Category

Reflections & Theism

The Alternative Narrative

We all have an inside voice. Some of us have many. The interesting thing about this meta-narrative is that people generally consider it to be either extremely positive or negative. It either motivates or debilitates them. There seems to be no middle ground when I talk to people about this and it becomes a question of mental strength. Note that I didn’t say mental health.

It still fascinates me that we do not entertain the full capacity of our minds, and that if anything we mentally underperform considering the breadth of mental strength we have. Not to go into too much detail, but the ability of the brain to create unique connections through synapses far surpasses the capabilities of many other species. That is why we seem to have utmost control of our immediate environment.

However, we seem to be our own worst enemies. In a world where we are not challenged for authority by other animals, we tend to find the enemy within ourselves. Our ability to cope with adversity, especially within the understanding of our own weaknesses, is woeful. We choose to focus on the negatives, because we are surrounded by the similarities. Every organism that we come into close contact with (for the most part) has the same build as us, talks in a similar language and moves in a way that we ourselves frequent in.

We don’t see the narrative, because we take it for granted. As human beings, we are incredibly lucky to be a position of ultimate control. It is like growing up and suddenly being promoted to CEO and enjoying the spoils. We treat being human as a right, when it is in fact a culmination of thousands of moments of effort. For those who believe in karma, and more so in reincarnation, you will be aware of the idea that being born again as a human is the pinnacle of existence.

So why do we get distracted by the narrative? Why do we let the voice(s) inside us dictate the way that we behave? If, as a collective, we have been able to effectively colonise and populate the Earth with our own kind, it is crazy to think about the amount of conflict that we put ourselves in and reflect on other people. We press the self-destruct button when this narrative, our intuition, works against us like rubbing up a carpet the wrong way. We fray.

The most inspirational leaders make this alternative narrative work for them. The greatest sportsmen and women, business leaders and spiritualists understand that their self-talk is the difference between them getting up in the morning and winning…and pulling the covers over their eyes.

We are built to win. Yet, we underestimate our own abilities. It is time to turn that critic inside your head into a coach. And the quicker you start teaching yourself lessons, rather than berating your mistakes, the closer you are to being the pinnacle of existence.

That voice in your head is probably telling you to ignore this.

Take control.

Five Minutes on your Birthday

We were up until about 1 o’clock this morning. However, we were not excited in the run up to ripping wrapping paper off gifts or preparing ourselves for a day of constant consumption, we were contemplating. My dad, brother and I, in the absence of being well enough to go to Church this year found ourselves sitting and watching Midnight Mass on the television; one of the few times we have not actually made it in person in my life.

My father made it a tradition well before I was born. That on the eve of Jesus’ birth, we would go to Church and be a part of a tradition that has spanned for over a thousand years. We are not Christians, but it would not be Christmas without hymns, carols, prayer and a sense of peace. Although that is lost on many this year and in the last few.

The holiday has changed – it has become many different things to many people now. I actually think it is great that people spend this time with their families and even if we need to spend lots of money, buy into a consumerist culture and do all of these things as pretence, then at least it is a start. Festivals are supposed to be about remembrance and if that enables you to stop and think, then you can only take the positives from that.

But don’t lose the meaning. It is like going to someone’s birthday party, eating all of their food, enjoying their hospitality and then forgetting to say “Happy Birthday!” to the host. The reason why you all turned up in the first place. Enjoy the festivities, and make the most of your time with your loved ones but realise the sacrifice that one man made, whether you believe in the story or not.

It is not about being pedantic, neither it is about being critical nor mocking the beliefs of others. There are days where we can put our arguments to the side and understand how important sacrifice is and how one individual personified this. I usually use Christmas to read the Bible, or to learn another story about a man that is so revered around the world. It is a shame that when we subscribe to so many fantastic characters, we forget Jesus Christ because Christianity becomes a barrier.

A Prophet in Islam, an Avatar in Hinduism and the Saviour in Christianity; there are very few individuals that many of the most prevalent religions have reverence for. Take some time to understand why he was so special, even if it just for a minute in between the Eastenders special and that movie you have been looking forward to seeing. Because when you tuck in to your dinner, there was someone who broke bread and wine for your salvation, whether you followed him or not, because he believed that you would be the answer.

He believed in man. In you. I don’t think 5 minutes out of your year on his birthday is too much to ask.

Shed Perspective

2 years ago, I wrote the post Shed Light which has probably been my most popular blog to date. The reason why many of you will have kept up with me until now. Since then I have been trying to find answers which is what I set out to do. I have never stopped being hungry in asking questions and trying to further my understanding.

