That lovely feeling

I have a feeling it kicks in at the airport, draws me in – maybe it’s something in the air or just being there, with my bags, going somewhere. Where everyone is there to just get on their plane or is getting off it.

The hedonistic feel of leaving it all behind, if only for a few days or weeks. Not that your real life sucks, but getting away from seeing mail that is just more bills, dishes to be washed, food to be cooked and getting up each morning to go to work is a godsend once in a while.

It is very likely that when you travel somewhere, you fall so in love with the place that you start wondering how it would be to live there. It’s like your first love, when you met for the first time. No presumptions, prejudices or expectations, just happy to be there, in the moment.

There are many factors that get us thinking on these lines.  And the reason this works is that we push behind all other logical reasoning around why living there as compared to visiting may not be such a grand idea after all.

1. The weather is divine.

Chances are that the weather is nice, since you probably chose to be there during such a time. At this time, you are not thinking about the harshest weather conditions there, the chilly winds or the sun singeing your skin.

Or, you’re expecting it. There better be a good amount of snow the weekend you plan to go skiing there.

2. It is beautiful.

It’s so beautiful, of course it is. You saw so many breathtaking pictures of the place that it practically sucked you there by sheer physical force. Probably don’t get this view from the window of your suburban home, do you?

3. Being carefree

Days on end when all you have to think about is where to eat your next meal or what else you want in that omelet at breakfast or how to fill the rest of the day. The wind blowing in your hair as you take on one coastline after another, one beach chair after another.

It is far away from the humdrum of a rented or mortgaged life. The bed is always made and the meals are always served.

4. Just me/us two

No distractions of social appointments or commitments and all the time to spare with each other and then some. Or with the friends you chose to be there with.

This is your time to read a book on the beach or sleep or take long walks, take on more museums than gelato or watch the sun go down for any amount of time. To humor yourself in any way you plan to.

5. No time-table

The clock’s not ticking to get you out of bed, the morning commute does not exist. No rush, no routine. Unless you have a full day of fun activities planned of course.

6. Novelty

There are those who don’t like things much different from what they are used to. But for most of the human race, novelty does actually rock their boat. It may be an infinitesimal happiness but it will attach itself to a crevice of your subconscious mind and come back to you at random moments to make you smile.

Sometimes, it’s the food you try. The squid ink pasta that you never tried back home or the dish that you can’t even pronounce the name of but absolutely love or the tacos off the street that you are so scared to see the outcome of but will give in to.

At other times, it’s the new experiences. Snorkeling in clear blue waters, hand gliding over a city, diving with sharks, rubbing a koala bear or boarding over desert dunes. All the times that add up to “remember that time when we..?”

On our travels we also meet new people and discover more about the place, sometimes even forge friendships with them.

Maybe we are just clinging on for a little bit more, and really, why not?

And matches are made in heaven

This discourse is not to justify the notion of arranged marriages. I have gone from being flabbergastingly against the concept to feeling more ambivalent about it in recent times. So, I want to examine the rubik’s cube of this centuries old concept that still exists in India to see what the society, parents and families were thinking about.

1) The dating scene

To know why and how arranged marriages came about, one must understand India and its landscape culturally a little more than from the heights of the Taj Mahal.

Until recent years, kids in India did not date. It was frowned upon, the girl was especially seen as a sleaze and the very act of dating and spending time together was seen as something wrong. 

I was travelling in Europe 15 years ago when I told an American woman that there were no malls where we lived, she said ‘Really? Where do kids hang out?’ I could argue that malls are not the only place that kids should hang out, but there were also no parks to boot or another place where kids could actually just hang.

Cell phones were not common until about 10 years ago, not every kid had their own and texting was not second nature to kids.

So, hindered by such factors, I don’t know..how else would you meet someone!

2) Marriageable age

The society in India has this theory and expectation – that everything should be done by a certain age in your life.

Which translates for men to find a job and with some leeway get married. For the ladies, you need to be ‘settled down’ and on your way to making babies. I would say, at about the age of 23 is when parents start going into panic mode for their little girl to tie the knot. And god forbid, if you haven’t had kids by the ripe old age of 30. Then, you have problems. It’s just assumed.

