Way Of Life

What should be one’s ideal way of life? We can eat, sleep, go to work, enjoy transient pleasures and try to chart out each day as we go along. But what if it is not satisfying or there is too much of a sameness to each day that is mentally fatiguing? Trying to find new pleasures each day becomes a daunting task and eventually life falls into a rut and most people start searching for something they do not know where to look for. This generally happens in the mid-forties for my generation but it may happen later for the present generation who tend to cling to the illusion of youth for much longer. “Life begins at forty” or even later! No, it does not, your feeling young does not slow down physical aging now, anymore than it did fifty years ago. Many people might be fitter or eat more sensibly, but the years are relentless and unkind and the body only knows its physical age and runs out of resources at the same pace as ever.

Anyway, that was just an aside. My thought was that it is better to have a rough blueprint for life and divide it up into stages and realize when each stage is past and adapt myself to it.

So. I am an unashamedly religious person and a practising Hindu. I am not an atheist, I am not an agnostic, and I am not a fence-sitter who will draw inspiration from all religions. What I have learnt of Hinduism has convinced me that this is my way and at this age, I cannot afford to waste my time wandering down side-roads.

Many years ago I thought that my children would  have all settled down happily by the time I reached the age of sixty. That was a cutoff age for me I imagined when I could stop worrying about each one of them and start living a life of detachment and concentrate on some kind of spiritual development and start living a life of peace and happiness. I may have been naive because I did not know what happiness was. I knew I was imagining a sort of movie ending when everybody is happy and there are no problems in anyone’s life and everybody gets what they want. There are people to whom this happens but I am not one of them.

Now I am past that cutoff age I had set for myself and I realize that I have to still follow my plan now that my children are adults and are living their own lives, because I am not going to stay at this age forever. Of course I cannot reach any spiritual goal in this lifetime unless I get some kind of epiphany but that is all right. As a Hindu I believe of course in reincarnation. So my learning will continue in other lives. At least I will have taken a few steps further down the road.

I realize I will be actually elaborating on the title in my next post. Perhaps I should just rename this as A Hindu’s Thoughts. Or, I Shall Keep To My Plan.





Roots are what give us our uniqueness. If we deny them or refuse to acknowledge them we tend to fill up the emptiness with something that we are not comfortable with in our hearts. Nobody can start on a life journey from a negative place. What we leave behind is what shaped us into what we are today. We can make changes and adjustments or even take a leap into the new but we cannot erase what we are leaving behind. Someone who is comfortable with the past and is willing to look ahead is one who is easy in his skin, as they say. But one who holds his past in denial or contempt has an emptiness that is difficult to ignore as time goes by. The brave new future is only a mirage for one who is not whole.


Being Nice

I think the quality of niceness is vastly underrated now. People want to be seen as being empowered, strong, assertive even aggressive, independent, self-reliant, pushing through their own agenda, any or all of those, and want to be admired by the rest of us who, in their eyes are weak and unable to stand up for their rights. But all these are euphemisms for self-centeredness and a defense of the indefensible.

Does being strong and assertive stop a person from being polite or courteous? A truly mature individual knows how to lead their own lives without trampling upon others. The true test of a gentleman as they say is to see whether he treats his servants the same way that he treats his peers. Someone who knows how to be polite to his boss or his friends should be capable of treating spouse and family with the same courtesy. In fact they deserve more courtesy because they are there for the long haul and have to put up with a lot more bad behavior from one.

Some of the problem lies in the fact that adolescence, in the present times, continues into the late twenties according to social scientists. Where we, the baby boomers were told to take care of ourselves and our new families by the age of twenty-five, today that figure – so they say – represents a mere child who is thus licensed to throw tantrums with the (real) adults standing around trying to shush the immature one with toys and apologies that need to be made not by them really. Anything to buy peace. At what age are they old enough then to be answerable for their actions?

It is very easy to complain of other people’s sense of entitlement and impossible to see one’s own. In my list, intelligence, smartness, money and success all rate far below a generous heart and compassion.

No one has to be nice to anyone of course. But what do they have to lose? Building up goodwill is much more difficult than throwing it away. Apropos of nothing, the most horrifying and despairing part of the book Gone With The Wind – which I read as a teenager – was when Rhett Butler walks away from Scarlett O’Hara with his famous last words, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” to her question “Where shall I go?”.

Looking back at one’s own life it is amazing that we grew up to be perfectly nice people with no help or guidance. I am thankful for everything I have got  and I suspect I don’t deserve much of the good that came my way. I will never apologize for my life anymore. I know I can be proud of myself even if I never had a career or a wonderful education and never earned any money. I am only a nice person who thinks of making other people happy. Maybe that is too little, but not in my eyes.

Give me a sweet-tempered goodhearted person any day. I couldn’t care less about their IQ.

More Thoughts On Being Nice

There are people who think the world owes them and there are those who think they have to pay their dues along the way. To my mind, the first kind might feel triumphant about getting their own way but sooner or later they might find themselves being ignored since they have never thought about anybody except themselves all their lives. After all courtesy is the lubricant needed to ease our way in the world if we do not want to alienate people.

I always thought gratitude or at least, a feeling of thankfulness, is what we need to keep us grounded. But I wondered if perhaps appreciation might be the word I was looking for – appreciating what we have been blessed with deservedly or undeservedly and showing our appreciation by our actions. In school we were taught to count our blessings and to appreciate the fact that we complain about having no shoes when there are those who have no legs. Even psychologists offer the same advice. It is all the more necessary to count our blessings because quite often we come by them gratis and not because we did something good sometime, contrary to what the song says.

But at the risk of being ridiculed as an old woman, which I am, living in the past, which I am not, I will say this. No longer are our young people grateful for anything nor are they appreciative of the good things that come their way. They think it is their right to be given importance but somehow it escapes their understanding that they need to give the same respect and importance to others.

As John Donne wrote, “No Man Is An Island”. Sooner or later, someone who makes a habit of not thinking of anyone but themselves, will find they are as good as an island adrift in the sea. In Tamil there is a saying, “Oorodu Othu vaazh” which means that one should live in harmony with others. Going on one’s own way does not mean taking the road less travelled, it means leaving everybody else behind. One day when you turn back to see , you will find yourself all alone.

That will not be so pleasant. I dearly wish they would teach the Golden Rule in kindergartens “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. That was Jesus but five centuries before Confucius had taught “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself”.

Being Nice – No Apologies

I have thought about it hard and long and have decided that I have nothing to apologize for, in my life. I may not have anything to be proud of, a career, a great education, money or success in my personal life, but I have something that matters far more to me – my children, who have all grown up into wonderful human beings – which makes me truly happy. They are smart, intelligent, well-educated, and successful in their careers, but that is not what I am talking about. Anybody can be all that and more.

What I am really proud of is the fact that they are generous in spirit, compassionate and loving towards all. I am also proud of the fact that I have done nothing to make them that way but that it comes to them naturally. It always has, since their childhood.

Looking back at our own lives, it is surprising that we grew to be perfectly nice people without being terribly successful, amidst difficult times. But I think that is enough for me. I would rather be a nice person (ergo, a “loser”) than a “winner”.