Knowledge precedes understanding, but understanding precedes perspective. Everything must be seen in context. I wrote that post on Diwali which is the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar marking the journey that Lord Rama makes from one side of India to the other, to get home. The day after Diwali is Bestuvaras which marks the start of the New Year, which in this case is 2071. It is fitting that after the day of illumination, it should be followed by a new beginning. The chance to change perspective.

I was fortunate enough to go to India this year and spend some time with some amazing kids. Many of them were disabled – born without limbs, deformities, psychological defects and even blind – and it was a privilege to see their perspective on life. Within a week of coming back to England, I broke my leg and had a chance to see what it was like to be in their position. After seeing how well they dealt with their hardships, I realised how ungrateful and selfish I was.

I wallowed in self-pity. I became agitated because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. I blamed myself for my situation and made it seem like I was the only person suffering. Through the trauma, I spared no thought for those worse off. “I was hurt…this was horrible…fuck everyone else” and in this way I became the one thing that I made a commitment not to be in 2012. Ignorant.

Weeks down the line now, I realise how ungrateful I was. It was a natural reaction to what happened, but I am disappointed that I didn’t open my eyes. There is a magic in positive thinking that is underrated. There was nothing I could do about my situation, other than to change my perspective about it. I would have to change my lifestyle, but not necessarily for the worse, as rather than running, I have been able to spend more time with the people that matter most.

So this is my commitment to the next two years. Every time I feel like my eyes are closing in dark times, I need to remember in my mind’s eye those kids that found solace in themselves. Knowing that adversity is the catalyst of progress, not the restriction of it. From now on, I am going to take the blinkers off and realise how good it is to appreciate what I actually have.

This year as a resolution to yourself, regardless of whether you are Hindu or not, use perspective as a positive. Tell yourself how lucky you are each day to be alive. Smile at what you love about yourself. Message the people that love you – don’t wait for them. Hold out your hand for those that need it. Look at what is in front of you and relish the challenge. Take risks. Walk (or in my case hobble) forward.

And if you ever feel like your eyes are closing, read this post again to remind yourself of how great it is to feel the light hit your pupils for the first time each morning. Then get up and live.

The Worst Week of My Life

It has been just over a week now since I came out of the hospital and was discharged to come home. A friend kindly dropped me off to my house, where I hobbled groggily to my room on my crutches, still coming down from the painkillers that had been pumped into me for the past 24 hours. I felt…no that’s a lie, I couldn’t really feel anything, so I sat down on my bed in silence and my ears started to burn. This already sounds incredibly dramatic, but it is my intention to paint a picture and not to incite any sympathy at all. I am not good at dealing with sympathy.

After coming down from the high of conquering India for the first time on my own, I launched myself straight into my second year of university. Without pausing for breath, I started to run at my course, my friends and all of the things that I was looking forward to this year. At the end of my first week, I stopped running. Slipping over on a night out, I broke my ankle in two places (the first thing that I have actually broken) and have been on crutches ever since. Now everything has become a lot more difficult.

I can deal with physical pain. There are pills and potions that can make things numb and painless, but trauma is a completely different beast. When I have to prepare myself to stand up and walk the two metres to the door of my room just to turn the light off so I can go to sleep, I feel the trauma. It is an uncontrollable urge to run when you can’t walk. When you have to rely on everyone around you to do things for you, because you can’t look after yourself, is when I feel the pang of guilt from my own idiocy.

This is my fault. However much the accident was just that, an accident, the steps that I took to get there are all my own. And that is what makes this the hardest thing I have had to cope with. All the funny looks and laughs are justified, because I am the one to blame. These are the consequences.

I have been so self-indulgent recently, and even this is just an extension of that. Because my world has changed so drastically, I have forgotten how fortunate I am to have all of these people around me that are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I get better without complaint. I am eternally grateful for them. There are many who are close to me in the same breath who have let me down and it has made me see them in a new light.

Although the most upsetting thing is knowing that you have let yourself down. When you look at yourself and see the shadow of the person that you once were. That is the bitterest pill to swallow. You look down every day and are constantly physically reminded of the stupid mistake that you made. The mistake that will make every second of every hour a struggle until it is healed. The cast will come off in a few months and I will walk again. But it is not the physical wound that requires attention, but the mental cut that continues bleed. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for that trauma.

Make the Mistake

I recently wrote a post about breaking connections. Every relationship is a piece of rope and when they no longer become a support, it is important to cut them and forget about the fray. In my mind, when I was writing those words I could see a version of myself cutting those ties. A future, better Hiran having the confidence to say goodbye to a person that once meant so much. How optimistic I was.

