessed with the opportunity and wisdom to help ignite the spark in our fellow human beings’ lives (Amen).

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For many years I have been a night watchman of the Milky Way galaxy.” – Bart Bok

I love the photos taken by Mobeen Ansari. This one is of the milky way as seen during his visit to Lashkargaz (Chitral, Pakistan). The quote (as posted by Mobeen today) aptly describes how I felt for so many years looking out of my window. How long has it been since I stargazed? O that was many moons ago.. I miss those days. Light pollution in the area has gone up leaving not many visible stars. Plus, I have been lazy and stuck with my electronic devices. Sad state of affairs this.

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Last night, I was at an event talking to a fellow volunteer. While sharing about life experiences, I recalled the time when I used to commute a long way to pick my brother from his office. It took about 30 to 40 minutes to reach his office. Despite being a daily encounter with rush hour traffic and hot weather, this trip had its positives. For one, I had the opportunity to observe beautiful sunsets on my way to the West Wharf area. Living in a congested megalopolis often means less opportunities to observe sunrise and sunset. For years, we had a good east-side view from our balcony allowing us to observe beautiful sunrises. Then, they built tall buildings and the beautiful view was gone. The west-side view is also blocked by buildings. So, the sunsets on my daily commute came as a breath of fresh air, especially after a long day at work. I enjoyed watching these sunsets and writing my reflections in a notebook or on some scrap paper (blessings of having someone else drive the car for you).

On these trips, I noticed that the sun looks different in summer and winter. The summer sun looked like a fireball .. orange or reddish-orange depending on the month and the temperature. On the other hand, the winter sun reminded me of molten ice cream with its cooler colors. I could also see the circular boundaries of the sun without putting my shades on, unlike with the summer sun. The winter sun felt like a cool yellow ring. The sky, too, looked different with its different shades. Jarod Kintz puts my feelings into words with “The sunset faded and blended from pink to peach to mango in a smoothie in the sky.” Yum!

There is a long, straight road that leads to the West Wharf with unobstructed view of not just the sun but also the surrounding area. For a city dweller like me, observing this open landscape (even if a barren one) resulted in feelings of opening up.. as if my heart burst open and my soul started breathing. Same thing happens on the nights when the sky is clear and I can appreciate its vastness. It’s as if my heart opens up and becomes part of the universe. Sometimes, when we take a particular route which makes us drive on a bridge, I can observe the sunset. But we don’t always take that route thanks to the traffic conditions. I miss my sunsets and want them back.

I wonder if this distance from nature and natural phenomena affects us as human beings. Does it affect the way we think and act? Does it affect our stress levels? Do we get used to the natural phenomena even if we can enjoy them without any physical obstruction? Do we forget to notice them? Last year, I was on the Bernina Express traveling to Swiss Alps with other tourists. We boarded the train in Italy and stopped at St. Moriz. The weather could not have been any more perfect than it was then. It started snowing. Light snow with us in the downtown area, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and with a view of the lake. It was as if we were in a postcard. Later on, we walked in the streets and could still see the beautiful mountains. While observing the people in the streets and those riding in their cars, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering if they observe the beautiful natural landscape around them or if it has become part of their routine background which they do not notice. Did I find the place breathtakingly beautiful because it was new to me; or because I was a tourist with the time to laze around; or because I came from a megalopolis with an estimated population of over 20 million? Whereas the residents of St. Moriz had lived their lives surrounded by beautiful mountains, were busy with their daily chores, and did not find anything new about the landscape? Of course, I couldn’t come to a conclusion but I would love to know if there are any studies on the impacts of people’s interactions with nature. Maybe a google search should be the next action item on my list? 🙂

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Sunset outside the airport lounge

.. On a jet plane. Going to USA for a volunteer meeting. Looking forward to an exciting meeting and another reunion with old friends 🙂 Bracing myself for cold weather!

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In the past few weeks, I started reading a few books only to leave them for other books. Achieving my 2014 extended target (set at goodreads.com) for the books to read in 2014 actually backfired as now I am worried about finishing the books ASAP. Setting a target of 36 books for 2015 also proved to be a bummer. So, I’ve decided to revise my target for 2015 from 36 books to 20 books. If I can read more, great. If I can’t, at least I would’ve enjoyed the ones that I read.

