Friday, 25 July 2014

Vol 33: The Arts of Giving and Being

Good tidings to you, fellow Peeker (Positivity Seeker).
This week, we will peek into the Art of Giving and the Art of Being. The latter expands the former and the former promotes the latter. These two underrated art forms seem to be quite intertwined. Shall we explore them this week through some amazing true stories?

News from the public domain

Happiness and unhappiness are not opposites
Trust the New York Times to occasionally come up with an article that serves a dire need of the hour. This article by Arthur C. Brooks is worth many reads. But for those who don’t have the time for even a single skimming, here’s the gist: if the mantra of your life has, subconsciously, been Love things, use people, then it’s time for a reversal. Love people, use things. Simple. If you are interested in how the writer traces his thoughts to that nugget of wisdom, please… please… read the article.
McCall Smith and his islands
Have you read Alexander McCall Smith’s wonderful novels set in Botswana? Oh, the sublime simplicity of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series gives me Goosebumps!! God bless the publisher who decided that such an offbeat concept would win hearts the world over.
Well, last June, McCall Smith bought uninhabited islands north of Coll in the Atlantic Ocean. But this bestselling Scottish writer admitted to being “embarrassed” to be referred to as their owner and now states that he is looking after them for the nation. Two things popped right out from the story:
One, he realized pretty soon that owning something beautiful and “virgin” gives limited pleasure. Two, such pristine pastures actually belong to Nature.
Better to appreciate than to own, as this article strives to demonstrate.
The fisherman and the businessman
Parables remind us that life is, in fact, simple. Some of let us know that it's okay to just be.
Most of you have probably heard of this parable of the fisherman and the businessman. Even if you have, you are likely to enjoy it.
The father who gave
Due to a technical problem, I was not able to enjoy the audio in this film. Yet, it pulled me in. I daresay the same will happen to you.
The extra dollop of happiness came from the discovery that this film was made in Singapore - not a place known for such things.
The acronym for blame
Sometimes, we acquire a positive outlook when we realize the pitfalls of the negative. So how about devising an apt expansion for B.L.A.M.E? The idea builds into a short and sweet Art of Being story.

This happened to me

Regular readers of the Positivity Weekly will remember that my friend Priyamvada runs a free Primary Health Centre in Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh as part of the Satsang Foundation. She has unfailingly contributed to both News from the public domain and This happened to me. Heading an institution that practises giving has exposed her to many challenges as well as moments of great tenderness. The story below, told in her own words, belongs to the latter category.

Wanted to share a very positive experience during this medical camp. This time, an ophthalmologist participated. We were getting our school children screened for correctional errors and we had let it be known that the general public would be seen only after the school children left. However, a lady was persistently trying to get in. Because of this, she was brought to me. She wore a tattered sari and was very unkempt. Looked more or less like a beggar. I asked her what the issue was. Being paralyzed, her speech was not very clear. It took me some time to understand what she was saying. But when I did, I was overcome with emotion and my heart was filled with gratitude.

She wanted to reach the eye doctor to tell him that she wants to donate her eyes and that if there was a form to be filled, she would do so right now and put her thumb impression on it. She wanted no legal hassles when she passed away.  This was a lesson for me in the Spirit of Giving.

Since the doctor was not carrying copies of the form, I reassured her that I would bring the same when I next visited an eye hospital. She profusely thanked me and left. What a lady! Maan gaye Guru...

In conclusion

I'd like to convey my gratitude to Sowmya for diligently contributing stories to this newsletter from behind the scene. Three of this week's stories are the result of her groundwork. With such strong support, Positivity Weekly is bound to go from strength to strength. And all of us can continue to experience an uplifting dose of content.
Meanwhile, I will continue to hope that you too write in with your feedback, story ideas and personal anecdotes. You can reach us at

To read the previous volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Vol 32: Bonds. Important bonds.

Good tidings to you, Peeker (Positivity Seeker).
This week, we shall look at the dimensions and health of various bonds we create with human as well as non-human entities. So without much ado, here comes our collection.

