Tag Archives: lifestyle

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.

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.

6 BANANAS – The unexpected stepping stone to success

Siddharth entered the waiting room to read the charts on display. These were about the medical tests to identify various physical disabilities. He read the qualifying requirements charts for eye sight, height, chest, etc and the last one pertained to weight. It was written that for 178 centimetres, which was his height, the qualifying requirement was fifty eight kilograms. He could feel his chest tighten with anxiety because he was about a kilogram underweight, at the best – or perhaps even more. He went out of the room to catch his breath and relax his shattered nerves. Sanjeev was still sitting on the bench, waiting to be called in for his medical examination.

“What happened Siddharth? You look worried” asked Sanjeev, concerned to see Siddharth looking uneasy.

“I think I am marginally underweight” replied Siddharth sadly.

“Hmm. The army is very strict about medical fitness. Deepak was disqualified due to knock knees”

“Are you sure?! I know Deepak” Siddharth exclaimed in disbelief.

“I met him outside the medical room. He looked devastated”

“All the best for your medicals Sanjeev. Hope to meet you in the academy”

“Thank you Siddharth and I wish you luck as well”

“Which one of you is Sanjeev Dogra?” said Lieutenant (Dr.) Rana of the army medical corps who came out of the examination room.

“Yes sir” said Sanjeev standing up. He then followed the doctor into the examination room.

Siddharth became worried that his dreams of joining the army in the footsteps of his illustrious father could end. A loud voice suddenly jolted him from these thoughts of despair and a feeling of despondency.

“Are you Siddharth Sharma?”

“Yes sir” replied Siddharth looking up from the floor to find Dr. Rana standing in front of him.

“Is it true that your father is the famous retired Lt. General Sharma of the Bengal Sappers, Corps of Engineers?”

“Yes sir”

“And you are very keen to join the army?”

‘Yes sir”

“You look slightly underweight to me”

“Yes sir. It is likely that I am about a kilogram less than the requirement”

“Hmmm” responded the lieutenant looking carefully at Siddharth.

A few moments silence followed which seemed like eternity to Siddharth. He wondered if his worst fear was going to be confirmed by this smart lieutenant, even before his medical examination was conducted.

“It is now 12 noon. Have you eaten since breakfast?” the lieutenant inquired politely.

“No sir” replied Siddharth, rather surprised at the question.

“You will be examined in half an hour from now. There is a cafeteria in the building behind this examination room. Perhaps you may like to go over now and eat six bananas. Then you can return for your examination” said the Lieutenant before returning to the examination room.

Siddharth was puzzled at this suggestion from the doctor, but he thought that he detected a twinkle in his eyes. It would be sensible to comply with this suggestion because later Dr. Rana could be examining him. So he slung his satchel over his shoulder and walked over to the cafeteria.

“How much for a banana?” he asked the man behind the counter.

“Five rupees” replied the man without looking up.

“Okay, I’ll take six” said Siddharth handing over the money and gathering up the bananas. The man took out a bag for carrying the bananas.

“No need for the bag. I will eat the bananas here”

“Are you sure?” asked the man as he could not see anyone else accompanying Siddharth.

He sat at one of the tables in the cafeteria and stared at the bananas in front of him. All the bananas appeared much larger than the bananas he usually ate. Or was it his imagination, he wondered. It was a daunting for him to eat six bananas at one sitting. Nevertheless he took a deep breath and picked up the first banana. While three were eaten without much effort, he was feeling sick by the time the last banana remained on the table. The man behind the counter of the cafeteria was observing Siddharth all this while. He watched with astonishment when sixth banana was eaten slowly assisted by gulps of water. Siddharth’s stomach felt heavy after having eaten so many bananas together. There was a strong urge to throw up immediately. It took great restraint to keep his composure. After another five minutes, he got up and slowly walked to the examination room. He went and sat on the bench, hoping to successfully complete the stringent medical examinations. A few minutes later Sanjeev came out of the examination room looking downcast.

“What happened? Did you clear the tests?” he inquired from Sanjeev.

“No Siddharth. It was my bad luck to be detected with colour blindness. Anyway the army was not the preferred option for me. I only wanted to clear it for my own satisfaction. Good Luck to you” he said walking away towards the cafeteria. Now Siddharth got anxious that some medical problem unknown to him may disqualify him from selection.

Siddharth was called in for his medical examination at 12.30 p.m. He entered the room cautiously and was dismayed that Dr Rana was not present in the room. Instead there was another doctor who was inside, who beckoned Siddharth to sit on the stool next to him. He went on to explain about the various medical tests that would be conducted. Siddharth relaxed as he heard the reassuring voice of the doctor. When the doctor had completed, the nursing assistant who was also in the room started conducting the medical tests. Siddharth uneventfully cleared all the qualifying parameters of each test. While he felt more reassured with each positive results, he was aware that his weight will be the last medical examination. When he got up for his weight to be taken, his anxiety returned. The instant he saw the weighing scale his hopes vanished. The digital display on the scales would give the read out to the third decimal. There was no possibility of an incorrect reading.

“Stand on the weighing scales with your chest out and eyes front!” barked the nursing assistant.

Siddharth dutifully obeyed the instructions of the nursing assistant. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears while he stood on the scales. The nursing assistant bent down and seemed to take a long time adjusting the machine. He then straightened up and stood directly in front of the display. Siddharth could not see the readout! ‘If only I had gone to the gym for the past few months for some physical training’ thought Siddharth in despair while he was standing on the scales. He feared the worst as he waited for the nursing assistant to announce the result.

“58.310 kilograms” announced the assistant

Siddharth gave out an audible sigh of relief as this was 310 grams above the qualifying requirement. He took a chance to momentarily glance down at the report from the corner of his eye. The word ‘cleared’ was written by the nursing assistant on the medical report. However he would never know if eating bananas was the reason he cleared the medical examination. The dream to join the army had become a reality. He went out of the medical examination centre feeling elated at his success.