When selecting a book for reading, the following questions pop up in my mind: Should I read a book just because I bought it and should, therefore, read it? Should I finish reading a book just because I have started reading it? This is a dilemma because I cannot be sure if it’s my trademark procrastination making me avoid reading (or finishing) a book or if it’s actually the book. Sometimes, I have put the book down for good, and have even donated it. At other times, though, I have made myself finish reading a book even if as an attempt to counter procrastination.

I am currently reading A User’s Guide to the Brain by John J. Ratey. I checked the price and thought to myself “why did I buy this paperback which is quite expensive!” However, when I looked inside, the paperback had 380+ pages, with small font. I braced myself and started reading it. It is a book about the working of human brain, and aims to to help the reader gain a better understanding of how the brain affects who we are. My reading is going slowly.. very slowly as I only read during my commute to/from work (not a long commute). The technical nature of this book and the small fonts also affect the pace of my reading. However, it is an interesting and useful book as it is helping me connect my experience from various domains of the social sector. I hope this knowledge will help me gain perspective which will help me with my human development work.

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OK.. so I’ve ditched Martin Lindstrom‘s book Buyology in favor of the book titled Rumi’s Daughter by Muriel Maufroy. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing against Lindstrom or his book but the circumstance in which I was ‘reunited‘ with the latter book convinced me to pick it up. Here goes the story:

My sister (a teacher) is enjoying the 15-day summer break these days. Two days ago, she decided to clean the three cabinets where we have dumped all sorts of things. Old network cables, phone set, audio cassettes from 80’s, VHS cassettes from 80’s and 90’s, dad’s old documents and beautiful pen sets (which he never used and didn’t let anyone use either!), old cassette players, and books.. lots of books. The ‘cleaning spree’ continued till last night. This spontaneous cleaning spree has brought back so many memories from childhood days. It also made me wonder if there are coincidences in life or if it’s all a big plan..

Case-in-Point: My sister was rummaging through all the books, deciding which ones to keep and which to donate.. and where to donate. This is when we found some books that I had bought years ago (from the date on price tags, I can deduce that it was sometime in 2006/2007). The book Rumi’s Daughter is one of those books. I remember the cover page very well. Remember seeing it in the bookshop. From my tiny, makeshift paper mark I can deduct that I had read this book about half way through before I stopped reading it. However, I have no recollection whatsoever about this book’s contents. It was interesting to learn that this book is about the story of Rumi‘s adopted daughter Kimya. Now, it is nothing extraordinary. However, what is interesting is the timing and the way I was reunited with this book. I have just finished reading ‘The Forty Rules of Love‘ which is the story of Rumi and his spiritual companion Shams Tabriz. That book also presented some part of the story from Kimya‘s perspective; however, the main storyline revolved around Rumi & Shams. I was empathizing with Kimya while reading that book. So, it was quite surprising to be reunited with a book that revolves around her story. A book I bought years ago when The Forty Rules book wasn’t even published! And a book I found again, by coincidence (?), a day after finishing The Forty Rules book! At a time when I had already read 20+ pages of Buyology. Now, I find it quite difficult to take these as coincidences. To me, they are more like ‘signs’. A sign that I should read this book, and leave the Buyology book for later.

There were other great things that we found during my sister’s cleaning spree. Will write about it later. So.. Rumi’s Daughter wins!

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(c) William Wallace Gilchrist Jr.

Who hath heard of such cruelty before?
That when my plaint remembered her my woe
That caused it, she, cruel more and more,
Wished each stitch, as she did sit and sew,
Had pricked mine heart for to increase my sore.
And as I think, she thought it had been so:
For as she thought “This is his heart indeed”
She pricked hard, and made herself to bleed.

William Shakespeare, “Epigram 1

I don’t remember where and when I read this epigram. I do remember it was a long time ago. The last line captured me when I read it for the very first time. All these years, this is the line that I still remembered. Not sure which way Shakespeare wanted to take his epigram but when I read it, it represented to me not the cruelty of the maiden but the situation where many of us find ourselves at times. It’s when you do something supposedly cruel to hurt the person you love, but end up hurting yourself instead. Why? Because if the person you love is hurt and bleeding, it in turn hurts you and makes you bleed.

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