Life Under Quarantine

It all started early in the new decade, when I was about to wrap up a JV with a Chinese company, but all of a sudden, they were locked down. At that point, I never thought that I too would ever face a similar situation. I prayed for their safety and obliviously took a flight to Bangalore for my long due Sanyam Program. During that program, our Guru conducted a Maha Yagya and I attended it without knowing the bigger context behind the event. I had absolutely no idea that in 6 weeks, actual Sanyam (restraint) would be required in life.

Life went back to normal after I came back— meetings, calls, flights, and always running short on time. When March rolled around, all of us were busy preparing to end the financial year and look at the results at my work place, with discussions centered around targets for the upcoming year and appraisals. And at my NGO school, the results from this year were being analyzed and the academic plans for the next year were being finalized. At this point, no one could have ever imagined that life will take a 180 degree turn in just two weeks.

When the virus started entering our borders, the entire public, myself included, went straight into denial mode. However, with every passing day as the situation developed, we all saw the inevitable end approaching. At a business level, we started exploring the idea of working from home and started setting up the infrastructure required for that. Then, in a matter of a couple of days, the numbers took the back seat and sanitizers became the priority. The ever-separating walls of ego— the cabin doors— were kept open in the entire office, and coughing in public spaces was met with horror. Meetings started without handshakes and the buzzword ‘Social Distancing’ was heard everywhere. On a personal level, long calls, arguments & counter arguments started with my children in the US— forcing them to come back. One of them came home within a few days, but there were no hugs at the airport, he was kept restricted to his room and the local police was intimated of his arrival. Within the apartments, coming from abroad wasn’t welcomed, and all of a sudden you could notice friends maintaining a ‘social distance’.

Shortly, the Janata curfew was announced. All of a sudden, the gym was shuttered and my favorite coffee joint closed. We still kept denying the gravity of the pandemic, thinking it was just one day, without knowing that it was merely a trailer for a blockbuster to come. Once the lockdown was imposed, lines at the local grocery stores started increasing, and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty were clouding us all. The first few days of working from home posed a unique experience and multiple challenges, stimulating creative thinking to figure out logistics for the business and the school (with a daily siesta nap after lunch, of course). This acclimation period soon came to an end, and I got used to conference calls, talking to people at a distance, wearing masks, maintaining extra cautious personal hygiene, and becoming a policeman to my old parents. All my morning walks were stalled and socialization became digital.

Today we have entered the third week and as I look back, I can say with certainty that this episode has changed my perspective on life. I have started focusing more on my work without disturbances and tea breaks. Meetings are planned well and end at a fixed time. My teachers, who used to run away from technology, have now embraced these new changes. I find more time for myself, and living in 3 pairs of clothes wearing no shoes is a quite comforting feeling. Literally my wardrobe has turned into a museum. I have started cleaning my washroom— something I never did in the last three years, and I am loving it. It reminds me of my second advanced course way back, where I enjoyed cleaning the toilets at VM. Today I do meditation three times a day, and still have ample time to do my morning 90 minute Sadhna, without any excuses to miss the yoga part. I couldn’t start my day without a newspaper, and today it has been two weeks without seeing the headline. I have significantly reduced my TV screen time, especially news, so that I stay away from negativity. Now the daily routine starts with a 30-minute call with my daughter who is locked in her one room apartment in Chicago. We talk about things which we would have never touched in the pre-corona weekly calls. Most importantly, my respect for all our corona warriors has increased. These warriors include the delivery boys, Mother Dairy vendors, housekeeping staff, and the all-important healthcare workers. A sense of gratitude washes over me whenever I look at them. While, I thank my cook for every meal he makes, I myself have started dabbling in the areas of cooking and singing.

Three months back, the biggest security for anyone was money and ironically today nobody wants to even touch it. All of a sudden money has lost its value. There was one childhood proverb which has been proved right today— Health is Wealth. This is the reason why tumbling stock markets don’t bother me anymore as their relative importance has diminished. 

Technology has played a big role in making life comfortable. Be it official meetings, celebrating birthdays or meditations by Gurudev, I didn’t miss anything. The best part is that I can enjoy them from the comfort of my room, without even thinking about what to wear. Life has made the switch from choices to necessities.

I have also noticed a change in the attitude of people regarding generosity. Be it raising money in my society or at my school, I have observed an unprecedented outpouring of resources to help those in need. On a personal level, the distribution of water to migrants on the road on the first day humbled me greatly. Today, I see us developing nations handling this crisis much better than the so called ‘developed’ nations. I could have never imagined such discipline in our country, even beating ‘disciplined’ western world. Today I see more unanimity in the thoughts of political leaders across the political spectrum. The governmental machinery has also been very proactive in dealing with the crisis.

