It isn’t a joke, even when you haven’t even touched the graveness of a real disorder. Panic, the emotion, toys around with every part of your body without your permission, and mostly without you ever knowing what hit you. The silly thing is that it normally afflicts you when you deserve to be happy and carefree. It enters your system because you are so happy, you do not want the feeling to end. That it might end, the possibility, makes you realise you can, after all, lose grip and begin to imagine the worst.

And then let it go downhill from there.

To be able to get over the feeling of the ground being ripped off from under your feet even as the blue sky is falling on your head is, as you can imagine, a difficult task. But to let it become a habit and then live either as if the calamity is bound to happen, or wear safety harnesses on firm ground and under clear blue, un-falling sky would be hilarious. And tiresome. So, what do you do?

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Only disappointment

It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.

Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointments come with a choice. You either let it devour you, or force it to lift you up on its shoulder and let you climb on to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable wall. Easy? Hardly.  Continue reading

Only defeatism

It is only defeatism. You can live your entire life giving up before you’ve even tried, die the same way, and not know the baloney of any of it. The bubble you breathe in helps you masquerade as a simple-minded, undemanding, reasonable person. But you’re not that, are you?

Defeatism — an attitude demonstrating the acceptance of or resignation to defeat without a fight — takes time to besiege, and then to vanquish your natural instinct to better the challenge. Oh yes, it takes time. It isn’t like many other emotions that can steal into your soul overnight. It tramples the first tissue in you, deliberately and with an unsurpassed finesse, then moves on to the next, then to the next, and continues for years, until you say (but never openly), “I lose.” Read more

Only wonder

It is only wonder.

Oh, really? Tell it to the girl who can’t stop looking at this yellow butterfly fluttering by to one flower at a time. Or to the boy who’d give his next bar of chocolate to know where that stroke of lightning vanished to. Tell it to me, who firmly believes only simply cannot be used as a modifier for this emotion.

Or can it?

Have you ever experienced the wonder of waking up in the arms of the one you love? Or the depth of  joy at being told the sun is finally shining after weeks of seemingly endless rain? Or have you got wet under that refreshing, pervasive rain after just having said you’d personally go and bomb down the sun god if he didn’t move away? No, wonderment is not an emotion that can go very well with only.

Consider this, though — what if you were to realise that to fully comprehend wonder, you need to acknowledge that wonder is not wonder, but only a means of entertainment or relaxation, unless it makes you reach a newer plane, a newer sense of understanding? How would your experience of that feeling change? What new insight would you sense in the arms of the loved one, under the sun, or between the raindrops? What newer plane will a now-cool, now-warm drop of rain on your forearm take you to? Will this bit of rain on your toenail open up a new dimension of understanding? Or the one on your nose, and the one on your head? And oh look! now they’re everywhere! What newer plane have you reached? Did you travel from point A to point B during those few minutes the sun god panicked at your nuclear threat, and allowed water to quench your thirst?

Wonderment is an interest that at once brings joy, admiration and an urge to know more. Without this urge, wonder would be either joy, or admiration.

It adds more charm to the entire process of opening your senses and acknowledging all that they experience, wouldn’t you say? All of a sudden, this feeling isn’t simply a feeling of marvelling at the depth of it all. The curiosity makes room for an important activity — that of understanding the value of this depth, and, in some cases, its mechanics and processes. Some people are able to make use of this understanding to build bridges, dam rivers, design Tetra Pak and invent post-its. Sometimes, all some people can do it just grin with this knowledge, and then grin more. And learn to know and understand; the learning deepening with each experience.

I am not a scientist discovering path-breaking facts or inventing equally terrific concepts to revolutionise, and bring further wonderment. I am a wonderer, I allow these little wonders to fill me up until every cell within me can say that it has experienced the knowledge of understanding that all is all right, even though it may not seem so — that there is wonderment in everything. In a tortoise struggling to climb up and drag its weary feet over and beyond a stone (which, by the way,  is just a stone for you, but a mountain for it). Or in that clever aluminium-and-cork bottle stopper that keeps even wine as good as old. Or, agree or not, in that beggar’s shiny white teeth.

