Friday, 7 February 2014

Volume 11: Balance and nirvana cannot be taught

Hello, friend. I begin the eleventh volume (the second in the newsletter’s new home) by thanking our Guest Editor Mohan Ramamoorthy for putting together the tenth volume with such finesse. He is our first Guest Editor, but he won’t be the last. Over the next few months, I will request more and more talented/awesome/inspiring people to take over and deliver. If you want to be one of them, all you need to do is ask. This is your initiative. Feel free to claim the driver’s seat… whenever.

News from the public domain

Fears are stories that teach us

For long, I’ve advocated the idea that our fears can be our greatest teachers. And the bigger our fears, the larger our learning.
In this lovely TED talk, writer Karen Thompson Walker endorses this view. For those too busy to watch the video, here are the highlights:
  • Human beings are hardwired to be optimistic.
  • There seems to be a strong link between fear and creativity. Those unable to let go of vividly imagined childhood fears grow up to create masterpieces in their respective fields. Apparently that’s what Darwin and Bronte did with their fears.
  • Fears are stories that we create and embellish with characters, plot etc. Having made our fears exciting, we now want to know what will happen next. And the suspense makes our fears as intriguing as Life itself.
  • Then comes the question: which stories do we respond to and which do we let go of? In other words, which fears are teachers and which are incidental? That’s for each of us to discover in our own ways.
I myself was quite moved by the real life anecdote of shipwrecked sailors. Can one extrapolate and state that their worst fears came true even though they choose an alternative that was supposed to eliminate that very fear? Well, we may never crack that code, but it sure is fodder for thought.
Which brings us to our next story.

Fodder banks are alleviating Himalayan poverty
The gorgeous beauty of the Himalayas can sometimes mask the fact that people here face uphill struggles (pun intended). For instance, during the scarce winter months, women have to trudge wearisome distances to find fodder for their livestock. Quite often, they fall during their climbs. Sometimes, their injuries prove to be fatal.
Dr Shalini Dhyani decided to address the need for yearlong availability of fodder by making use of community wasteland. These “fodder banks” are doing well, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the scientific and local communities, as described in this brief report. Furthermore, due to apt choice of fodder species, the livestock are delivering higher lactation yields.
Today, the local Mahila Mangal Dals (Women’s Welfare groups) have become caretakers of the fodder banks. They are building sustainability into this model, just as their counterparts elsewhere did with microfinance.
And, of course, women no longer have to spend half their day in accumulating fodder whilst risking life and limb.

Young doctors enhance Wikipedia
Do you know that Wikipedia is the Numero Uno source of health information on the web? That being the case, shouldn’t the info out there be totally accurate? Well, there’s good news. The health info on Wikipedia is getting more accurate because fourth year med students have been asked to edit the most read health-related articles. This initiative is being spearheaded by Dr Amin Azzam, a professor in University of California, San Francisco.

Riot-hit Muslims find solace in Hindu village
In September last year, when people elsewhere in Muzzafarnagar were losing their heads and embracing communal hatred, the villagers of Palda had other ideas. At the height of that frenzy, 450 riot-hit Muslim families found a safe haven in this predominantly Hindu village. Palda villagers, in fact, fought off invading hordes of bloodthirsty mobsters. Is it any wonder, then, that these Muslim families now want to settle down in Palda and begin life anew? Do read this Telegraph report for the whole story.
In a geography mired in divisive politics, a small oasis of hope – which is what Palda is – might trigger an avalanche effect. Agree?

A page from my Diary

Balance and nirvana
This week, I’d like to share a personal anecdote. My daughter learnt to bicycle last week. And I stood proudly beside her when she did so. Notice my choice of words. I’m not saying that I taught her bicycling.
The secret in bicycling is balance. And balance can never be taught. It can only be learnt. So the parent running alongside the bicycle, holding on to the seat, shouting words of encouragement is merely someone facilitating an ageless phenomenon. The phenomenon by which each succeeding generation replicates the skills of the previous – as a precursor to expanding the skill set. This is but a small glimpse at how civilized human beings practice evolution, as eventually advocated by Nature.
To me, the whole “let’s teach bicycling to the kid” exercise is an apt metaphor for parenthood itself. Don’t we often take our role as parents too seriously and then fret endlessly about the future of our children?
But the bicycling metaphor perhaps teaches us that we are merely caretakers of life. For a few brief, glorious years, we are asked to ensure the welfare of amazing human beings whom we call children. For a slightly longer duration, we are asked to take care of ourselves. In other words, we spend some time being the maintenance crew of walking-talking chemical reactors. That’s all.
I think building this perception allows us to take ourselves less seriously. We can relax, chill out and even aspire to experience a brief glimpse of nirvana. If that is at all possible.
Like balance, nirvana too cannot be taught. The good news is that it seems to be up for grabs. And what we so ardently desire comes to us at the end of a rather challenging but highly fulfilling journey.

In conclusion

As always, do write in with story ideas and personal contributions. You can reach us at
Till next week, may the Nirvana be with you. :).

For the previous volume of Positivity Weekly, please click here.

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