Last but definitely not the least, nature has shown us that it has its way of balancing itself. Today, I hear about how wild animals are out on the roads, beaches are attracting more fish, and the chirping of birds is back in the cities. To summarize, Corona Life has shown us the path to Satvik Life. I think nature has pressed the pause button for mankind to introspect at all levels and make changes to its unsustainable practices. Today the journey has started from external world to your home, the next step is journey within…

I am sure one more process from Advanced Course will come true— ‘This will also change’. I would not like to forget the learning’s of this life time experience and this is how I look at life post-corona:

  • We stop playing with our nature and abusing and exploiting it.
  • We stop unnecessary consumption and buy only what we need.
  • We start respecting the real essential workers— the backbone of society.
  • Humans reduce their collective arrogance.
  • We start focusing on ourselves more and start adding more skills.
  • We spend more time with our families.
  • We should continue with virtual meetings and travel only if necessary, to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Turn to vegetarianism

Life Under Quarantine

It all started early in the new decade, when I was about to wrap up a JV with a Chinese company, but all of a sudden, they were locked down. At that point, I never thought that I too would ever face a similar situation. I prayed for their safety and obliviously took a flight to Bangalore for my long due Sanyam Program. During that program, our Guru conducted a Maha Yagya and I attended it without knowing the bigger context behind the event. I had absolutely no idea that in 6 weeks, actual Sanyam (restraint) would be required in life.

Life went back to normal after I came back— meetings, calls, flights, and always running short on time. When March rolled around, all of us were busy preparing to end the financial year and look at the results at my work place, with discussions centered around targets for the upcoming year and appraisals. And at my NGO school, the results from this year were being analyzed and the academic plans for the next year were being finalized. At this point, no one could have ever imagined that life will take a 180 degree turn in just two weeks.

When the virus started entering our borders, the entire public, myself included, went straight into denial mode. However, with every passing day as the situation developed, we all saw the inevitable end approaching. At a business level, we started exploring the idea of working from home and started setting up the infrastructure required for that. Then, in a matter of a couple of days, the numbers took the back seat and sanitizers became the priority. The ever-separating walls of ego— the cabin doors— were kept open in the entire office, and coughing in public spaces was met with horror. Meetings started without handshakes and the buzzword ‘Social Distancing’ was heard everywhere. On a personal level, long calls, arguments & counter arguments started with my children in the US— forcing them to come back. One of them came home within a few days, but there were no hugs at the airport, he was kept restricted to his room and the local police was intimated of his arrival. Within the apartments, coming from abroad wasn’t welcomed, and all of a sudden you could notice friends maintaining a ‘social distance’.

Shortly, the Janata curfew was announced. All of a sudden, the gym was shuttered and my favorite coffee joint closed. We still kept denying the gravity of the pandemic, thinking it was just one day, without knowing that it was merely a trailer for a blockbuster to come. Once the lockdown was imposed, lines at the local grocery stores started increasing, and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty were clouding us all. The first few days of working from home posed a unique experience and multiple challenges, stimulating creative thinking to figure out logistics for the business and the school (with a daily siesta nap after lunch, of course). This acclimation period soon came to an end, and I got used to conference calls, talking to people at a distance, wearing masks, maintaining extra cautious personal hygiene, and becoming a policeman to my old parents. All my morning walks were stalled and socialization became digital.

Today we have entered the third week and as I look back, I can say with certainty that this episode has changed my perspective on life. I have started focusing more on my work without disturbances and tea breaks. Meetings are planned well and end at a fixed time. My teachers, who used to run away from technology, have now embraced these new changes. I find more time for myself, and living in 3 pairs of clothes wearing no shoes is a quite comforting feeling. Literally my wardrobe has turned into a museum. I have started cleaning my washroom— something I never did in the last three years, and I am loving it. It reminds me of my second advanced course way back, where I enjoyed cleaning the toilets at VM. Today I do meditation three times a day, and still have ample time to do my morning 90 minute Sadhna, without any excuses to miss the yoga part. I couldn’t start my day without a newspaper, and today it has been two weeks without seeing the headline. I have significantly reduced my TV screen time, especially news, so that I stay away from negativity. Now the daily routine starts with a 30-minute call with my daughter who is locked in her one room apartment in Chicago. We talk about things which we would have never touched in the pre-corona weekly calls. Most importantly, my respect for all our corona warriors has increased. These warriors include the delivery boys, Mother Dairy vendors, housekeeping staff, Police, and the all-important healthcare workers. A sense of gratitude washes over me whenever I look at them. While, I thank my cook for every meal he makes, I myself have started dabbling in the areas of cooking and singing.

Three months back, the biggest security for anyone was money and ironically today nobody wants to even touch it. All of a sudden money has lost its value. There was one childhood proverb which has been proved right today— Health is Wealth. This is the reason why tumbling stock markets don’t bother me anymore as their relative importance has diminished. 

Technology has played a big role in making life comfortable. Be it official meetings, celebrating birthdays or meditations by Gurudev, I didn’t miss anything. The best part is that I can enjoy them from the comfort of my room, without even thinking about what to wear. Life has made the switch from choices to necessities.