I travel from point A to point B, each time reaching a newer plane of belief that as long as there are eyes to see and mind to fathom, wonders never cease.

Some scientists believe that the ability to wonder, to be curious about, interested in something or someone — to feel the joy of admiration — is what separates humans from animals. Wonder separates science from religion, some believe. Religion sprouts from awe, while science from wonderment. These aren’t my original thoughts. I read about them on Wikipedia. I urge you to visit it here. It is wonderful how this marvellous emotion defines our innermost being. When I first thought of writing about it yesterday, I thought of the wonder of the beautiful, now experienced, now forgotten things like rain after a hot day, sunshine after a dull one — of the feeling of wonder towards the miraculous, the pleasing. But today, I know that it impresses me as probably the most influential of all the emotions, for it encourages thoughtful action, pulls towards improvement.

Note: If you came here to look for a post called 2020 yesterday or the day before, let me tell you, it wasn’t me that bungled it up. It was Flag Counter, the swanky new thing on my blog that tells me just how many of you are secretly clicking to my blog and from just how many places. Cool, eh? Let’s all forgive Flag Counter for not making Apps for Dummies, then.

Only anger

It is only anger. It’ll go. But it might wilt worlds before it does.

Generations have come and gone, brandishing their awareness of the magnitude of its wrath. But anger keeps claiming its booty. And with time, its victims seem keener to please it.

My problem with anger is that it plays hide and seek with me. Really. It sneaks behind the beaded curtain I love so well. It knows the play of light against the crystal beads will distract me so much, I’ll forget to chase it. But it’s still there, isn’t it? Right behind the curtain, ready to come out and ravage. Leaving me at a pass where the crystal lights look dimmer, the anger’s presence a constant niggle.

I am not sure there is any other emotion that can boast of both explicit and implicit devastation, almost to the same degree. Anger can nibble at the edges of your quietude, even as its unmatched gall is getting ready to pour its bitter rum into that peaceful sponge. It will be devastating, of course. All of it.

All? Well, we’ve heard of constructive anger. And most of us have tried it, too. It feels good, I think. When you demonstrate your integrity with anger in a situation that warrants a little don’t-mess-with-me attitude, you make it constructive. Sadly, it usually only singes the tips of your hair; and that comes in handy just to cull the split ends, if there are any. It may be a win-win situation for you, but like all good things, it takes a large chunk of the drama out.

This emotion is meant to consume you, make you do and say things you’d never have tolerated from another, until you realise you’ve done it. By that time, anger is walking out of the beaded curtain, probably after having filled your home with the reek of its cigar. You could open the windows to let the stench curl out and choke the song birds, but it has a unique quality of lingering long.

Aristotle was a clever man, we’re told. This proves it – “Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way… that is not easy.”

So, in a way, this emotion is not meant to consume you, or make you do and say things you’d never have tolerated from another. You allow anger to pull you to places you’d rather deny existed only because you forget to count the extent of right required to get it right. Tough luck. To make matters worse, anger is usually considered to be the broken teapot you don’t display in your drawing room. The poor, clueless, fragile piece of porcelain languishes behind the thunderous music system, its atoms shuddering at the onslaught of the percussion in your Beethoven. And one day, it shatters.

Like all other things in this world, anger wilts under neglect. Or does it?

Allow me to rephrase. Like all other things in this world, if neglected, anger warps into an ugly thing.

To be able to not feel anger would be like not having to shovel snow in winter. Not possible. The trick is to feel its subtle waves and give it a mature outlet before too much misdirection makes it emerge in a way that is not only hurtful for the person you direct it to, but magically makes you a guilty repeater of the same action in the future. And in all probability, it will come out stronger the next time. And then, neglect or not, the anger will continue to visit your home, it will turn your crystal beads opaque, and it will choke your song birds.

Only greed

It is only greed. But it ruins.

