Paper Boat Memories

“These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination.” – Tagore

This one was floated by my daughter last year when first rain of the season soaked not just the parched earth but also our hearts. The fragrance of the wet soil filled our souls as we breathed a sigh of relief from scorching summer heat!

My daughter had a big smile on the face as she launched her maiden paper boat into the water. Seeing those folded words moving with the water, I reminisced my own childhood when I used to tear pages from school books to make paper boats and play with them in the puddles and streams.

Each time I would launch a paper boat, it merrily sailed along trying to protect the sides, putting up a valiant fight before finally giving up. And then, I launched the other ones till parents noticed and got furious about the reducing size of my books!

That day, I joined my daughter and made a few paper boats myself experiencing immense joy of revisiting simple things in life.

Open Hand, Open Mind!

A hand that helps, they say, is holier than lips that pray.

The drivers of all human progress, our hands have been our most important tool right from the time someone rubbed two stones to create fire to this date when we use our hands on the keyboard and everything in between.

Hands, they also say, are the visible part of a person’s mind. Could that be a reason why you often get to know a lot about the other person by simply shaking hands? And could that be the reason why people shook hands as early as 5th Century BC when language was not so sophisticated?

A mother’s touch is instantly soothing. A friends touch quickly affirms. A beloved’s touch conveys warmth and love. Different expressions using the same tools – our hands.

“When the hand is at rest, the face is at rest; but a lively hand is the product of a lively mind.” – John Napier

These thoughts and more came to me when I visited the Open Hand Monument – a 26 meters tall structure with an open hand designed by French architect Le Corbusier who also designed the city of Chandigarh. It is believed that the open hand monument represents and open exchange of peace and reconciliation. Mountains in the backdrop, large open green space and surrounding wilderness made this a wonderful visit.

Located in the Capitol Complex, Open hand monument is an architectural wonder with beautiful landscaping and a very organic expression of one of the most powerful tools we possess – our hands. Talk about integrating the nature with architecture!

God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with. – Billy Graham

It was a gorgeous setting. Good design is powerful because it makes you think and I believe that the sole purpose of any art is to move us to a better place. My visit to this place left me mesmerized. Peacocks in the surrounding wilderness, bluish mountains at a distant, large green spaces and sun setting on the West. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I was trying to take a silhouette shot when the setting Sun said a hello from the open square in the structure. I quickly changed the camera settings to acknowledge and reciprocate.

I then proceeded to take the silhouette shot anyway.

“Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pocket.” – Anon

It is with our hands that we weave our lives, relationships and possibly fill meaning in our lives. The meaning we weave depends on how much we use our hands to lift others up, offer help and graciously receive the help when we need it. Just like this open hand, we need to open our minds, be receptive of opportunities to make a difference and then, use our hands to make that difference.

“Only an open heart can catch a dream.”

To me, that is the message of the Open Hand Monument.

Happy Father’s Day

My father has never preached me but it is amazing how much I gathered from his actions when I was a kid (and even today). I saw him reading and I was inspired to read. I saw him writing and I was inspired to write. I saw him living joyfully in spite of the travails of daily life and I learned how to live.

My father is the center of my existence, the foundation of my life and a role model. He speaks less yet says more through his actions. He is patient, loving, gentle, kind and compassionate.

My life transformed when my kids were born. I realized that it is easy to become a father but takes a lifetime to really be one. It is a fascinating journey and almost a spiritual one! To know that Almighty chose you to take care of a new life is such a wonderful privilege to have.


That’s me holding my son when he was barely a few weeks old, in 2012.

So, here’s to all the Dad’s in this world. Happy Father’s Day!

From Kalka to Shimla: A Train To The Mountains

For me, journey to the mountains has never been about the height I physically climb, but the depth of experience I receive while traveling. It is said that nature is within us and what we see outside (and the depth of our experiences) is just a manifestation of what lies within us.