Practically in a way, there is some sense to it. A woman’s biological clock is ticking and the more they delay the process of conceiving a child, the more issues they and the baby could experience as time goes on.

On the other hand, one is not mature to even know themselves at 23. You may not know what you want from life, much less what you want from a life partner. And settling for someone because the clock’s ticking is not what is going to keep a marriage afloat for the next 50 odd years.

If you have met someone early on in life, then it’s great that you are able to travel together and spend some quality time together before kids arrive on the scene. But again, you just can’t do it because the time is right with a person who’s not right for you.

3) Social strata

Apart from the class system there are also different social strata that are based on your lineage and how much money your father makes. Arranged marriage is society’s way of ensuring that the daughter will we ‘well looked after’ and her way of life will closely mirror her life before she got married. That all her financial needs will be met and money will not be a glaring issue in their marriage.

On the son’s side, it hopes to ensure that their wife was brought up in similar social circles and has the same mannerisms as are expected of women in his family.

Of course, the husband or family having money does not ensure that she will have the financial freedom to spend it and that will not have to justify each purchase. But, one hopes that with enough money in the family, this will not happen.

4) Culture

Being as culturally diverse as India is, every state speaks a different language, eats different food and sometimes even prays to a different god.

Arranged marriage is their way of ensuring that along with adjusting to a new home and family, the woman will additionally not have to go through the effort of learning and changing the very basic that makes up the fabric of her system.

In modern times where joint families are not as commonplace, two people from diverse backgrounds can come together and make it work if they both make their way toward each other and not cling to all they have known their entire lives up until now and try to create an amalgamated family and future together.

5) Looks

This one has a few facets.

With not much else to go by, the first impressions are definitely based on looks. Many a photo is passed upon because the girl or guy doesn’t meet the criteria of good looks. Some factors here are just impressed upon people’s minds, the girl has to be ‘fair’, short enough to be shorter than the guy but tall enough to be about 2-3 inches within his height, thin and just generally beautiful. No matter that she is never going to see the face of a runway and strut her stuff down it, but she will most definitely be showed off to friends, family and foes – that you can be assured of.

The guy’s looks are sometimes compromised upon if he has a lot of money. Sometimes, parents actually recognize that their prince or princess is not all that and go for someone with similar looks too.

If a girl is beautiful, a guy will compromise on money/education or the other umpteen factors to bring her home.

You only have to read one of the many matrimonial advertisements in newspapers or online today to get a laugh out of people’s requirements of looks!

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Arranged marriage thought about the fundamentals of marriage and tried to take care of those. But, that’s all these are – fundamentals. And this is where the system can be seen as flawed, especially given today’s lifestyle and generation.

It may be seen as a way for protective parents to ensure that their child has a great married life ahead but when based on a mere set of shallow factors, it is really not perpetrating the elements that a marriage is made up of in reality.

Arranged marriage can be a way to introduce two young people if they so wish, but parents and families need to realize that the pressure that ensues thereafter to sign the dotted line is not going to do anyone any good in the long run.

There are strong undercurrents in each marriage that cannot be signed through a pre-nup, that have to be lived through and worked upon to make things work. And that is something no one can do other than the two people that make up the marriage.

What kind of traveler are you?

images for blog

There are all types of travelers —

a) those that like to stay in a hotel – people that like to spend most of their vacation time in their hotel room or in and around a hotel. They like to experience the most from their vacation in the hotel.

b) all inclusive resort travelers – people who like an all paid vacation where the resort offers many facilities to keep one entertained for a few days, maybe a nice pool, beach and water activities, events for hotel guests.

c) long term travelers – folks who take off for more than a few weeks to do some detailed traveling

d) caravan travelers – people who prefer to cook their eggs in their own way each morning and don’t like the stuffiness of hotels. Also usually in the category of long term travelers unless they are trying it for the experience or own their own caravan and drive it down to the shore over the weekend

e) RV travelers – people who like their space (so a caravan just won’t do!) with their few creature comforts and are not afraid of maneuvering large vehicles

f) solo travelers – who like to experience life with or without anyone by their side, not afraid to be in a new place by themselves, don’t feel lonely when they are alone, will usually share a drink or two with strangeres and make friends along the way.

