Author Archives: Samir Bajpai

About Samir Bajpai

It took many years to discover my passion for writing. Engineering and Business school were good for creature comforts but food for the soul......that came long after. An avid traveller and voracious reader, it was a struggle trying to hold a pen to paper long enough to write a thought provoking story. It did surprise me but has been a pleasant journey so far.

Heathrow airport and a helping hand

IMG_07031230 hrs; 11 June 2015; Heathrow airport

After a 9 hour flight, I was standing restlessly in a long line to clear immigration at Heathrow airport. Lost in thoughts about catching the connecting flight to Edinburgh, at first I did not notice the tug on my sleeve. Sensing that someone was behind, I turned around to see a lady looking at me.  She was evidently in her late 50’s with numerous wrinkles on her face suggesting earlier hardships. In a low voice she gently requested me to fill up the immigration forms for her husband and herself. Hastily she added that neither she nor her husband could read or write any language, as they were from rural Nepal. It is then that I notice the shy gentleman standing quietly behind her. It occurred to her, as I glanced at my wife, that an overwhelming majority of the husbands do the same. I requested her for her travel documents for the details. They had arrived by the Qatar Airways flight on a Nepalese passport with a return ticket to Kathmandu dated 15th July 15 –  a month later. I recalled that I had felt the first tremors of the earthquake in New Delhi while I was booking my hotel reservations for my stay in Bath. What a coincidence.

It was obvious that they would have trouble communicating with the immigration officer, so I asked them to stand in front of me. When their turn came, I deftly accompanied them to be their interpreter. Numerous questions followed and together we were able to answer them successfully. Or putting it more accurately, the lady provided the answers with a resolute look and a firm voice. I looked towards the husband a number of times with great empathy. She was definitely the decision maker in the family.

Why have you come to UK? asked the officer.

They had arrived to attend the wedding of their daughter answered the lady handing over the wedding card for his examination

Do you have return tickets? He asked.

They had return tickets to go back to Kathmandu answered the lady handing over the copy of return ticket.

What if their daughter was not outside to receive them? he was suspicious.

They looked at the officer with disbelief – after all such things did not ever happen in their society. Who would give away the hand of the daughter but the parents??!

But what if she did not receive them? Did they have money to stay in a hotel? persisted the officer

GBP 600 in various denominations were proudly counted and handed over to the officer.

The officer looked at me carefully and then asked if I knew them from before?

Holy Molly No! I am just assisting them to make it easier for the officer and the couple to complete the immigration formalities.

He smiled at me and asked them to proceed out of the immigration area. I asked them to wait for me just beyond.

I joined them shortly thereafter & accompanied them for their baggage claim. We searched the baggage claim area but could not find their red suitcase. I had to catch my connecting flight and the rest of the family was waiting me to join them. So after a few minutes of clarifying & getting the reassurances from the gentlemen at baggage claim department, I left them to find their lost baggage.

My wife was impatient by then and I feared the worst.

‘Your daughter has forgotten her phone in the aircraft’ she said before walking off in a huff with the daughter. I was relieved but the daughter looked distraught………afterall there is no life without What’s app and selfies!

It was gratifying to help someone who desperately needed some in a strange land. But what struck me was the resilience of the couple and their struggle to raise money for the trip – whatever be the reason. The determination to handle a long journey to a strange land with a strange language and culture.

There were few lessons for me

  • don’t crib just because life gets a bit difficult at times, others have bigger challenges.
  • count your blessings every day for the privilges you have.
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FLIGHT & FANTASIES

Since childhood I have always been fascinated about flight. Rationally if I can drown in a swimming pool, then how is it that a giant aircraft can take fly at high altitudes. Of course there are many technical explanations, but leaving them aside, one cannot but be intrigued by the idea of flight.

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Here I was on yet another flight but thrilled as though it was my first.

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The city night lights passing below, never ceased to fascinate.

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  Soaring above the clouds which look like whipped cream.

IMG_0355The mystic spell of twilight while observing the fine line between light and darkness.

100_1461Flying is not always about travel, sometimes it’s about messages

IMG_1887Most of the times we fantasise about our desire to fly uninhibited and free!

A tribute to all my class fellows, friends & relatives who are serving or have served as pilots in the Indian Air Force and commercial airlines

The Happiness Series : #3 ‘Simple Principle’

This is the third blog in ‘The Happiness series’ in which ‘Love’ & ‘Passion’ were covered. Once the series is completed, perhaps we will have created a ‘Happiness Bracelet’ which each of us can own for a happier self & world around us

 #3  ‘Simple Principle’

Pursuit of wealth to acquire greater material comfort, occupies our mind space disproportionately. We harbour an opinion- that greater the physical comfort, the more is our happiness. Unfortunately in my opinion this is incorrect, as creature comfort is a temporary feeling of fulfilment. Why is it so?………..Because a feeling of wellbeing lasts till we identify our next reason for dissatisfaction, despite having no cause for complaint, or till we tire of the comfort we have acquired. The cycle repeats itself and we again feel unhappy and so strive to be wealthier.  The outcome of this is that we are continuously pre occupied with our attempts to acquire more material pleasure.  Consequently we don’t pause in our routine stride to spend a few moments looking around us.