On our recent trip to Shimla (in the Himalayan mountain range), we decided to take the toy train journey from Kalka.

It is one of the most sought after train journeys in the country covering about 96 kilometers and offering exotic views along the way. It passes through 20 quaint stations, some 800 bridges and about 120 tunnels. The narrow gauge train line was built in 1903 by Britishers to access Shimla which was then, the Summer capital of the country. This train line is now on UNESCO’s world heritage rail sites.

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” – Corrie Ten Bloom

As the train ascended to the mountains, crossing dark and long tunnels followed by gorgeous views at every turn, lovely terrains and majestic mountains at a distance shadowed by the clouds, I could not stop thinking about how this trip resembles our own lives. Just like this ride, the journey of our life starts happily, goes through dark phases of struggles followed by good times and this cycle goes on till we reach our destination. When in dark tunnels, we surely could see the light at the end of every tunnel!

Old and colorful small stations along the way offered a refreshing break, although very brief. The air at these stations was crisp, fresh and filled with fragrances of food being served at the stations.

The play of clouds and the mountains was mesmerizing at best with every turn along the way offering spectacular views.

Seeing the distant villages on the mountain slopes and colorful houses made for quite a sight.

Every man has a train of thought on which he rides when he is alone.The dignity and nobility of his life, as well as his happiness, depends upon the direction in which that train is going, the baggage it carries, and the scenery through which it travels. — Joseph Fort Newton

My 9 years old daughter was so fascinated by the scenery that she could not help pulling out her drawing book and start sketching her own version of what she saw from glass window of the train. For me, it was easy to (try and) capture the beauty using my camera but for my daughter, the only tool she had was her own imagination – a gift we are all born with but lose eventually as education takes over.

When we finally reached our destination, seeing so many people at the station, we felt that the journey itself was much more interesting than the destination. And so it is with our lives too.

So, now that you have got onto the train, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

A Date with Butterflies

Last weekend, I spent two hours amidst wilderness of the Butterfly Park in Chandigarh.

Watching these beautiful winged creatures hover around, rest on the flowers and then swiftly move to wherever their heart takes them was a truly meditative experience.

Here are some pictures from the visit:

At 10:00 AM, I was the only visitor in the park.

Walking along the nature trail in the park is almost like walking in the jungle. Butterflies prefer wilderness and the park offer a perfect environment to them. Host plants for butterflies are carefully selected to ensure that a wide range of butterflies can live here.
 

I sat on the edge of the trail facing the plants for 2 hours and made friends with some of the most beautiful and delicate creatures on the earth.

To really experience the beauty of life, one has to embrace silence. I did just that and soon became a part of their world.

I watched butterflies for about a couple of hours and I did not want to leave the place. For those two hours, my world had shrunk and all the worries and anxieties just melted when I saw these butterflies happily hovering around me.

To me, butterflies are a sign of hope, belief and life itself. They start their life painfully, struggle to emerge from their cocoon and then blossom. A short and fleeting life span does not deter them from adding so much beauty to the world.

And finally, here is a short poem that I really loved.

Flutter by,
Butterfly,
Floating flower
in the sky.
Kiss me with your
Petal wings—
Whisper secrets,
Tell of spring.

– Author Unknown

Make the Ordinary Come Alive


Do not ask your children

To strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable,

But it is a way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder

And the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting

Tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry

When pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure

In the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.

The extraordinary will take care of itself.

– From the Book “That Parent’s Tao Te Ching” by William Martin

In the Pic: Wooden artifacts at Kurfi, Shimla

The Mountain and the Squirrel

Hungry Squirrel, by Tanmay Vora, Taken at Vadnagar, Gujarat

Enjoy this lovely poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
“Little prig.”
Bun replied,
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I’m not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

Sunset at the Lake

What do you do when you are alone and family is away for a few weeks? I tend to fill my spare time doing things that may mean nothing in itself but that give me joy. I sing along, take long walk along the lake, watch sunset, go out on photography excursion around the city, sketch a bit, read great books and write a lot. These things fill me with contentment and convert my loneliness (which is generally seen as a negative space) into solitude, a tremendously positive and meditative space. My opportunity to connect with my own self.