News from the public domain


17 things happy people say every day
We become what we think, said the Buddha. Other wise men remind us that our language shapes our reality. So when a positive thought manifests as a positive expression, we create an aura of happiness around us. We breathe health into our relationships. Bill Murphy Jr reminds us of this simple ideal through an article that reveals the power behind affirmative everyday expressions. My suggestion: read it as if you don't already know these obvious truths to receive its full impact.
Empowering the "juvenile"
'Luck defines the circumstances you are put in,' says Indian American Anish Patel. If all children are given equal opportunities, will they all not blossom? Aren't "juveniles" merely youngsters who have not received care and direction? With such thoughts in mind, Mr Patel founded an NGO called Uplift Humanity at the ripe old age of 20. Because who better to help teenagers than other teenagers? Close to 70 Indian Americans traveled to India earlier this month to implement a substantial rehabilitation initiative. This hot news comes to us from a Wall Street Journal blogger.
13 reasons to love music
Quite often, when we talk about relationships, we forgot those we share with non-human entities. Like work, food, money, emotions etc. Music is one such entity. It defines us and refines us. Sometimes, it confines us in a particular mood. Here are 13 reasons why we mustn't undervalue our bond with music.
Are you sex-positive?
'Being sex-positive means respecting the sexual freedom, choices and lifestyles of others. It eradicates any hierarchies that assert one kind of sexual practice as better or “more righteous” than another,' explains one article on this idea termed sex-positive.
I wonder whether we are ready to have this conversation today. Perhaps we are expanding out of limited ideas about sex. Ideas such as what sex is, how much it should be enjoyed, with whom, in what manner etc. This futuristic video may well be pushing the frontiers of acceptability. But the question remains: what's our relationship with sex? How much does this relationship impact our outlook to life? Individuals will have to decide for themselves what role sex plays in their lives. From the asexual to the uber-sexual, we all need to be sex-healthy. Being sex-positive will probably follow automatically. So here's wishing us all a sex-healthy future, a future somewhat similar to the one depicted in the above video.

This happened to me

Perhaps you have heard of the Seva Cafe? It's a novel experiment in generosity, marked by phrases such as "paying it forward", "gift economy" and anonymous acts of kindness. Simply put, participating joints (usually a restaurant, cafe or any other kind of eatery) will host a Seva Cafe on a given Sunday, without warning, and invite random customers to experience an atmosphere of pure giving and pure receiving.
Since 2012, I've been privileged to participate in a few Seva Cafes as a volunteer (and occasionally, as a customer) because my good friend Susheel's restaurant Vriksh pioneered the concept in Bangalore. Last Sunday, Seva Cafe was hosted for the second time in south Bangalore. This time, the venue was a newly minted vegan joint called Paradigm Shift.
The morning began with a misty drizzle and the serendipitous lack of traffic on the roads of Koramangala. Sundays in this busy suburb resemble classrooms during summer vacations. All the loveliness intact but not an ounce of hoopla!!
I reached Paradigm Shift a tad late and was immediately embraced by a infectiously enthusiastic gang (yes, gang) of fellow volunteers. Here's a representative sample of those lovely folks:

  • A "clown" who entertains patients in hospitals, the Elderly in geriatric homes and other ecosystems that can use a hearty cheer.
  • An educator of special kids who also happens to be a theatre enthusiast, singer and ace student.
  • A businessman who seldom misses a Seva Cafe because he sees bigger gains in generosity than profits.
  • A wine-maker who distills the good stuff from fruits, vegetables and whatnot. At other times, she teaches Life Skills.
  • A passionate photographer who spends his weekdays as a techie.
Again, this is just a representative sample. Barring a few old hobos like me, most of the volunteers were in their early twenties. Over the next few hours, I watched these young people coordinate seamlessly in an envelope of chaos. I had the luxury of being a spectator because, having sliced off a small portion of my thumb with a machete during a procession of chopped vegetables, I was less than useless as a worker.
The meal was prepared with zeal, consumed with gusto and then the music, which began early in the midmorning, attained a tempo that can only be termed magical. Every guest stayed back to soak in the vibe. Soulful numbers and old ad jingles were sung with equal panache. Nightclubs cannot replicate such a frenzied mood in their dark environs even by paying top dollar. But here, on this rain-filled Koramangala rooftop, strangers bonded like lifelong friends. Smiles and hugs were the currency of the hour.
I felt humbled by my young fellow volunteers. What would I have given to have their sense of purpose and optimism when I was their age! Once I shrugged off my envy, I knew one thing for sure - with such brilliant and kind people in our midst, the future of India is in good hands.
When I bade goodbye to Paradigm Shift, my lips moved in a prayer of thanks.