Let it be known, I am not just thinking of that 4th bar of chocolate. And who am I to tell you of your choice of poison? I just know from experience that Greed is a clever sneak that waits for you to feel insecure with what you currently have. And then, it pounces, ravaging your promises, resolutions, values and scruples. It is not easy to fight it. You know it, don’t you? But is it impossible? Adidas thinks there is no such thing as impossible (Impossible is Nothing, the adverts scream). No wonder it is admired the world over. Even if it isn’t, it’s doing good.

Greed and I have been reluctant companions ever since I can remember. Well, reluctant me, at any rate. Ankur’s birthday party is engraved in my mind even though it’s been 30 years or so. (I must’ve been four or five). There was nothing remarkable about the party, no not even the cake. But his room, where I’d ventured during my exploration of his home, had the most wondrous collection of pencils and erasers and sharpeners. The best in the world, surely. And it was inhuman to let him have it all. My enthusiastic companion pounced. The frock I was wearing had no pockets. I had to think of something, and quick, because the voices from the party zone told me that someone was going to come looking for me. I gathered all that I could, picked up my frock to my chest and shoved them all into the temporary pocket this ingenious trick had created. Walking gracefully, as I am wont to, I said my ‘byes to an aghast Ankur, and ran out of the door. Or almost.

“Priya! Stop. Would you like a bag to carry that?”

“What, aunty?”

“There’s something you’re holding along with your frock.”

“No there’s nothing, aunty. I just feel like walking like this.”

“It’s not a good idea, Priya. Let that frock go.”

I usually manage to attend parties without being the toast of it. Or even be invisible at the point where the light occasionally limes. They call it limelight, I think. But at that moment, all eyes were on me. If I said no and ran away, my mother’s teachings of listening to elders would all go wasted. If I listened to Ankur’s mother, I’d lose the treasure. The choice was difficult. After a moment’s hesitation, my hands let go of the frock. The pencils and erasers and sharpeners fell at the doorstep. I had lost the treasure.  And I ran back home as fast as I could. Greed lost.*

Unbridled desire to own more, and apparently better, had succeeded in pouncing, nevertheless.

I now keep my frock well in place, thank you very much (the ingenious ideas have advanced with age), but I do find myself greeding after less interesting things like a quiet night under the stars. How do you get that? How does one steal a quiet night under the stars? But that’s not a part of this essay. The question I wish to ask is, how does one stop feeling greedy for the inaccessible or the extra cheese? Or why stop at all (for the more adventurous)?

This sin of excess wouldn’t have survived as long as humans themselves (we know our propensities) if it were easy to eliminate it. Who’d want to get rid of a thing that gives the kind of joy it does? However ruinous it may be.

Sadhus and saints talk of meditation. Sit, and think of what greed does to you. Concentrate on the evils of excess. Focus on the one energy that makes this world worth living in. Thank God there’s more of us walking the planet. It would’ve been such a moderate world if these killers-of-joy had been allowed to have their way. There’s no possible way to stop the Devil from throwing in carrots when I am trying to look at the One Energy. No, sorry. Perhaps meditating on the sins of excesses is not such a good idea, after all. At least not in my opinion.

Try focusing on what you have, if you ask me. And while you’re at it, it’ll answer the “Why stop?”

* If you are wondering about what happened after that, here’s the rest of the story:

My mother was surprised at my early return. Ankur was my best friend and it was surprising that I came back so soon. I just made some silly excuse and hid my pounding heart. The next morning, Ankur and his mother came with all the things I’d coveted from him. He wanted to give them to me, his mother informed. He ran away after putting them on my lap (I was sitting on the verandah floor). My mother later asked me if I wanted to keep them. Strangely, I did not. So, I went back to his home, and gave him all of them back.

It took much toing and froing, as you see, to realise that I did not want to overcrowd what I already had.