The truth is that personal strength is often built with tissue paper. We wrap it around ourselves, the bonds getting stronger and stronger in the hope that it will provide us with some sort of protection. But all it takes is a splash of water to show us that this new-found confidence can be washed away and broken.

For me, it was a photograph. Seeing an image of an unrealised future was enough to make me doubt whether the threads of an old rope were still tugging at my chest. And I gave in for a second. I let my guard down again. The pit of my stomach started to throb as the layers of hurt that I had painted over started to scratch through to the surface. In the heat of that moment, the only thing that I felt like doing was writing this down.

There wasn’t a clear focus or understanding. It was just meant to show that infallibility is real. Real people fall. Even though I may write about strength and conviction, it may be more as a pep talk to myself than anything else. These words represent the person that I long to be, not necessarily the person I am now. So now as I reflect on my former, better self, how am I supposed to get rest knowing that unknowingly I have stumbled backwards, rather than striving forwards?

I was wrong. Some relationships are worth saving. But you need to cut them to realise which ones mean the most. The truth is that sooner or later these cords will be cut forever and we will have no control over them. At some point, the people that walk and laugh and weep in front of us will be nothing more than a photograph with a garland of flowers stretched across it.

So make the mistake. Talk to the person that you have been dying to talk to, even when you know you shouldn’t. Play by your own rules. Take your time. Do something stupid. If it means that that pain in your stomach can subside for a few minutes and you can crack a smile then why not? Life is too short to hold grudges or suppress your feelings.

Today, only a matter of minutes ago, I tried to reach out to someone who broke a piece of my heart. Who lied and toyed with my emotions. Who made me feel like I was the only person and no one at all. Who broke all my rules. And it doesn’t matter what they say, because this time it is for me.

Because I missed them.

And I needed to hear the sound of their voice one more time.

And if they are reading this, then I hope desperately they felt the same way too.  

365 Days Down

It will be a year today since my Ba passed away. And I sit here at 3:09AM trying to find the best way of telling you that nothing has changed. It feels pathetic and saddening. 365 days post that traumatic event, I can’t even lie and say that everything is better and everyone has moved on, because it isn’t and they haven’t. We’ve been coasting.

I want to tell you that I don’t feel cheated. I want to tell you that I am dealing with it in the best way that I possibly can. I really want to tell you that I am being mature about it. But I can’t tell you any of those things, because they are lies. I still feel as bitter as I did the day I found out what happened, I have just found better ways of dealing with it. It still haunts me because I am yet to understand the full implications of it.

I am away from my family. In the cocoon of my university life, I am sheltered from grief and reminders. All I have is a picture of us all from my brother’s graduation, but I can’t bear to look at it today. That was happy occasion, showered with love and pride, yet I can’t help feeling angry because she will miss all of the happy occasions to come. She will miss us getting married. She will miss holding her great-grandchildren. She will miss us growing old together.

And I miss her more than I thought I would. In two days, I will celebrate my birthday with friends that I did not think I would have the fortune to have after such a short space of time here on my own. Yet there is a part of me that feels empty knowing that when I call home, I will not hear her voice and she will not be able to feed cake to me. Every birthday for the rest of my life will be taunted by this memory.

Though it does not do well to dwell on these things and to remember her as she was, a part of me cannot remember. Every day, something fades and disappears into the banks of my consciousness and will continue to. Time is no healer. Time rearranges the sand so that we cannot make out the dunes any more. It is only when I shut my eyes tight and look into my childhood that I remember her smile, her laugh, her face. A glimmer of hope.

As I sit here, having to stop after ever four words to dry the tears that are streaming from my eyes, I don’t feel better. 365 days down, I still feel grieved and I am tired of feeling upset. I am tired of feeling frustrated and angry – I just want to find a place where I can see a picture of her without wanting to thrash or sob or cry out.

I want to smile. But clearly 365 days is not enough time.

An Easy Life?

I have given myself a wide berth from writing recently. You can probably see that from the blankness of my blog over the past few months. The truth is I have made a list of the things that I wanted to put down on paper, but forgot where I put my pen and haven’t had the inclination to find it. Turns out I needed a new one.  So here is the first ink to mark the New Year.

I just want an easy life. I want to be able to coast through my day to day life like I see other people do. Not caring about where they are going, what they are doing or how they want to get there. They are like falling leaves on the surface of a lake, with no thought as to where the water is likely to take them. I crave that ability to have a complete external locus of control. To watch as the world spins, and twirl with it, oblivious to whatever is outside of the circle drawn around my existence.

But I make it difficult for myself.