In conclusion


I must add a negative note here. I want to point out that during the week that an innocent 6-year-old's body was violated by beasts, elsewhere in the same city, wonderful things were happening. Perhaps the world can notice Bangalore for not just the wrong reasons this week.
As always, do write in with your feedback, story ideas and personal anecdotes. You can reach us at
To read the previous volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.
To read the next volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Vol 31: Because Life values us back

Good times to you, Peeker (Positivity Seeker).
As regular readers of our humble newsletter know, the strangest patterns emerge in each of our volumes. This week, we seem to have stumbled upon stories starring single people, some of whom remind us of more forms of love, others telling us that Life isn’t incomplete in the absence of romance.
Yes, the theme of the week is not Smug Single People!!!  This week’s plea is to value Life, so that it values us back.

News from the public domain

An atheist who will make you cry
Maurice Sendak held on to his atheism probably till the very end. He also held on to his ability to love the world and appreciate its beauty till the very end.
What you will hear in this memorable interview is this writer’s voice, loaded with emotion, bravely expressing what he felt within. And what he felt is so beautiful that I mustn’t spoilt it for you.
Well... in case you are don’t have the five minutes and five seconds required to hear him speak, well, here are three things he said:
I’m a happy old man.
I will cry all the way to my grave.
Live your life, live your life, live your life!

Three Lies that keep you from simplifying your life
Who amongst us has not been seduced by the lure of the open road? And who amongst us hasn't simultaneously been admonished by Matron Reality?
Well, here’s what a minimalist experienced when she plunged into open sunshine.

Zohra Sehgal rings out
In Vol 23 of the Positivity Weekly, we celebrated the marvellous life and personality of Zohra Sehgal as she turned 102. The gifted actor passed away earlier this week. Time to celebrate her a little more by watching what appears to be a sad video of her reciting a poem written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, but in fact carries a telling message in the end. The universe has much more to offer than romantic love. For those who seek, there are other worthwhile battlefields and blessings. Go forth, explore.

Freedom from certainty
The title of this article certainly caught my eye. Freedom from certainty. It’s an interview with poet and art curator Arundhati Subramaniam who describes how her spiritual journey has guided her following a near-death experience in 1997.
Not many readers will want to absorb the whole interview. For those, here’s a lovely Sufi text that Arundhati quotes:
Be in this world as if you are a traveller, a passerby, with your clothes and shoes full of dust. Sometimes you will sit under the shade of a tree, sometimes you will walk in the desert. Be a passerby always, for this world is not your home.
Impermanence, Thy name is Life. Impermanence. All the more reason to enjoy Life.

This happened to me

Next week, we will hear a wonderful Wabi Sabi story from our regular reader Sowmya. But for now, let me tell you about my week.
Well, since last Thursday, I have been giving all my energy to a client project. The creation of some document that will be deemed valuable for a brief moment in time. The work is just like most corporate work. I feel several layers removed from primary stakeholders, I continuously attempt to pry open implicit expectations of clients, I sidestep office politics, I work late, I lose sleep. The usual.
The project is still in progress. But today evening, I decided to give myself a treat. I decided to walk home from work. It was rush hour. There was more rubber on the road than asphalt – bumper to bumper. My laptop-carrying bag was being threatened by a gusty rain that lashed at uneven sidewalks. I walked on.
Soon, the rain stopped. I folded up the umbrella and smiled at a weak streak of sunshine. I bought myself a clutch of steamed momos for the road. I circumvented cows returning to their mysterious urban burroughs. Around a dozen pandemoniums of parrots flew overhead during my walk. The tearing hurry of motorists found a counterbalance in the serenity I felt within. Seventy minutes later, I reached home, all geared up to start writing this volume of the Positivity Weekly.
For way too long, only one dimension of my life (work) was getting all the attention. When I shifted my attention elsewhere, my psyche rewarded me with a feeling of bliss. I suppose I might find similar relief in work if I laze around too much. Just a thought.