I have also noticed a change in the attitude of people regarding generosity. Be it raising money in my society or at my school, I have observed an unprecedented outpouring of resources to help those in need. On a personal level, the distribution of water to migrants on the road on the first day humbled me greatly. Today, I see us developing nations handling this crisis much better than the so called ‘developed’ nations. I could have never imagined such discipline in our country, even beating ‘disciplined’ western world. Today I see more unanimity in the thoughts of political leaders across the political spectrum. The governmental machinery has also been very proactive in dealing with the crisis.

Last but definitely not the least, nature has shown us that it has its way of balancing itself. Today, I hear about how wild animals are out on the roads, beaches are attracting more fish, and the chirping of birds is back in the cities. To summarize, Corona Life has shown us the path to Satvik Life. I think nature has pressed the pause button for mankind to introspect at all levels and make changes to its unsustainable practices. Today the journey has started from external world to your home, the next step is journey within…

I am sure one more process from Advanced Course will come true— ‘This will also change’. But this is how I look at life post-corona:

  • We stop playing with our nature and abusing and exploiting it.
  • We stop unnecessary consumption and buy only what we need.
  • We start respecting the real essential workers— the backbone of society.
  • Humans reduce their collective arrogance.
  • We start focusing on ourselves more and start adding more skills.
  • We spend more time with our families.
  • We should continue with virtual meetings and travel only if necessary, to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Turn to vegetarianism

Return to my homeland

‘Rehabilitation for Kashmiri Pandits’ is a recent phrase to have caught the attention of the public, reverberating in political discourses throughout the country. While it’s good that the masses are finally being made aware of the grave injustices faced by the Kashmiri Pandits, there are still some significant issues that people and politicians alike are not grasping. I have been thinking on this subject for a while, and the following questions were the first to come across my mind

1.         Is rehabilitation possible?

2.         Will it be successful or will it lead to another exodus?

3.         How can we make it work?

Being a Kashmiri Pandit myself, I know the pain my family went through during the exodus.  Leaving our sprawling eight-bedroom ancestral bungalow in the beautiful valley among lush apple orchards, to get squeezed into a 60 meter two room set in Delhi was comparable to a modern Trail of Tears. A family of six spread over three generations, including my father’s elderly aunt— everyone living like a refugee in their own country. In fact, we were quite lucky to have whatever little we had due to my father’s government job and family savings— I have heard stories of families shifting from mansions to tents overnight. I have experienced the stress and anxiety of a brother who had to wait for his sister to escape the violence and take the first flight to Delhi. I can say with absolute certainty that every Pandit family has suffered and lived with painful memories all these years. These memories have led to a lot of venom against my neighbors, colleagues, and friends— people with whom I spent all of my childhood. After 30 years, when I think about the future of the community in the valley, do I still live with that animosity or do I go back with pride since I’m a son of the soil? My return should not be enforced by authorities, but rather welcomed by locals.

Politicians from across the political spectrum love to talk about the return of Pandits to the valley, but they fail in putting the issue in context of our lives. Reservations in colleges and government jobs or allocations of land are mere electoral promises that fail to take into account the atmosphere that Pandits will eventually live in. Even if we get our land back, will the two communities agree to live in peace again? Will the Muslims still come and wish me on Shivratri or will I still dress up to greet them on Eid, like we did during my childhood?

The generation that lived through the exodus has one final chance to go back to the old times, as future generations will have no idea about our co-existence, our Kashmiriyat. This is the last generation which has seen the Kashmiri way of life, and it also the last generation that can reignite that lost friendship. Political differences may have led to anxious moments against each other during India-Pakistan matches, but we still had some respect and tolerance towards each other. I can say this for a fact since we lived in a Mohalla with no other Pandit family, but never lived in fear. What changed in those years leading up to the exodus? For that, I have no answer. But, do I still cling on to that 3-4 year period when I became an enemy of my friend overnight, or do I let go?

And this question must arise on both sides. The new generation of Muslims in the Valley must acknowledge the wrongdoings of their predecessors, and the Muslims who lived through the exodus must also think about their actions or inactions. The time to trust our politicians to resolve the issue is now over, for they have massively failed. We must work collectively as Kashmiris to bury the hatchet and give peace a chance. If I, as a victim of ethnic cleansing, am ready to unite and join hands with my fellow Kashmiris after 30 years, I am sure there will be some who echo the same sentiment on the other side as well. I am sure the new generation of Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims will also find a common ground to work together, so why should we burden them with our woes and not let them rediscover the joys of living together in the ‘heaven of earth’?

Times have changed, India is now a global force to reckon with, and neither does India lose a cricket match to Pakistan now. It is time for a cultural solution, not a political one. Politicians have kept this issue alive to use it in every election. Pandits and their issues have been reduced to cannon fodder to fuel political debates and win votes. It is time for a common man like you and me to get up and work towards a new dawn.

#KashmiriPandit #Kashmir #Kashmiripanditexodus

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.