g) thorough travelers – travelers who plan everything to the T and have an itinerary in mind for each day of the vacation. Going traveling with them will probably not feel like an aimlessly relaxing holiday.

h) relaxed travelers – people who go for a holiday to de-stress. This may involve laying on the beach endlessly for days, wandering around without a plan and not caring about what they ‘accomplished’ on the trip

i) revelers – people who like a good party. A vacation needs to involve at least a few good parties, a lot of drinking and checking out all the cool spots in town.

j) luxury travelers – nothing but the best hotels will do, price no matter. Be it an eco-lodge, a resort, a hotel or any other kind of establishment, it has to boast five stars or more. Any further inland travel will also be done comfortably and luxuriously with no expense spared.

k) adventure seekers – people who like to go over the edge, even if just a little bit. Their entire vacation may not be centered around thrill seeking activities,but  they will find an opportunity to indulge in some daring exercise.

l) backpackers – this variety needs no description. It’s the traveler that is happy to go traveling with 6 sets of clothes and is out to explore and experience travel from each pore of their body. They can overlap with some other kinds of travelers described above but deserve to be in a category of their own.

m) weekenders – folks who rarely travel for more than a weekend. It could be for any number of reasons, but that is the most amount of travel they can handle at a time.

n) campers – setting up camp and living it out the natural way is what appeals to some. It may be coupled with other activities like rafting or trekking, campfires at night, grilling freshly caught fish over a fire or watching the stars at night.

o) honeymooners – yes i know, most people go on a honeymoon, but I reserve this category for people that will go for a grand honeymoon, but that will probably be the only major trip they will make in their lifetime.

p) family vacationers – people who travel with their family, kids, pets and all in tow. Sometimes, this could involve relatives, near and far — parents, in-laws, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles.

q) travelers with pets – for some traveling with their beloved pet is not a pain, they will not go anywhere without them. This may involve buying a box on the plane, or even a seat.

r) travelers with kids – folks who don’t feel like they should leave their kids behind and then it’s a vacation. They enjoy having the kids around and holidaying with them.

I haven’t called out LGBT travelers because from my perspective they are not a different ‘category’ of travelers. There are accommodations that cater to this group specifically but that doesn’t mean that the way they travel differs from anyone else.

So, what kind of traveler are you? Do you like mixing it up or take it one way?

Some people are intensive sight-seers, taking their travel very seriously..some like their vacations long..some go the short highlights way, some go to enjoy the food and night life.

Whatever your style, the whole point of a vacation is to enjoy it, so however you do it make sure you come back having made the most of it in your own way 🙂

M

What about the living?

We often wonder about the ones who pass away and leave us — what happens to them? The tunnel of light. Are they re-incarnated. How do they come back. What happens to them in the netherworld. How was their journey there. Do they ever miss us. Do they want to come back. Do they come back? Are they somewhere around us. Do they want to communicate with us. What is the afterlife. Is there an afterlife.

But, who thinks about the ones they leave behind. The wife, the mother, the grandchild, the lone daughter or son who shared all their secrets with them, the friend who talked to them for hours.

How do they go on. Do they go on living in a vacuum. Do they keep on living in a shell. Do they pretend that the person is still there around them. Can they sense their lost one in their surroundings. Does time actually heal wounds. Do we miss them lesser and lesser as time goes by. Or is the pain still as sharp.

The stab of disappointment when they feel like that person just entered the room but then realize that they didn’t. When they look at a picture and can remember the sound of their laughter and the warmth accompanying it. The nostalgia of all the good times that they shared. When they want to talk to that person about something, something that absolutely no one else will understand. When they need that person’s advice and can’t trust anyone else. When they walk into a room and can imagine that person sitting there. The way they sat there for so many years that it is imprinted in your mind.

The sense of seeing their clothes brings up images of them dressed in those clothes. The clinginess of wearing their old watch that doesn’t even work anymore. Those sunglasses that remind you of the many times you saw them wearing them. The ring they always wore. And then, how those hands looked and the way they held them. They way they wore their shoes and the manner in which they slouched while watching tv. How they teased you and made you laugh.