I am unable able to stop caring. I don’t know what it’s like to leave the strings of my life for someone else to pull. I have an idea of where I am going, and I know the things that I need to do to get there. I am not inflexible, but neither am I flimsy. I am an incredibly intense person and that scares a lot of people who are unsure about their convictions – there have been plenty of situations where people have moved away from me because I go too fast, too quickly. The reason is that I don’t have any time to waste.

I sleep very few hours a night and work more often that I should. I do not value all of my relationships as I am walking my own path, but that is changing. I am direct, emotional and brutally honest. I may desire an easy life, but I do not deserve one…because I am not destined for one. To do all the things that I want to do, I cannot let the water take me, but let the waves hit me as I stand steadfast against judgment.

Those that desire an easy life rarely get one – the grass is always evergreen. But those that have one rarely live at all.

Madiba

We didn’t really know him. For most of his life, there were not many people that knew him. But we felt it, didn’t we? Do you remember where you were? I was sitting down, drinking with friends in my tux; enjoying a party when the news came through. The hubbub was suddenly met with a strange moment of silence before the festivities continued. With a glazed look in my eyes, I forced a smile and carried on.

There are very few occasions when words are not enough. Especially for me, when sometimes words are all I have, it has been difficult to communicate what I need to say. So I am not going to this time. I am going to let the people, the ones closest to Madiba, tell it for us all – the South Africans. The video above is something I came across a few weeks ago that I am sure many of you will not have seen. With so much coverage of every part of Madiba’s life, wouldn’t it be nice to hear it from the people he gave his life for?

It is the story of the car that was built by the workers of Mercedes Benz, as a gift to Madiba on his release from prison. They had never met him. They had never known him. All they had was his name and yet, they felt it. I haven’t seen many of the documentaries or tributes to Madiba over the past few weeks, neither did I spend time looking at the funeral or the memorial. Why remember the man that was, when what is more important is the legacy that lingers on?

This legacy lives on through the people that he touched when he could not physically reach them. It lives as hope in the hearts of young people that are slaves to injustice, but without the maturity to realise their situation. The symbolism of forgiveness over vengeance saved his country from further bloodshed and heartache. It taught the world a lesson that it has since forgotten and South Africa falls under trouble again without its saviour.

Now it is our responsibility to walk in the humble footsteps of a man that taught us to love, rather than feeding our hate…”because love comes more naturally to the human heart.” If you take nothing for the life of Nelson Mandela, affectionately and respectfully referred to as Madiba in this post, then learn this.

We didn’t know him, but we knew what he stood for. And that most surely should be enough.

Rus in vrede Madiba

(1918-2013)

Illuminate Ourselves

As seen in The Boar (University of Warwick Student Newspaper):

After spending a particularly calorific weekend in Leicester, I want to wish a Happy Diwali and New Year to all Hindus and Sikhs at Warwick. The one thing that I love about festivals with a firm emphasis on celebration is the way that they can bring a collective air of happiness to all those who are celebrating.

Having had a particularly tough year myself, it was important for me to spend some time with family, eat mithai (Indian sweets) and watch the fireworks over Cossington Park. However, I want to use this time to show you that there is more to Diwali than just the physical pleasures.

I am sure that many of you know the story of Ram (not Rama) and his journey back to his rightful throne in Ayodhya being lit by thousands of handmade lamps, which forms the narrative behind Diwali. Nevertheless, do we actually know the significance behind the use of the lamp itself?

We are here to illuminate ourselves. But, how often do we actually take time out to reflect on the things that we have done and what we are striving towards?

Hinduism uses symbols such as lamps in order to convey the real message behind Diwali. The purpose of light is to remove darkness from everywhere it is found. In the same way, these lights remind us to illuminate ourselves from the darkness that we find in our own lives – whether that is ignorance, hate or indifference. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, you can appreciate that having a little more light in your life is always a good thing.

As students, we are here in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. We are here to illuminate ourselves. But, how often do we actually take time out to reflect on the things that we have done and what we are striving towards?

How often do we get swept up in our work, our friends or our families without taking time out for ourselves? Having been here for six weeks now, I can say that I have settled in well into life here at Warwick. Stepping off campus this week has given me the opportunity to evaluate my short time here and make the most of the next year. I am definitely ready for whatever is coming next.

This Diwali I ask all of you, whether you are celebrating or not, to take five minutes out of your day and re-evaluate the direction that you are going in. It has been proven that those who take a step back and set themselves achievable goals become more successful in the longer term. It is so easy, whether you are a fresher or a finalist, to immerse yourself in the university environment and forget why you came here in the first place. Don’t let the darkness cloud your vision.