The word ‘aunty’ needs to be explained here. Aunt, as it is used in the west, precedes the name and is always capitalised, like Aunt Pinktoes. The same goes for ‘Uncle’ — Uncle Browneyes. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

In India, the British legacy has been customised a little. First, everyone who’s much older to you is an aunt or uncle, regardless of whether there’s love lost or a relation thrust. Second, the word always follows the name. And it is always aunty and not aunt. Like Pinktoes aunty. And Browneyes uncle, of course.

Only love

Generations in a family love and hate. Usually, it is the love that makes it to photo galleries.

It is only love. Or is it? I would never say ‘love’ and ‘only’ in the same sentence. Or allow ‘only’ to come any closer than two paragraphs. Never. Because — it is an emotion that punches you at a point (still unknown to science, philosophy, religion, and whatever else likes to blow its trumpet)  with such heart-numbing, heart-stupidifying precision that you see stars, feel winded enough to wonder whether you had ever in your life breathed at all, smell heaven from wherever you are, cry bitter tears, and sweet too, see hell everywhere else, or right here — all at once. An emotion like no other. Only? I am not off my rocker.

Why in the world am I writing about it, then? Something that can’t be quantified, judged or in most cases, expressed in words? No, not because it is Valentine’s Week, as the retail market is wont to call it. (Today is Promise Day, by the way.) Perhaps it is because I feel obligated to continue the sequence of emotions I have promised myself to cover in this category. And probably because I love. And so do you. Same pinch. (Or punch).

But I confess there is no purpose, no message to give, no angst to release, no thoughts to share. At the end of this post, you will be right where you started. Some things still have to be done, however. So, for all these reasons, and my love for sparring with the undoable, I am going ahead.

Our dogs' love for killing the grass takes precedence over our love for a breathtakingly green patch. Such is life.

The beauty and horror of love could spin us around a million times over, and back. In fact, it has! Heartaches float invisibly, acting like catalysts to give birth to music, paintings, photos, sculptures. The Wheel, even. And there are even more healed hearts to revolutionise art and science and sports and religion. And the retail market, as we all know. Haven’t you noticed how they fuel all of our planet’s existence, demise and rebirth?  Isn’t it justified, then, to think that it is so, so very empty to try to express it through a card, send in chocolates or big diamond rings? And yet – surprise of all surprises! – it is so meaningful to express it through a card, send in chocolates or big diamond rings. Whatever the choice.

The horror begins when things come to choice, actually.

You simply love biking. And you love your spouse and children, who’d rather sit in the garden and count the bushes. You love counting the bushes and you love them, too, of course. But you have to choose. Bike or Bush. (The latter with your family thrown in as a bonus). Choose both? Choose one? Choose none and run away with a tattoo-maker? Like everything else in the 21st century, there are options galore! (In fact, I suspect it must be for the love of things and misery that we’ve decided to inundate our closets with options. And throw the skeletons out. We have evolved, Darwin.)

So, back to love options. They do cause hyperventilation of all kinds, don’t they, now? And yet we go on. It is a many-splendoured thing, after all.

A tacit understanding of trials and past glories could be love, too. My brother's fascination for sharks must have come from his belief that he was on the Titanic in his last birth and was eaten by a shark on his way down. I believed the same, except I thought I had drowned. We discovered our common belief much later, when we were adults and found it all right to share our hitherto hidden nightmares. After we'd talked about it, the words 'shark' and 'drown' never had the same meaning for us again. And though there is no glory in being eaten by a shark or in drowning, there was love in the understanding.

It is the phenomenon that makes people understand without having to use language. It is the energy that can make a person rise up and say, “I am alive, because I love. And am loved.” It is the lovesome succor for the soul that makes people get up in the morning to make bed tea for their loved one. Or do something else that is their cup of tea. Love, not surprisingly, needs no words to understand. And yet, surprisingly again, words make so much difference. Or gestures. Perhaps love cannot survive without a carrier, regardless of what it is.

The splendours of love. Who’s to count them? And how? And more importantly, why? As long as love for one is there, floating through the mists of life, at once illuminating and relaxing, never tugging at a love for another, there is hope.