I had been no different and kept acquiring more expensive toys with growing affluence. Each car and gizmo was more expensive than the earlier to achieve happiness. Each time there was a feeling of accomplishment which lasted a few weeks or months. But one day, a few months back, I taking photographs in the back yard. While returning into the house, I saw the glass vase which was placed on the dining table. The sunlight through the window had lit up the vase full of flowers. It was a serene moment while nature was showcasing it’s splendour. It was not dramatic but I unexpectedly found myself appreciating a simple moment.

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There is a larger world out there, where the overwhelming majority are barely existing. They grateful for whatever little they have been given. The only choice they have, is to take pleasure from little moments because the dollar does not go far. Deriving the maximum joy out of life around us or inexpensive pursuits can be termed as the ‘Simple Principle’.

Make time to search for the simple moments around us and you will begin to learn that the essence of life’s simplicity. Gradually your life will become uncomplicated and instead of physical comfort you will experience the pleasure of happiness.

However be cautioned that ‘Simplicity’ is a state of mind which enables you to see what is not obvious – and it takes time to train ourselves to understand the ‘Simple Principle’. Go ahead and practise before time runs out……..it nearly did for me at around 1130 hrs on 1st July 2011.

The Happiness Series: #2 – ‘Passion’

This is the second blog in ‘The Happiness series’ in which one aspect ‘Love’ was discussed. Once the series is completed, perhaps we will have created a ‘Happiness Bracelet’ which each of us can own for a happier self & world around us.

#2 – ‘PASSION’

The dictionary defines passion as ‘strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor’, and most of us are of the opinion that we have experienced passion sometime in our lives. Unfortunately we tend to confuse ‘infatuation’ or strong ‘interest’ in some object or activity which captures our imagination momentarily. We spend considerable time and effort on examining the object of interest to learn more about our affinity for it. Once our initial curiosity is satisfied or there is some obstacle in sustaining it, most of us move on with the routine of their lives. But in the recesses of our minds , there is a continuous subconscious search for a passion to give meaning to our life. The questions that then need to answered is – how to identify a passion which will make us a happy person?

Experimentation with some aspects within our being, which lie latent in our thoughts, is the first attempt at identifying our passion. Sometimes it is a short indulgence which needs to be sustained for a while before it becomes a fulfilling habit. In my case it was an accidental stimuli which motivated me to write. There was a story to be told which I was postponing for years because of the perceived effort. It meant coming out of the comfort zone to face disappointments like poor writing skills, lack of readership and the effort for making time. After 2 months of sustained effort and numerous ‘writer’s blocks’, I was able to complete the book in mid February 2015 (an extract is on my blog tiled ‘6 Bananas – stepping stones to success’). I was happy at this accomplishment especially after a large part of the book was enjoyed by few serious readers. Today I am going to start the second book . I have discovered writing is an enabler and has ignited a passion which makes me happy. I am able to express myself freely and hope that my books influence people positively.

So my advice to everyone who desires a meaningful life is this –  search inside yourself and identify something which you always wanted to do or felt deeply about. Then set out to achieve it sincerely by focusing you efforts and mustering all resources you can. Don’t worry about the outcome and have the strength to withstand criticism because it ignites the passion even more. Passion could also be a service to the community like teaching (which I do) or helping the elders or anything else that makes a difference to someone’s life. It need not to be a Herculean task but those little things you do which brings a smile to the receivers.

Passion makes us focus ourself on the ‘giving’ aspect of our being – an infinitely pleasurable activity which makes you happy because it contributes to the society we live in and sometimes further beyond.

Whats App group: An accidental inclusion

Being inquisitive is not my nature but there are exceptions.

I have never been privy to any conversation between a closed group of married ladies. Due to a strict gender discrimination against male members, there was no chance of being invited to any ‘Kitty’ party. That has not stopped me from imagining conversations around topics, which I am sure are not flattering to spouses. Honesty demands that I confess to many clandestine attempts to overhear such conversations, sometimes at the risk of my personal safety. Previous close shaves from the clutches of angry groups of married ladies still make me sweat. So till date I have remained curious about the going-ons in these groups. What I have learned from a couple of women, who were momentarily indiscreet, is that there is some disdain when discussing the spouse and lots of advice/guidance to the newly married women. There is hearty laughter also, especially when the discussions gets focused on redundancy.

By a ‘one in a zillion chance’, I have been that mistakenly added by a friend to a Whats App married ladies group. It is obvious that I will be ‘quiet like a church mouse’ in this group to learn about women and their aspirations. This also presents me with an opportunity to deepen the bonds with my counterparts. Those husbands who would like to know & discuss the exchanges in this group can contact me on this blog. The membership fee shall be $10 or equivalent per month per husband.

