17 August 2018

Friday evening decompression…Faysal’s poetry

“Jo bhi dukh yaad na tha, yaad aaya
Aaj kya jaane, kya yaad aaya
Yaad aaya tha bichhadna tera
Phir nahin yaad ke kya yaad aaya.”

Roughly translated…(Avinash, care to take an alternate crack?)…

“All the forgotten sorrows, came back to me today
Who knows what all I remembered today
Memories flooded of your separation from me
I can’t remember what all I remembered after that”

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3 August 2018

Friday evening decompression…

Ghulam Ali singing Nasir Kazmi’s compositions..

“Main to aaj bahut roya hu,
Tu bhi shayaad roya hoga.
Mere chumey huye haathon se,
Auro ko khat likhta hoga”

Roughly translated (improvements welcome)..

“I have cried a lot today
Perhaps, you too cried a bit.
Those hands that were kissed by me
Must be writing letters to somebody else”

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20 July 2018

Do you wake up in the morning and feel happy and contented?

This is a remnant post from our destination-less journey that Sharmila and I undertook last month. My school friend Partho, his wife Jaya and his daughter Rohini and the two of us had just spent a beautiful evening on the Jersey shores – entirely unscripted. Finding a place to have dinner was a little chore but we did find one and settled down there.

Not sure how the discussion progressed but I soon found myself in a familiar zone. I was the only one fighting for one side of a debate – pitted against three others in this case. Rohini kept a diplomatic silence thru the debate. I can argue for a case with so much passion that I can come across almost self righteous – triggering many an opposing view from others as an instinctive reaction. This case was probably more than that.

Again, I am not terribly sure how I landed up there but I know I was explaining the concept of “Memento Mori” (remember, you will die) and how that drives what I do. In essence, I wake up every morning and remind myself that I am going to die. I have one less day left. And that helps me set priorities on what is truly important for me that day and over the longer horizon. Many of the things I have done in life will be considered counter-intuitive. Some may even call them stupid. But as I explained that evening, it all starts with the end. In fact, I think I talked about the book “The Top Five Regrets of a Dying Man”.

There was spirited – and I am not merely pointing to the spirits in the glasses – pushback from the other three. A big catalysis was that discussions around death and regrets cast a negative cloud on the the whole perspective. Such a gloominess should not be the framework of how we live.

In fact, after about twenty minutes of back and forth, Partha succinctly put it – “Do you wake up in the morning happy? If you do, that is all”.

I resisted all the knee jerk reaction to give an answer. He repeated the question. I let him know that I understood his question. And strangely, I found myself very conflicted to answer that question. I let him know that I will think about it and see what I come up with.

Frankly, nary a day passes without me thinking about that conflict for some time. And I am still not sure where I am on it. Thought it best to pose in front of you.

At the root of it, the conflict is the following: Does contentment work against improvement?

If I wake up very content and happy everyday, would that imply that I will never seek how to better myself and achieve them? On the other hand, if I am constantly thinking of proper priorities because of an impending end, will I be incapable of fundamental happiness?

This question can be extended from the individual to the larger human kind… If everybody imbibed into the “Pura Vida” spirit of Costa Rica, would we make great strides in our lives? Doesn’t fundamental change for the better come a lot from being unhappy with the current state of affairs – that triggers the desire to change the world?

Wake up every morning with a sense of happiness and contentment – for we do have a lot to be happy and content about?
Or
Recognize that the number of mornings left is down by one and refocus your life to make it more fulfilled at the end of it?

Is there a way to think of this where they are perfectly compatible with each other?

What do you think?

P.S. Sharmila, Jaya and Partha, I hope I have represented your side of the argument well here. I know I have my own biases and that can come in the way of articulating the opposing view.

29 March 2018

Beautiful words from Agha Bismil…

… rendered unforgettable by Ghulam Ali

“Unke jamaal-e-rukh pe
Unhi ka jamaal tha
Woh chal diye to
Raunak-e-shaam-o-sahar gai…”

Roughly translated… improvements always welcome..

Her face was resplendent with
Her own lustrous glow
And when she got going
So did the beauty of the sunrise and sunset

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26 February 2018

Memento Mori!

Chapter 12: Paragraph 36.
Last lines of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

“You have lived as a citizen in a great city. Five years or a hundred – what’s the difference? The laws make no distinction.
And to be sent away from it, not by a tyrant or a dishonest judge, but by Nature, who first invited you in – why is that so terrible?


So make your exit with grace – the same grace shown to you”

As I read somebody else put it…
Death is the final act in our play of life. No need to fear it. You know it’s coming. Just make sure you act the hell out of your role while you’re here.

25 February 2018

Curious minds want to know…

Legendary movie actress from India – Sridevi had an untimely demise. While I am not into movies, even I knew of her. Certainly she was famous enough that news of her demise made it to the New York Times.

But apart from the sadness of such a young life lost, I have a pet peeve. Why do news channels report that “so and so died of a sudden cardiac arrest”. ?

What do you mean “sudden” cardiac arrest? Since when have cardiac arrests been taking appointments? Aren’t all cardiac arrest sudden? What is the origin of such use?

6 February 2018

“Memento Mori” !!

This afternoon, I was at the hospice in the Memory Care Unit. I was a little early today. There were a lot of them in the common area. Not all of them were my patients, but I interact with and help all of them, anyways. Or at least, try to.

I had one of those powerful moments today. One of my patients – we will call him Mr. “L” today – who just listlessly walks and has no ability to understand or talk was doing his up and down rounds. After walking with him for some time, I rushed to help one of the attendants who was trying to help a patient yelling in pain (turned out to be a simple issue that was fixed quickly). When I turned back after fixing the problem, I noticed that my friend had walked up to another patient who was in his sofa – let’s call him Mr. “T” – and was blankly staring at him. Now Mr. T has no memory, repeats the same things, will laugh at you weirdly but is very cordial. I was expecting a very awkward moment. (my patient – Mr. “L” also drools all over the place – making a mess of others). But, in a flash of near normalness, Mr. T asked Mr. L – “How are you?”

You have to understand the import of the moment. None of them are “normal” by the normal definition of “normal”. They see each other many many times a day, although I am not quite sure they remember. Just when I was getting worried about a awkward moment when I have to clean up drool, the purportedly recipient of the drool – calmly greeted the soon-to-be drooler!! It was like he was more worried about his friend’s well being than being drooled upon.

I have noticed this among the ladies too. They are in very different state of coherence and cognition and many are outright upset, but put them in a table – and they always look out for each other. They will ask how the others are doing. If we are late in bringing yogurt to somebody at the table, the rest will create a din till their compatriot is taken care of.

It is an amazing feeling. It will make you wonder – where is all this cognitive power when it really matters? It is like they know they are at the hospice center for a few more days but they are determined to live the rest of their days in the best possible human way that their physical state will allow them.

A simple “How are you?”. Often the last words some of them will ever hear. Whether they can process it or not.

The difference though, is in the fact, somebody asked them. Like I said, whether they can process it or not.

In “On the Shortness of Life”, Seneca says… “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”

Put in my way, let’s realize that we will all go one day. That we cannot change. What we can change is what we do from now till that day!

“Memento Mori”!! Remember that you will die!!

Acceptance of mortality can be a downer if one focuses on what one has not done or gotten. And yet, it can be one of the lightning rod for happiness if we leverage that acceptance to make us who we want to be in the days that are left.

That is a choice we have to make every single day.

What is your choice today?