Only embarrassment

It is only embarrassment. Ha. Easy for you to say. It was me, however, who endured Aparna’s and Nupur’s cruel giggles. We were 16. The age is considered to be ‘sweet’ for some strange reason.

The occasion was Aparna’s sister’s wedding. While I was getting dressed, I discovered to my horror that my favourite black velvet high-heel shoes had an issue. The left one had separated from its heel. But I had to wear them! So, I stuck the heel and the shoe together in what I thought was a 2-hour safe plan. The adhesive I used was a trusty thing called Quikfix. It didn’t last 30 minutes. They, the velvet killers, were sitting at the opposite end of the room, beside the marigold decorations, staring at my velvet dream and snorting (aka howling in resplendent, cruel delight). The witches.

What stays with me to this day is not the excruciating pain of seeing the left heel peeping askew from beneath the shoe, but the superlative excruciation of seeing those two idiots cackling at the sight of it. Blood rushed to my ears and cheeks. It felt hot. I had to get up and go. I got up. The nearly shoe-less heel knew nothing better than to wobble beneath my weight.  The crescendo of the Indian drums singing praises of the bride coincided with the now-peaked squirts of dolorous, heart-breakingly amused laughter. The last sounds I heard in that room were of my pride being slaughtered at the hands of those, arrgh, the names are too embarrassing for weak nerves. Let it rest.

The point is that embarrassments are never too minor. Ask the one at the receiving end. Ask yourself. Could you call that ballroom scuffle you had with your charming date ‘simply nothing’? When your feet experienced unexplainable magnetic attraction towards your partner’s left big toe each and every time you waltzed?

My sentiments exactly.

To do justice to our superior intellect, however, let us explore the possibilities of overcoming the urge to fall face down on to the murky waters (or whatever else is available, as long as it keeps the  trauma of distressing feelings safely zip-locked) and hide. The importance of overcoming this urge is just one. To relieve yourself of the intense desire to smash the heads of your tormentors. You don’t want to go to jail, should your wishes be granted, do you?

So, what is the best way to overcome debilitating embarrassment?

I don’t know.

I’d say sock ’em on the face and walk out. But what if they are Mike Tyson and Batman?

Or, remove the cause of embarrassment. If you are a red leaf among the gold ones in a Christmas wreath, stop being red. Possible? Nah.

Or, stop feeling embarrassed.

Is it worth a thought? To not feel a deep sense of shame at a situation you have no control over? All right, agreed you allowed your shimmery dress to ride up to your waist at the posh party; every one was too embarrassed on your behalf to tell you; and you discover it only when The Queen is set to honour your (more respectful) doings. We will heartily laugh at your sad predicament. But you can choose to laugh, too! And learn the importance of smoothing out that shimmery dress.

Only jealousy

It is only jealousy. Just a little liquid sensation that fills up your tissues to perk up the senses, you know? I first became a ready and keen practitioner of this emotion when Anita showed me her collection of glass gems and brilliant stones. I was a collector myself, but realised (or so I thought) that the ones I had weren’t half as brilliant as the ones she’d so painstakingly gathered from here and there. We both kept them in our separate plastic boxes. Mine was lined with a sumptuous layer of cotton (my mother had told me this would protect them from scratching each others beauty dim). Hers wasn’t. But they still glimmered beautifully. I had a dull green one I loved best. Yes, I know it was dull and not brilliant, but still. There was something very devil-may-care about it. And something elegant. Anita’s box had a deep purple one I wanted to steal. Each time she went out of the room, I felt my fingers inching towards it, as if they had motor senses of their own. Each time, a little girl perched in the withins of my heart threw a heavy stone that fell right to the depths with a thud. It hurt.  And to add to the trauma, this heartless  connivance somehow defuncted the motorability of my fingers. They had to limp their way back to where my cotton-lined box was. She would come back with lemonade or orangeade, and some biscuits. And we’d discuss the glass gems against the incandescent bulb-light of her room. The drink invariably melted the stone the devil-girl had dropped, which  helped me lift myself up without a heavy stone grinding me to the ground. I’d get up and go home. After just a little glance at Anita’s collection. Oh the purple, purple dream!