Does it ever end? Do you want it to?

There is a constant fight in wanting to forget and wanting to remember. You want to forget because you think it will make things easier to deal with, that you will be able to live easier. You want to remember because you want the feeling of that person around you. You feel guilty that you would forget this person who meant so much to you. You want things to be as they were, because things were good that way. So inside of you, you keep that emotion going that they live on.

At one point, one may feel that their own life is worthless and they can’t go on. Then one starts coming out of their shell to notice the world around them again. They start living a normal life and enjoying pursuits that interested them. They don’t necessarily go into a depression (not everyone that is). The recollections come in spurts, sometimes many, sometimes not so much. Sometimes, they catch you unaware and you feel a pang.

The pain recedes and vivid memories live on.

 

The problem maybe ‘YOU’

Another valuable lesson taught to me by my dad..

Every time I complained about someone or something to my dad, or my mood was sour because of something someone did, he would turn it around and question me. “Why is it that this person only affects you this way. If he/she were really that way, everyone would dislike them”. I also developed my arguing technique over the years and debated that ‘the person had different interactions with their parents and family so obviously they wouldn’t be affected in the same manner’. Well, that’s all well and good, but it still doesn’t account for all the other people that don’t mind being around them.

Alright, hard to win that one.

So, his point was not to say that you have to be in love with everyone, and never have any hard feelings against anyone. One would have to be a saint for that and that takes too many years of practice in isolation to be!

He was trying to explain to me that if this person’s words or actions were affecting me in this manner, and I wanted to change that, then  there were 2 factors — their behavior and mine. There was absolutely no control I had on them, so that left some work to be done on myself.

One needs to understand that they have very little to no control over people and their surroundings. So,  one needs to give up the hope of always giving someone their piece of mind in order to change how you feel.

We discuss this sometimes in our meditation group, and everyone’s perspectives are interesting. This seems to be a goal that most of us share — to not let others affect us by making us agitated, angry and ruining our day.

“I gave way to this person who was cutting me in traffic today because if I didn’t it would cause a lot more hassle to everyone else” 

“I smiled at this person who I would have normally gotten mad and yelled at because of what they did, and it felt weirdly right!”

“I gave them metta (loving kindness) when that was definitely not what was on my mind” 

It doesn’t work all the time, I think it is a skill that can be honed over time for interacting with most people. And then there are some that no matter what you do, can still get on your nerves. If it gets to a level where you are surrounded by people who you are not happy to be around, then it may be time to get yourself out of that environment or away from it. A slightly tweaked version of the technique would work for these — keep your distance and don’t let them affect you. You should not let it change who you are as a person, or affect your confidence or personality.

But at all other times, keep calm and smile 🙂

Music Inspiration – What makes you beautiful

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Hey, the popularity contest is over. Didn’t get the memo?

It was over a while ago. It’s all about you now. It’s always been. It’s all those insecure people that have nothing but that sense of ‘belonging’ anchoring them that live by them anyway. You? You could stand out on your own, out there on a cliff with waves crashing about you, and stand strong through it.

Did you forget the time you were fun, all on your own too? Karaoke with a hairbrush, Sunday morning brunches, walks on the beach, sitting by the window sill making crazy art, or prancing about..that was all you! What happened?

No time?
Had kids?
Grew up??

So what!

Did someone give you a checklist of what you need to be when you’re all grown up? No! It’s yours to write.

These are the things that made you, you. And you have to continue being that person. You don’t enjoy all the things your friends/family/everyone else does and neither do they, but if we all started blending into each other’s likes and dislikes, we would all be one giant mass of goop!

So, remember those times that you forgot about the rest of the world and smiled by yourself. Do that thing again. Take the time out, it might take an effort in the beginning. It’s a change and may not come easy but you can do it. It is what’s going to keep that spark alive and keep you going as you keep getting older and older 😉

Hogmanay and other things..!

fireworks

I wished a colleague a Happy New Year the other day and he threw a ‘Hogmanay” back at me.

I thought most people in the west did your basic ‘Happy New Year’, granted everyone celebrates their own way..from partying till the wee hours of the morning, to watching fireworks or watching the ball drop and calling it a night, and some calling it a night way before midnight —  hey I’m not judging.

