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.

That’ll be all, thank you

Lend this post a little patience, and read this excerpt

That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

“But the Solar System!” I protested.

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

Mister Sherlock Holmes must’ve startled not only Dr. Watson, who was to become his trusted friend later, but also the readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book called A Study in Scarlet. When I first read this as a dreamy-headed school girl, I was amused at the thought of someone choosing to not know information thrust at him. Someone after my heart, he seemed to be. But I wouldn’t have the audacity to tell my Maths teacher that algorithms and calculus were of no use to me, would I? So I just allowed myself a chuckle or two. Coming back to Mr. Holmes’ philosophy, let me tell you that after subsequent re-reads (and there’ve been many), I began to see some logic in what he has so succinctly put (Forgive me if I mention him as if he did walk this earth) -“…for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before…”

Fast forward to today’s world, where I maintain three e-mail accounts, one for business, two for pleasure (!). The latter ones are inundated with forwarded mails promising good cheer/awesome knowledge/memorable laughs/unmentionable humour, and several other things that could easily put Mr. Holmes’ spartan mind-room in a spin. And I receive a good amount of them on a daily basis. How will my poor room look like with all the clutter? The pink kittens waving at me, mewing that the world is beautiful; the world’s swankiest hotel rooms telling me I’ve earned zilch; the lovely maple trees in Canada reminding me I love red autumn but will probably not see it today. So much information. Such temptation for a curious mind. It is difficult to handle. Much like a supermarket full of mouth-watering food, or that onslaught of mean reminders at school that probably eating 650.5 calories per day will make me look like whatshername. I’ve been tired of these various suns vying for attention for some time now. Suns that tell me to revolve, just for this one moment.

I open these mails and text messages, not read them and go back to the Inbox to open another. This routine is mainly because I do not like unread mails and I do not wish to read forwards.  Since I do not wish to delete them either, I keep them in store for a rainy day when I might need good cheer/awesome knowledge/memorable laughs/unmentionable humour, and one of the several other things. During this routine, however, someone’s solar system does come within my radar’s sensors, and I add a furniture or two to my not-so-spartan mind-room. The room had to protest. It had to happen. One such promised keep-up-with-the-world forward broke my camel’s back today.

It was a video of mama elephant delivering baby elephant in Bali zoo. How splendid the work of Mother Nature! Despite foreboding of something unpleasant about to come, I kept watching the mother struggle to get the baby out. It did finally come out, along with ponds full of its mother’s body fluids. The presenter was in awe. He had to be, he’s an elephant watcher. But what was I doing, watching the video? I did feel a certain sense of awe, being privy to Mother Elephant’s personal success, and her patience and concern, but why, really should I watch a recorded video of elephant delivery? That is when the back broke.

Information overload is another in the list of immoderate indulgences we face on a daily basis. And like all other things, we notice it only when it is time to consult a  commercial guru. No one else is equipped to handle such blatant imbalance. At least that is what the gurus tell us. Don’t you think it is like having an invisible hand controlling your own and forcing you to eat, eat, eat? All along it is your own hand, actually. But you have to go to someone to help you beat the stars out of the invisible hand so that you can control your own. Phew. So much work will make any self-respecting 21st century citizen say “I’m beat.”

Just a little help from Holmes will be enough, though. I said ‘No!’ to algorithms and calculus back in school and am walking with my head held high, regardless. I might have had the experience of watching an elephant birth while I’d rather have not stared at my computer screen. But I’d like to say now, “That’ll be all.”

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.

Of relationships, onions, boats and negligence

Boats are a lovely concept. Besides being a useful one. Much like relationships. And a little like onions. How, you ask?

Onions are

a) useful

b) hardly lovely

c) enhance your experience (of food)

Boats are

a) useful

b) mostly lovely

c) enhance your experience (of work, leisure, sea/lake/pond/river-faring)

Relationships are

a) useful

b) generally lovely

c) enhance your experience (of life)

Sunken opportunities…neglected and defunct

Amazing as it is, there can be more on the list of similarities and almost-similarities. Consider this.  The various layers these concepts comprise are quite uncanny in their likeness. What layers? Onions, with their proverbial layers, need no more explanation, I hope. Otherwise I’ll have to consider banning you from reading my very-intelligent blog. (If you continue reading hereafter, you are herewith not-banned.) So then, relationships have layers too. The layer of genuine love covering that of reluctant resignation, perhaps covering that of deep fear. I don’t know. Relationships come in all sorts of layers, trust me. And a little unlike onions, they are usually very, very unpredictable sheaths of really unmanageable stuff. I mean, you can handle a little tear flow with the onions, right? How about exploring, chopping, uncovering the layers of a relationship? So, very difficult to predict. And copious amounts of tear-jerking.

And then take the boats. It’s a little difficult to see the connection, I know. Let me help. If you know a little about boats, you’ll know anyway. I know practically nothing about boats, but I know. See, the basic structure of the boat is shaped around the hull, which is the part that keeps the boat afloat. If you google the structure of a hull (which I did, to make my case stronger) you will see the intricate, sometimes layered pattern of this crucial bit that keeps these amazing concepts afloat. In this case, the sheaths, layers (also called backbones or ribs) are precision-based marvels, designed to succeed. Predictable, sometimes unpredictably prodigious, but layers nevertheless.

In my opinion, boats, relationships and onions are quite an awesome combination to prove that anything you consider trying your hand at, you better not underestimate it. Throw apathy out of that window you keep staring out of (or perhaps choosing not to stare from, because the Windows (of a plausible version) in the other line of sight keeps you busy enough). So when the connection is established between the three, consider this as well:

You neglect:

your onion – your food is devoid of the lovesome nutrition, taste, wholesomeness it provides

your relationship – your life is devoid of everything*

your boat – you are devoid of your life.

*well, mostly.

Nudges

When it is time to move on, you feel this eager nudge. Strangely, the direction of this nudge differs from situation to situation.

When it is time to leave your adamant son in his new flat in a big, mean town, you feel the nudge to run back to him and give him a hug (or maybe slap him hard on his back and then hug; whichever he deserves more), hoping the tactic will guard him against all odds you fear await him.

Or consider the nudge you feel when you are sitting in an overcrowded train, commuting to save your life, financially or socially or just-ly. The nudge that nudges you to get out of there RIGHT NOW and find a place that doesn’t make saving your life such a bore.

Nudges are important, you see.