Once home, I’d open up my box, ask my mother to come and look at the coloured treasures with me. She’d help me look at the various facets, the play of light, pointing out how each was differently beautiful. “But Anita’s purple one is the most beautiful..”

“Really? But how about this pink one here? I love the tens of sides it has.”

“But that colour, Mummy.”

“I like purple, too. It reminds me of the peacocks we had at home.”

“See? She has a better one.”

My mother usually allowed me time to find out just how I wanted to deal with feelings that made me unnecessarily adamant about stressing the unfairness of the world. And I usually did.

But jealousy, the green, green feeling is something else.

The beauty of this emotion is that you usually get enough opportunity to cover it up with seemingly plausible excuses, and give yourself a chance to feel like you simply must catch up. Of all the emotions I have written about in this category and the ones I  intend to write about, this one makes me feel like I really know it, inside out. I can dive into its icy hug and feel the cold grip me enough to say “I do not have this. And she/he does.” For those moments, it’s as if nothing I have counts. No, I am not an envious witch, who  isn’t happy with what she has. But like most of us, I feel a desire for things I know I do not have (and probably don’t really want). If a small voice inside me says there’s another gem I could stash in my plastic box because She/He has it, I see green. Sometimes it lasts a few seconds, sometimes even a few days. But eventually, thankfully, the stone-dropper drops the stone.

Ours is a world that readily provides easy-to-acquire models with which to mould ourselves. Everything is within reach, the best looking eyebrows, the hottest pout, the coolest car. And the most amazing book ever published. Or that tinkling laughter coming from the other end of the room, reminding you that just this morning your son said your laugh made him nostalgic for Shrek. In this deluge of things you’ll never be or have, you forget that your child painted you a picture for Christmas, your wife once told you how she loved the feel of your fingers against hers. Or how the letters you write to friends make them keep asking for more. What is it that you have that the world doesn’t? A dull green glass gem that may be dull, but shines with brilliance nevertheless. And everyone has a devil-may-care stone-dropper.

Only vanity

It is only vanity. But if you wish to avoid too much exposure to mine, stop right now. The following post is about ‘I’.

In my quest to explore the emotions we humans feel, the one that has often made me stop and throw a confused glance in all possible directions is Vanity. Armed with my own set of virtues, I like to observe and analyse people’s bag of this remarkable emotion (sin, some like to call it), including my own. I find myself quite short of virtues to deal with this one, however. But it makes for an insightful study, so I’ve continued to explore its depths.

To begin handling a concept, you need to know what it means. But like all things I handle, I’ve never had a definition for Vanity.  Perhaps this is the reason my mind feels boggled each time I hear the word. (Oh. And I herewith reveal that all things  I handle leave my mind very boggled. So there.)

Before I began typing this piece on my observations, I sought help at my trusted and it came up with this: “excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit“. While this definition is very definitive (as it should be), I found myself veering towards the example sentence. “Failure to be elected was a great blow to his vanity.”

Given the premise that vanity is a feeling of excessive pride in one’s qualities and/or achievements, I suppose he wouldn’t have seen it coming. (Excessive) pride is blind. But, if he were a not-vain person, would not being elected not be a blow to his acceptable level of pride? I do not have an answer for this, despite my own set of pride-worthy virtues.

To reach a conclusion, I’ll have to dig further.

I have a onerous memory of often hearing the phrases ‘superiority complex‘ and ‘inferiority complex‘ when I was but a little girl. (yes, I rarely hear them these days). I don’t quite remember where I heard them. Could’ve come from my mother who’d had psychology as a subject in college, or could’ve been Juhi or Pallavi or any of those girls who thought they knew the world. I also remember one (or all) of them declaring that superiority complex arises from an inferiority complex. How interesting. Here, I reach my partial view.