In conclusion

Life happens. Perhaps we can make it happen our way? Till next time, I wish that you get your favourite Life.
As always, do write in with your feedback, story ideas and personal anecdotes. You can reach us at
To read the previous volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.       

Friday, 4 July 2014

Vol 30: Incredible micro-changes

Good times to you, Peekers (Positivity Seekers).
Let me begin this week's volume with an insight from John Halcyon Styn. He says, and I'm paraphrasing:
If you are guilty of spreading negativity via FB or any other social network, how about taking remedial action later? Once you are out of a negative state of mind, why not put a comment in that status stating the situation has been resolved/defused and a better reality has emerged? This way, you are letting people know that bad times don’t last, that bounce backs are possible etc. Simultaneously, you are also ensuring that people who meet you out in the real world – those who took the trouble to check up on you with a comment – don’t re-invoke that negative moment with follow-up questions like: “What really happened? Are you okay now?”
I thought it was a worthwhile thought. If we think we deserve attention when we are down, we also need to be responsible enough to negate the negativity later on.
And now... on to our usual segments. This week, we celebrate our world for becoming more incredible, one micro-change at a time. Enjoy!

News from the public domain

Bottles become roofs
Daring, low-cost solutions make the most sense in developing countries. Sometimes, these solutions have an inadvertent or planned eco-friendly dimension. Like how rural Ecuadorians are building roofs out of plastic bottles. Apparently the previous roofing solutions were either leaky or loud-cum-incinerating (see the video in the link above to know why). Now, sound and dry sleep is a possibility for the target audience.

Filipino political miracle

Soon, the name Benigno Aquino III will be known throughout the world. He's the incumbent President of the Philippines and a man who is pulling off audacious miracles one after another. The most admirable amongst them has been the ceasefire he has achieved with the militant separatist movement called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Experts say that the Nobel Peace Prize is inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has finally become the fastest growing economy amongst South-East Asian countries. This well-structured story from the Mint newspaper sounds too good to be true. Fingers crossed, yet another nation is truly stepping into the 21st century.
This really isn't a micro-change unless perceived against the limitless fabric of time. :).
Going Green at a tender age
Paris successfully launched its bicycle-sharing program in 2007. Still, as smog levels rose, they launched an unpopular experiment to halve the traffic in the city earlier this year. The experiment lasted just one day, although the government claimed success.
Now comes the good news: the city has now embarked on an initiative that’s bound to garner accolades from all quarters. Children in the 2-8 age group now have pint-sized bicycles available to them. Well, they say eco-friendliness begins at home. It can also become early.
Say hi to a generation that might perceive bicycling, not driving, as the norm.
Jocular Djokovic goes unconventional
Don’t want to ruin this for you. Just watch the video.
An extraordinary Human of New York
If you are regular on social media, chances are that you have come across posts by Humans of New York. Well, their website is filled with poignant, fragile or inspiring stories… very human, each one. I particularly liked the story of the persevering teen mother.
Delhi to Agra in 99 minutes
The Indian Railways is the largest public transportation network in the world. What happens in Indian trains affects approximately 1% of Indians every single day. So when this mammoth organization takes one small step towards rapid transportation, it's time to celebrate. In the years to come, trillions of train journeys will become faster, bringing people closer together. Cheers!
How to spend the first 10 minutes of your day
Mise-en-place works like magic. To know what the term means and how it can help you take micro-steps towards your goals, do read this interesting Harvard Business Review blog. Incidentally, it's the first time that HBR has made it to our newsletter.

This happened to me

Journeying from sickness to kindness

Young girl vomits in a bus; older man comforts her. We've all experienced this, right?
Well, incredible micro-changes occur when people are willing to add a dimension of kindness to already compassionate moments. This is one such moment, contributed by Radhika Narayanan. Thank you, Radhika, for sharing this rainbow with us.

In conclusion

Hope you enjoyed this extra-packed volume of Positivity Weekly.
As always, do write in with your feedback, story ideas and personal anecdotes. You can reach us at
To read the previous volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.
To read the next volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.