But, this piqued my interest. Do people in other countries call it different things, what does Hogmanaying involve and are there peculiar things other people do to ring in the New Year?

So, I went sniffing..

As one would expect, countries in the same geographical area or with similar languages/cultures share some traditions..

In Asia —

The Indian New Year is hearkened by Diwali – the festival of lights around October or November.

The Japanese New Year is called Oshogatsu.

In Vietnam Nguyen Dan is the name for the New Year and Tet is the first morning of the year.

In the Phillipines everything in circles symbolizes wealth in the form of roundness of coins. This is represented in clothes and food.

In Bhutan it’s called Losar, comes around in February or March and the celebrations last for 2 weeks! Alcohol is an important part of the celebrations and the highlight of  is archery competitions held throughout the country.

Bangladeshis call it Pehla Baisakh or bangabda. A new book of accounts is opened on this day.

Nowruz is start of the new year in Afghanishtan and comes around in spring. Festivities go for two weeks and involve traditional music and dance and Afghan feasts.

The Sri Lankan new year falls on the 13th or 14th of April and is known as Aluth Avurudhu and is recognized as the end of spring. Houses are also cleaned and whitewashed or painted to herald the new year.

Happy New Year in Chinese is Gung Hay Fat Choy and falls on a different day each year. China celebrates this for a whole month as the Spring Festival.

Europeans do it their style –

Hogmanay firstly is what Scots call the last day of the year and it is a signal to start partying for a day or two (it could end on Jan 2 which is also a bank holiday!)

Say Sylverterabend if you are in Austria.

In Belgium it is Sint Sylvester Vooranvond  – a variation of the Austrian version, hailing St. Sylvester. New Year’s day is Nieuwjaarrsdag.

Poland also goes for a St. Sylvester’s Eve.

Serbia and Switzerland like to celebrate twice – on 31st December and 13th January – also known as Sylvester’s Day by the Swiss.

Many countries in Europe believe that making a big noise frightens bad spirits away and clears the way for the new year.

In this spirit, the Irish bang bread on the walls and doors of their house. The Danes take it a step further and break plates against their friends and neighbors’ front doors. Jumping off furniture in Denmark is also meant to bring one luck in the new year.

Ukraine joins Switzerland in celebrating New Years twice, calling 13 January their ‘Old New Year’. On 31st December they toast twice as well, Moscow time at 23 hours and then at the stroke of midnight.

In France, it is Jour des Etrennes – which translates to the Day of New Year’s presents.

The Czechs have an interesting tradition that after the first midnight kiss with your special someone, one can kiss anyone else they like and your spouse or partner should not be jealous!

In Finland, a unique custom is to throw molten tin into water and the figure out from the shape that forms what the future has in store for you.

Germany and Slovakia do something similar where they drop molten lead  or tin in water and the solidified shape predicts the happenings of the new year for them. Most shapes have pre-defined meanings for e.g. a ball means good luck. Germans call it the Neujahr.

In Spain and Portugal people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one promising good luck for each month. Wearing blue slippers or underwear also symbolizes good luck in the coming year 😉

Norway does a Nyttarsbukk where children go from house to house singing songs and people give them candy, much like Halloween in the US.

Malta apparently is the place to be if you’re looking for a party destination for NYE.

Russians have a tree for New Year’s called Novogodnaya Yolka and a version of Santa Claus called Father Frost with his granddaughter Snegurochka the snow girl. The tradition of Christmas presents occurs at this time there.

In Estonia, in older times people believed that eating 7 times on New Year’s day would mean that you have ample food in the coming year.

Australia:

Australia is famous for the fireworks over the Sydney Harbor Bridge which can be seen from around a 16km radius of the city center. People sometimes camp out for a day or two to be able to get a good view on the night.

Central and South America:

The color of one’s underwear is of special significance in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela and Columbia. Yellow is believed to bring good luck and red will bring you love!

If you really want to travel in the new year, carrying a suitcase around the block at midnight may help!

In Panama, effigies of well known people are burnt signifying doing away with the year gone by.