Last weekend, I took a long solitary walk along the Sukhna lake – the heart of Chandigarh city surrounded by Shivalik mountain range and enjoyed the sunset.

Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

“It is up to you to see the beauty of everyday things” – Anon

Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

“A setting sun still whispers the promise of tomorrow.” – Jeb Dickerson

Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator” – Gandhi

Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

“Life just is. Birds don’t analyze life. They just live.”

Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

“O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

It was a beautiful evening and time well spent.

How can I NOT be  grateful for this wonderful life?

Selfie World

I love selfies. It is my chance to focus on myself for a moment and take a picture.

But “selfie” is also a hallmark of the culture we are seeing increasingly – people excessively focusing only on their selves. When we start putting ourselves before others all the time, it impairs our ability to serve others which is so vital in the collaborative and networked world we now live in.

I am reminded of a wonderful quote in Huffington Post article titled “Selfie World” by Michael Rosenblum quite aptly sums up what we really need to focus on: 

As the sage Maimonides wrote, “If I am not for me, who will be?” But he also followed with “If I am only for me, what am I?”

We sure have the first part down.

Maybe it’s time to focus on the second?

What do you think?

You and I

When two rivers unite, they drop the boundaries of their name to just become one stream of flowing water.

When they say we ‘fall’ in love, they probably mean that  boundaries of our ego just dissolve when we experience true love.

The other day, when I saw this couple sitting on edge of the lake with water gently stroking their feet, I was reminded of powerful lines that I had read recently:

You and I
Have to live

As if you and I
Never heard

Of a “you”
And
an “I.”

– Rumi (via Omid Safi)

The Meaning of Life?

Nicolae Tanase is the Excellence Reporter who asks thought leaders from different walks of life a single question: “What is the meaning of life?”

This is one question that I secretly hoped no one ever asked me. I have been thinking all the time about business related topics and any question that did not have defined boundaries was difficult for me to respond to.

And it happened. Nicolae asked me this question and threw me into a whirlwind of thoughts. What emerged as a response was as follows:

Life is so profound, enormous and ever-expanding that it has no meaning.

When I photograph birds, I learn something about life. A bird, enlivened by the same life energy as us, never goes around trying to find the meaning of life. It just follows its own nature — to fly, to sing and to simply be what it really is. They are peaceful with their self not lamenting about what happened to them in the past or what will happen to them in the very next moment. They live in here and now; in perfect harmony with their inner nature.

I see the same life energy manifesting itself when I see my three years old son jumping on the bed merrily singing rhymes. Joyful for being alive, he is the most complete expression of life, just like birds and other elements of nature are.

The quest for meaning of life is the quest to connect with our inner self and let that shine bright. Nothing outside of us can help in finding the meaning of our own life. We can see the abundance in the world only when we connect with the abundance of life that is within us. Only then can we see the possibilities that life brings to us. Only then can we truly express our real selves through our endeavors. Only then can we expand our consciousness about life. Only then can we move beyond mere survival and truly live our potential.

Connecting with our true inner nature is almost like diving into a deep ocean to find a precious pearl. It may not always be attainable but it is this pursuit that makes life worthwhile and beautiful.

~Tanmay Vora, Excellence Evangelist, lifelong learner, blogger, author and IT business leader who writes at QAspire.com

This response originally appeared here.

The Summer Day

The Summer Day, Mary OliverListening to the “On Being” episode with one of the greatest living poets Mary Oliver truly made my day, especially the following poem.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Swan and black bear represent the good and the bad. Grasshopper represents us, the indecisive human beings.

Life seems to be fleeting by and being present and mindful in the moment is perhaps the best gift we can give to ourselves.