The Happiness series: #1 ‘Love’

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One of the few aspirations common to all mankind is the pursuit of happiness. Attempts have been made to define it but none has captured it completely, so neither will I try. However everyone agrees that happiness is a temporary state of mind. So let’s explore some aspects of our lives which makes us happy.

This is the first article in ‘The Happiness series’ in which one aspect ‘Love’ will discussed. Once the series is completed, perhaps we will have created a ‘Happiness Bracelet’ which each of us can own for a happier self & world around us.

#1 – ‘LOVE’

The strongest emotions we experience are Love and Hate, antithesis of each other and with equally powerful consequences when used as a means. The difference between them – the outcome.

Love is a positive emotion which makes us enables us to reach out to the other in gentle ways. It reinforces trust, belief and protection in the receiver. It inspires us to achieve more goodness and when it is spread by each of us, happier communities happen. The first experience of love an individual is the warm embrace of it’s mother. The feeling of selfless emotion which a mother shares with her child is rarely equaled later in the individual’s life. But as we grow older, we start to experience different expressions and intensities of love for different relationships in our lives. Unfortunately we tend mistaken temporary joyous emotions, caused by passing interest and common identity, as love.

The biggest happiness is when we are able to spread love without expecting a ‘love dividend’ ; or when we experience the selfless love of another. This can only be achieved when there is belief in personal goodness, despite the unending conflicts and differences in our societies. It is true that those who cannot love genuinely will never be able to experience love when receiving it.

#1 way to be truly happy is to love selflessly, wholeheartedly, tenderly and do a good deed each day.

 (#2 way to be happy? – watch out for the next blog as we make the ‘Happiness Bracelet’)

The biggest destructor: The “I”

History is, amongst other narrations, a long record of human suffering through the ages. Despite technological advancement, primarily over the past 150 years, the quality of human life has not  improved qualitatively. This could due to the human penchant for destruction, which has still not run it’s course after 5000 years of human existence. The reasons for destruction has always been an insatiable hunger for greed and power, but these are only symptomatic of a larger human malaise – the ‘ego’. A simple definition of ego is that it is the sense of ‘self’ in each human. Unfortunately it is an inward and regressive aspect of humankind, making each of us focus on the “I” or “Me” – ironical because humans live in interdependent communities. The survival of humankind has been an outcome of this interdependence – but this has not been appreciated enough in its entirety,  to prevent us from trying to destroy each other by which ever means. The unresolved question which remains to be answered – will humankind ever stop destruction to live in harmony?

If we were to attempt to answer this question, it is necessary to delve a bit deeper into ‘ego’ which provides some insight to unending destruction and conflict. It is been argued that there are two types of egos:

  1. Real ego (our very essence of existence, the consciousness that makes us aware and awake to reality)
  2. The false ego (narcissistic search for being loved, validated and appreciated – commonly referred to as ‘the ego’).

Each individual succumbs to the false ego and thus the endless desire for wealth and power, even if it means causing unbearable suffering to fellow humans. Perhaps human perusal for immortality, or making a mark in history as an alternate, is through acquisition of material gain and/or power which is uniquely identifiable to the individual . Upto early 20th century the initiation of conflict, for whatever reason, was always done by the monarchy. The general population of a historical nation state was influenced by a structured propaganda, that conflict was unavoidable for acquisition of economic wealth which was critical for self-preservation of that nation state. But the real reason was the ego of the king, which demanded more wealth & power to project grandeur. The wealth plundered in conflicts with another nation state was always appropriated by the royalty. There was never a social agenda in their mind. Some may debate that this was not true – but ever heard of prosperous serfs?

The narrative did not change after WW II, only the actors did. The monarch was replaced by a formal structure called the government, but which in turn is controlled by obscure powerful groupings. These groupings control the formal government due to their financial clout and thus control over the nation’s resources. Unnecessary conflicts are created in other nation states only to further advance their power and increase in their personal fortunes. It was recently reported that 1% of the population controlled 50% of the world’s wealth – and this is the 21st century!

Another illustration of the effect of ego is understanding failure of social experiments. Socialism propagated the collective good of communities based on equal distribution of wealth. It was supposed to be the answer to the ills of capitalism based on democratic centralism, a principle conceived by Lenin that entails democratic and open discussion of policy issues. It became communism under Stalin and controlled by the politburo. The concentration of power resulted in expansionist actions and the living conditions of the general population became no better than medieval serfs.

It is amply clear that the supremacy of the false ego in humans has led to the pursuit of wealth and power, which has resulted only in destruction and conflict. The situation can change for the better when the global population shrinks significantly over the years with natural resources more evenly distributed. Individually, we need to develop compassion and empathy in our subconscious thought and reach out to fellow humans with the spirit of acceptance& accommodation. It is only then that a more just and equitable society will be created for the collective good of mankind.

However the “I”, a part of the human existential being will always remain. Individuals will always aspire to fulfil their greed and not be satisfied with meeting only their needs. Consequently human kind shall remain in perpetual destruction and conflict……..at least in the foreseeable future!