All those people who stand out because of a generous share of pride in their heads usually betray a lot of insecurity from time to time. Not always, of course. They are too insecure to betray themselves as a routine. Vanity is much like how Friedrich Nietzsche puts it. “…is the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.” I’d have liked this to have come from my head, but it hasn’t. My vanity does feel a little threatened, but I am going to presently coddle it with reminders that I made these words famous on this blog. That should put it to rest for a while.

It is quite safe to call ego-coddling a global pastime. And I am going to call it just that. Since vanity is nothing but hugging ego till it becomes nauseous with too much attention, the result normally is a bilious substitute to confident humility. The most dangerous (and stinking) result of such a situation is very subtle. Unlike other emotions, this one fails to recognise itself and save the world from its own evil. Vanity is considered to be Satan’s ‘favorite sin’, after all. Embarrassingly, it is the most prevalent one, too. Perhaps the reason is because people don’t wish to expose their actual level of confidence. Show of confidence is unfortunately equated with lack of humility.

I’d like to see people admitting very difficult things like “I do not know” “Yes, I made a mistake” “He/She is a great/beautiful/deserving person” “Yes, I do need to change this attitude”. It is a long list. The people breaching its importance are as many as there are. And most of these suffer from a superiority complex morphed out from an inferiority complex.

Satan must be a happy guy.


Only grief

It is only grief. After all. Picture yourself walking an endless walk, mulling over what was. And hitting a lamp post here, tripping over the grass tufts there, missing the beautiful glow on the baby shuffling around you. All because you are mulling over what was.

Some like to blame it on extra-sensitivity. It is quite a mean thing for a person to say they are more sensitive to emotions than others. All are as sensitive, really. But what makes some smile through the heartache? How are some people able to have room for happiness in their hearts even though there is  tremendous grief invading its being? I daresay it is their willingness to accommodate more. There is no way to deal with a loss, physical, emotional or of any other kind. How could you tell the person who’s just lost their son to get on with life? Or what about the woman who has lost her man-forever to another woman? Grief does invade hearts. Most live through it. Some walk the endless walk, the others walk the endless walk with a smile.

A friend who is currently living alone in the big, unforgiving Mumbai is going through a divorce she initiated after 3 years of being thrown around physically, mentally, emotionally by the man she loved. It isn’t easy to sleep the night alone. Though I’ll wager it would be more welcome than having to live with him. But she loved him, you know? And he treated her in a way no one deserves to be. In her own way, she’s getting out of it. Some very impractical issues crop up in her way, though. She’s been doing up her tiny new spartan flat to make it more homey. I called her while she was in the midst of planning the decor of the small living room/dining space. After endless discussions on how to best accommodate both a cozy living area and a dining space without making it too overwhelming, we were exhausted and hung up. In a eureka-like moment later, I sent her some pictures of cute-looking dining tables for two. For two. “Who’s going to use the other chair?”  What do I say to her about that? She confesses that besides the anger, there is an endless, relentless agony of being let down. Of loneliness that finds its way under one ruse or the other. However concerned, I cannot do anything. If grief were a tub full of stinky, slimy maggots, I would pull her out of it, regardless. But it isn’t.

Another friend, a good twenty years my senior, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as a young girl. Nudging fifty (or nudged it already), she has physical complications relatively healthy people like me will not even have nightmares about. I first met her when she was a newly-wed. My brother Shonu and I loved her to bits. She even had a cuckoo clock. And played Smooth Operator for us whenever we wanted. She showered us with love and affection we never forgot. She’d always known she couldn’t have children of her own. But she’s walking the endless walk with a smile.

There must be grief stories in every heart. Life isn’t so rosy, after all. Losses come and go (or stay forever). People haughty enough to think they can label things label some losses as ‘grief’. Some losses, however, remain unnoticed. Or worse, unsympathised. Like emotional blankets, as if blocking out fresh sea breeze on a sunny day; and making people smile smugly, saying “Must be crazy. Wearing that blanket, I ask you.”

