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Monday, December 2, 2019

What is 'Morality' after all?

What do we understand by morality? Is it by the book or by our heart? One of the earliest conversations when this blog was coming up (in my mind) was with a professor who teaches ‘Ethics’ at a girl’s college in the New England area. She is in charge of teaching a course to freshmen year about ‘ethics and morality’. Conversation with her over a piping cup of chai with another dear friend was very frustrating at some level but enlightening.
In her class, she wanted to drive her students to the point of inherent morality, which exists irrespective of external rules. So the dialogue in the class goes like this:

Professor: Suppose, you have a car and you have a chance to steal it when no one’s looking. Would you steal it?
Class: No. Perhaps there would be police at the next traffic signal or the car would be traceable?
Professor: Suppose if there is no police and no way to track the car….
There is a pin drop silence in the class. Everyone is looking at each other.
Class: Of course we would! Why would we not?

My dear friend did try to steer the class towards their own conscience and what would it do to them if they stole the car. However, these were not toddlers. They surely have been taught about morality early on. The college was also under a religious fold and hence the expectation out of the students to have ‘inherent morality’. But is morality that inherent though?  
Multiple concepts of morality zoomed into my mind as I grasped this information. Is one’s morality for oneself or for others? Does morality count when no one’s looking? Unfortunately, in today’s life, we tend to think about morality and values through a set of rules. If the rule maker is not watching, the morality doesn’t count! Now, whether we believe that rule maker is police, our society or God, it depends on us. Either way, our morality comes out of fear. So, if the rule maker is absent, our morality goes into the shit hole! Will you say so?
However, if one can look at morality more through what our conscious would feel if we do a certain thing, we can probably build our inherent morality or values our own way! Some say, ‘moral integrity is the cornerstone to our humanity’. There isn’t a need for a set of rules. Just our introspection over a cup of chai.……. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

You, Me and Chai!!

Introduction to Chai

Chai, a sweet and spicy aromatic milk and water based tea fills the aroma of the house every morning and evening (if not more). After living in U.S. for 3 years now, I still feel I crave for chai each day unlike my friends in this coffee-loving country. Well, if America runs on coffee (whether Dunkin or Starbucks), India runs on chai. I have my share of rendezvous with my Dad’s special cappuccino, filter coffee from South India and the relief of instant coffee when my brain requires caffeine- but chai wins it for me.

Calling someone for chai has many different meanings and connotations. As people ask someone out for coffee for networking or dating- calling someone for chai is about building personal bonds at home- sometimes over awkward conversations. Bollywood song, ‘isiliye mummy ne meri tujhe chai pe bulaya hai’ rings the bell about a guy being called to his beau’s home for chai to further the conversation about their marriage. On the other hand, offering a cup of chai to someone who is stressed is also extending that hand of warm friendship, ‘Have a cup of chai and you will feel better or Let’s talk this over a cup of chai’.  

Chai holds a ‘dear’ place in the hearts of most Indians where offering a cup of chai is not only considered as hospitality but accepting one is even mandatory to keep the respect of the host. Many times during my visit to villages on work, people would insist on having a tea before moving forward. And it was considered rude to say ‘no’.

Everyone likes their chai in different proportions of its ingredients. Since childhood, I learned that my Dad’s version of more water-less milk chai was different than my Mom’s milky chai. My Uncle’s all-milk chai was another story! But my best cup of chai is made by my Hubby every morning (or evening)! Aha the aroma and served right to bed…….nothing can beat that!

Living in Bihar, I came across abridged version called chai-coffee which was chai with a hint of coffee in it. On top of that, it was cooked on a coal stove and contracted the musky smell of coal giving it a distinct flavor. We enjoyed it most times with conversations with complete strangers, discussing caste, religion or politics. Recently, I also came to know this is called ‘maara-maari’ in Pune which literally means ‘fight’. I wonder if this is the fight of coffee vs chai! Lol.  

Sugar content in chai is another interesting subject. As a standard practice in most parts of India, more the sugar in the chai, the more the host is trying to please you (Don’t worry I keep that count right at our place in case you drop in for a chai). Very soon after marriage, my hubby’s friends learned that the new sister-in-law keeps the chai less sweet but covers it up with her behavior! With diabetic genes, one cannot help but be careful.

My friends all over the world love me for my chai- including Africans (especially Kenyans who also call it Chai), Asians and folks from U.S. Chai has been our binder on many occasions when all we wanted to do was to sit around each other and talk about issues which mattered to us and affected us in many ways- from social issues to personal troubles… to spirituality. Chai complements them all. My heart fondly remembers many such friendly and deep, even profound conversations along with chai. My intention through this series is to give a peak into those beautiful conversations. I hope you enjoy this chai-time bonding moments with me….. 

You, Me and Chai is an effort to bring those conversations to you which happen among friends along with tea, whether it is at chai at roadside or at the comfort of your home. It is an open platform among friends to share their thoughts and reflections…..If you want to contribute to the conversations, please write to us! We would love to hear what you talk about during your chai-time J

Thursday, February 28, 2019

From Roses to Rose plant!

