Thursday, May 28, 2009

Follow That Rainbow

There's a little doll hanging over my desk in the office... a small red and white figure of knitted wool. It's probably no more than a few grammes in weight, but it's loaded with meaning...

Having quit her job, "CD", my friend and ex-colleague, gave it to me just before she walked out of our office for the last time, last Friday. There's one like it on the desks of all her other team members. When she gave it to me, she just said "Remember me..." 

One does not easily forget a colleague like CD; attentive, analytical, efficient, team-oriented and caring. I have chosen to look at her parting gift, not as a reminder of her, but of a principle she exemplified... that of following your heart's calling... following your dream.

CD's decision to leave her job came as a surprise to me, especially because she had just been acknowledged as an outstanding performer and been given a suitable raise. I wondered why she would quit at such a point... it seemed inconceivable that one would leave just when a tangible improvement occurred in the current situation. The answer was even more surprising; she was not moving on to another job in another company, but instead taking a break from work, in order to study further. She is already a top-notch psychologist, in terms of her awareness and command over the subject;  she has now decided to pursue her passion for languages and complete advanced courses in German. What I find most commendable in this is the difficult choice she had to make, i.e. leaving her relative security and stability of her job, to return to life as a student for some time.

I must admit, I was all admiration for her decision. It takes great courage to forsake the familiar and embark on a different journey, even if it is one that will take you closer to your dreams. I thought of CD and noticed the quiet determination with which she had been pursuing her dream all along, even as she balanced work and family life alongside. Even while working, she had completed a course in the difficult language of Sanskrit, preparing hard for her oral and written examinations. She followed this path, even when work through uncommon hurdles in her way, persevering in places where I know many others would have grown weary and given up.

Her decision to pursue German at this point in her life is a bright example of the importance we should give to the dreams that put a smile on our faces, as we think of what it would be like to realise them. It's important to never lose track of them, even while we might be treading on a different path for external reasons. There is always a choice and there are always options... we have to try and be open to them... and sometimes take a little risk as well.

Our team's parting gift to CD was a picture of her realising a long cherished dream in London. It was a picture of her in Lord's, the stadium she had always wanted to visit, being an ardent fan of cricket. She went to London on a project, and took the first chance she got to visit the "hallowed grounds". In that moment she achieved something rare... a moment where her current path coincided with a long held aspiration. It's just wonderful when that happens...

We gave her a picture of herself in Lords as she came up some steps into the galleries, contentment written large all over her face. That's the expression I wish we will all have, sooner than later, if we don't have it already.

Think about it... what are your dreams?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Small Part of You (and Me)

I've just finished reading "The Last Lecture" by the late Randy Pausch, who left an indelible impression of what life really means, even as pancreatic cancer took him steadily towards an untimely demise. I've never felt such a curious mix of emotions as I read a book... sad, inspired, annoyed, hopeful and finally peaceful. I think I am now a part of the thousands of people who wish someone like Randy had lived on, but cherish the legacy of inspiration and dynamic proaction that he has left for his family and the world.

There are many thoughts that had an impact on me as I went through the book... but I want to focus on one insight that really impressed me. Towards the end of the book, Randy mentions an incident wherea well-wisher wrote to him about Krishnamurti, and Indian educationist and spiritual leader. Someone once asked the great man, what is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who is going to die soon. Krishnamurti replied saying "Tell you friend that in his death, a part of you dies and does with him. Wherever he goes, you will also go. He will not be alone".

I spent several long moments contemplating what this meant... the context is particularly relevant for me at present because my grandfather isn't in the best of health and several doctors have told us to be prepared to say goodbye. Now, I'm not exactly the most believing of people when it comes to what doctors have to say. I know they're speaking with the authority of scientific practice and I truly respect that. It's just that I've seen several medical predictions go into the dust because of factors that are beyond the purview of "modern" medicine. I'm willing to believe, even now, when he's just recovering from a pacemaker replacement, that he could make it and continue to spend quality time with his loved ones. Optimism is something I've adopted, because life has shown me that it works when many tangibles fail. So whether it is time for my grandfather for meet his maker, or if he has many years left amongst us, I want it to be spent happily and with as much learning and growth as possible. Reading Randy's words made me believe that more than ever.

As you can see, I also tend to get a little tangential when I'm in the mood to talk about something that makes me think! Let's circle back now, to Krishnamurti's thought, about a part of us going away with people we love, when it's time for them to leave this world. The first thought I had when I read this, was "How true! But maybe not exactly the way it's written... there must be more between the lines..." The only experience I've had with death is the passing of my grandmother, last February, and I've spent a lot of time thinking of what effect that event had on my family and me. Do I think a part of me died with her... not really, in that I don't feel like there's something missing in me. Our love does not remain in a form that can be perceived by others, but I believe that it stayed with me and went with her soul. She took with her countless lessons, insights and the gift of love that she received from the life she left behind. I think that's what we carry with us when it's time to move on... we might be unaware of it, but we're always packing for that journey (which makes me think... let's be careful and particular about the baggage we lug, shall we?). When our loved ones leave us, I believe they take with themselves powerful impressions of the happiness they experienced with us, and leave us with similar impressions. We are supposed to look back on these from time to time, to draw strength and inspiration from them, which we can channel into the present and our relationships with other people.

Another thought I had today, is that most of my dearest friends don't live in the same city; most don't even live in the same continent! We've all changed in some ways, perhaps even grown more distant than we'd have liked... but that's a part of life. Whenever we meet, the good times just come rushing back and our affection for one another is even more pronounced than it used to be... maybe absence does make the heart fonder! When we went our separate ways, I think we left each other with memories (impressions) of precious moments we had spent with each other - joys, sorrows, triumphs, defeats, revelations etc. etc. - when we go back to those moments it's almost like we're living them again to the extent that we can feel what we felt then and react in pretty much the same way (well... maybe a little more rationally now... just a wee bit!).

I think these are the "parts" that Krishnamurti talks about. About giving someone a derivative of what is essentially YOU, that they can keep with them for life (and beyond). It doesn't make you less when you give it because you get something from them too. It lasts beyond the tenure of relationships, social trends and even lifetimes... just read some books by Brian Weiss and Mitch Albom, if you haven't already.

Today, I wish you much love and the profound joy of fulfilling relationships, now and and forever.

God Bless!