It is alarming how people assume they can generalise the path to a healthy, grief-less life and cater advice. A friend once told me how funny she found shelves full of self-help advice in bookstores on making lives better. There is no way you could understand why I am crying at the loss of my old, worn out sweater, could you?

So how does one find the resilience to tide over the Invasion of  the Unhappy Heart-Wrenchers? To each his own, I think. The friend undergoing divorce is getting there, living each day. I just told her today she’s gleaming in her latest picture like she used to. I am sure she grinned with delight at the other end of the phone, knowing she’s getting there. The friend with debilitating diabetes talks and laughs and makes people around her smile. She makes them feel happiness. She probably is the Secret Happiness Generator. Life must be hiding some of these Generators in Her scheme of things. Otherwise we’d be inundated with grieving people.

Grief isn’t to be dealt with. It is to be lived with. With a smile.

Only fear

It is only fear. Not a big deal, if you think clearly. No, I am not forgetting that when you are afraid, something inexplicable happens to your think-clearly cluster of grey matter. But, strange as it may seem, it is the very key to getting rid of all your angst. Think clearly, reason and drive the vile thing out.

Why get rid of fear? Well, not just because you get tagged a wimp, but also because of darker, scarier places it locks you up in. That should suffice as an answer. If it doesn’t you probably belong to a group of people who believe fear is positive for motivation. Well, not always. And this post is about those other times.

That brings us to the question of how thinking clearly will help. It is very complicated to even begin attempting it, very simple to talk about. I am picking the easier of the two, and writing on how I believe you can stop fear from savaging you.

I have always believed that my set of fears (yes, I admit here and now, there is a set of fears in my secret box) have accumulated over the years because I am too afraid of telling them to get the hell out of my life. They get collected, without my knowledge, mostly. And when I do notice the latest addition, I am too smashed under the load of others to yell “Get out”. What disturbs me the most about fear is what it makes you do, at times. If you look deeply, almost every action you scorn, laugh, scowl at in others (or, if you are brave, in yourself) is a result of some sort of fear. Let me explain with examples. I am told I use semantics, and vaguely, too.

Example 1. Ms. J

Behaviour: Nasty, irritable, hot-tongued

Fear: Afraid someone will someday tell her on her face that she was wrong about her claims that she would make a great entrepreneur. She’s not an entrepreneur. She sits at home and makes life miserable. For everyone.

Connection: She would die before hearing about her failure (a failure possibly only she sees) from others. Preempting people’s reactions, she acts and reacts to imaginary pointing fingers. Frustrated with her fear of failure and consequent embarrassment, she is all set to rock people’s boats before they do hers.

Is anyone interested in rocking her boat? No. Sadly, she’s doing it herself.

Example 2: Mr. F

Behaviour: Constantly ‘in-touch’ with people, volunteering running errands, giving advice, hosting meals.. an endless list

Fear: Of loneliness

Connection: This one is quite simple, really. He doesn’t want to face a moment without ‘someone’ to make him feel wanted and appreciated. He is running around with his bag, collecting camaraderie. Sometimes it does help. Sometimes it makes him an obsessive fool, afraid to be with his own self. The loneliness doesn’t go, because as people say, you must be friends with yourself first.

Could Mr. F shake hands with himself? No. Sadly, he’s more lonely than he ever was.

Fear makes me shudder.

I’ve handled some of my own, mind you. Well, my lily liver is not watery all the way. And the only thing that has helped me get past  these… things is the knowledge that

a. I am afraid

b. I don’t need to be

I may not be much of an expert on this, but this page proves I am not alone when I talk of the importance of points a. and b. above.

So, my mantra for shooing away weeds of angst is taking the first step of admitting there is a certain fear. Of coming early for an appointment, of painting the worst painting of the century, of turning around and seeing my Maths teacher grinning at me.. Oh there are plenty, still.

You see, the moment I accept there is a certain fear, its consequences flash very succinctly in my head. That’s when I am able to (mostly) choose “You won’t get me.” over “Yes, master.”

Yeah. One day my set will be non-existent. I am getting there.