A photograph of a couple with a red rose plant in their hands
The beautiful rose plant that my husband gifted me this year!

This is not necessarily a natural transition. Sometimes Roses lead to ‘Teddies’. Sometimes they lead to tears. Personal disclaimer: So, when I was gifted a rose plant this Valentine's day, I knew we had shifted from the stage of Roses to a Rose plant stage!

Roses signify passionate love-one which depicts ‘a’ half open bud with mysteries embedded, twists and turns on the way. And often artificially stripped off thorns. Now, we all know that is not what life is about. But, surely that is what ‘dating’ is. You put your best ‘foot forward’, not necessarily showing off your thorns. Often in my experience, these ‘grafted’ beautiful roses are stripped off their original fragrance too. They are gorgeous to look at, but with a tendency to have no fragrance and often withering in a few days. But, it doesn’t matter where you keep them, they add beauty to every place and do not even need sunlight. It is almost like ‘fake happiness’.

On the other hand, a rose plant is more real. It is grounded (in reality); roses but thorns as well. You have to nurture the plant with sunlight and water (and of course love!). It may wither at times but also has a rejuvenating tendency. A hope for new beginnings. It is more work but much more sustainable.

Gift of a rose plant also signifies more than love. It means the person giving the gift knows your skills to keep things (and relationships) alive. Do not be fooled. I am not bragging about my skills. I have killed my share of plants. Or they have been killed by someone I handed them over for care as a stop-gap arrangement. But most often than not, I am capable of sustaining, nurturing and growing them with love. And I am proud of this fact. For both plants and relationships.

A photograph of a red rose plant
Gorgeous pics shared by our friends who nurtured this rose plant!
Now, coming to the sustainability part. My husband and I have started this social experiment to gift plants to friends; who we know are capable of keeping them alive. The rose plant that he gifted his friend in India, has rewarded us with beautiful pictures of red roses along with their shining faces. This is almost like a cultural shift in India where gifting of bouquets or garlands is very common. It almost seems like growing/ cultivating humanity and love in another human being.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New year resolutions- Any takers?

As the New Year dawns, so do our inspiration for our resolutions. However, since the thought process comes right at the new year’s, it takes time to settle into them! About a day or two, so the post comes today J

It’s one thing to make the resolutions and another story to keep up to them! My ‘gym-addicted’ friend tells me, ‘You will see a huge crowd in gym first week of January. By the end of February, only a handful remain.’ And I am probably not among those handful, either. So, my sympathies to all my fellow resolution-makers (and breakers)! And that is why in 2019, I want to trick myself to keep my resolutions by putting them out for the world. If they are out there on my blog, I can slightly increase their chance to remain unbroken. The resolutions might also resonate with many of my fellow humans and so, here I am!

My resolutions this year are very comprehensive (or so I would like to believe)! I intent to nourish my body, mind and consciousness…. Soul might have been a better ‘language fit’. However, I am not sure I believe in that concept anymore! And thus, consciousness takes its place J

For my body, I want to reduce the intake of unhealthy foods and sugar. This doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to occasional chocolate or eating out. But, I will be mindful of what goes in my mouth. As a friend once shared, ‘Before reaching out to a treat, I think- whether I NEED it or simply WANT it?’ With the biological clock on the run, I do want to make sure I take care of myself to prevent diseases which can be avoided by some care measures.

For my mind, I do treat it to wonderful readings now and then. However, I do want to expand that ‘reading horizon’. All the wonderful reading suggestions are very welcome! But, what I really want to do is to spent my time on them-pondering and critically thinking. This needs reflection. And writing. I almost miss writing when I don’t. So, this year, I intent to stick to blogging in a more meaningful way, starting with this one! My new blog, ‘You, Me and Chai’ which has been brimming within me for a while now, will also be poured into your lives soon.  

For my consciousness, I want to practice ‘letting go’. In many conversations, life events and relationships, I often feel that I hold the grip too tight. It not only constricts the relationships but also my own conscience. Readings from Buddhist Dhamma texts by Temple Forest tradition share that we do not need to win all arguments. You do not need to have your own way always. Sometimes letting go is more useful for the conscious. This makes so much sense to me. For myself.

Rain drops on the window with a blurred vision of the road at the side.The friends who know me, also know (and have told me) that I can be very stubborn. It can be very useful at times, manifested as perseverance for the goat- ‘Capricorn sign’. However, the judgement needs to be made as when one needs to let go and when to face the problem head on. But letting go of situations (and people’s behaviors) not under your control is important. With such a fast and unpredictable life, I do believe it’s not worth to hold on to grudges in life. Or do actions which make people have grudges against you. It is true we cannot please everyone in life. And we do not need to. What we can do is to find peace in actions we take. And that’s exactly what I want to do.

All the very best for me to keep these resolutions in the new year (and to you too)! And a request to my dear family and friends to call out on me if I am not keeping them. After all, the whole purpose of human life is to keep ourselves on track of growth and peace. A very Happy New Year 2019!