Thursday, 16 March 2017

Peace



What is 'Peace’?

Peace. Pax. Shalom. Salaam. Shanti. It’s a popular word in so many languages. And a popular concept too. But is it really as popular as we think it is? I remember reading once that there are about 100 given wars going on anywhere in the world on any given day. Apart, of course,  from the obvious great wars of the last century. Cold wars. Hot wars. Proxy wars. Everyone says they want peace, yet wars persist. Why is this?



Why is peace difficult to obtain?

Because for reasons best known to certain countries and individuals, peace is not acceptable at any price. Yes, everyone wants peace. But they want it on their own terms. Our terms may not be acceptable to others. That is the crux of the problem. Are our terms acceptable to others? If not, why? And are others’ terms acceptable to us? Maybe not. How do we get everyone on the same page, wanting the same things? It’s not at all easy. Ask any negotiator.

Striking a balance

As societies grow, change and evolve, conflict emerges from time to time. Old orders change and new awareness grows. Sometime there’s a lot of tough resistance to change. Older generations often despise innovation. The world as they know it turns upside down and in order to keep the world familiar, with an order they can appreciate, they fight innovation every inch of the way. Yet it is conflict that is the lifeblood of progress.  Remember the story of the Luddites? The people who resisted progress but ultimately couldn’t stop the industrial revolution! And they made life a lot harder for themselves as well as everyone else.

Inner peace

Apart from the actual absence of war, peace is an internal matter also. Inner peace is a very desirable state. What brings about our inner peace? In no particular order, some factors could be:

  1. Knowing that we and our loved ones are safe and secure.
  2. Knowing that we have a higher power who has  our  best interests at heart and takes care of us.
  3. Feeling secure about our future.
  4. Having a rich inner life with regular meditation and surrender to our Higher Power.
  5. Knowing that we have made correct decisions​ and have done the right thing. Wrong decisions will rob us of our sleep and peace.


Religious viewpoints

There are many religious viewpoints. There's the Christian 'peace and goodwill to all men’ (must have meant all humanity, can you imagine a world without women?). There's the Islamic ethic of the peace which comes from submission to the Almighty. There's the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain search for inner peace.

Helen Keller's peace quote

I remember reading a quote from Helen Keller, a physically challenged woman who overcame her speaking and hearing disabilities to become one of the most profound thinkers of her generation. She said that she didn't want the ‘peace that passeth understanding’. She wanted the ‘understanding which bringeth peace’. It all sounds wonderfully wise, and indeed it is. But Helen Keller got her 'peaces’ confused, I think. She was referring to the quote from St Paul in Philippians 4:7. St Paul, or Saul of Tarsus as he was known in his time, was an amazing man, on fire for Jesus and the kingdom of Heaven. He was originally an orthodox Jew who persecuted Christians. However he encountered the Risen Jesus and was forever changed. His 'peace that passeth understanding’ refers to a supernatural, inner peace which can keep one sane even in situations of war and conflict. The peace to which Helen Keller was referring was understanding between nations and the absence of international conflict. We have to understand that there are different kinds of peace. Internal and external and even super-external. They are all dimensions of each other but they are not each other. Not exactly.



Symbol of peace

The current international symbol of peace is the dove. It's also the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Christian understanding of Who and What is God. Once, when I worked in the Embassy of India in Dublin, I got a call from a psychiatrist. He had seen a Government of India Tourist Office poster of a statue of Lord Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist faith. The poster was so peaceful and serene to look at that, that this psychiatrist wanted a copy to put up in his waiting room so that patients waiting to come in and see him could become calm and peaceful during the wait.

What a peaceful idea…….

Whoever you are and whatever you believe in, I wish you peace. Inner peace, outer peace and absolutely every other kind.


I blog with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. The current blogging members of this group are: me, RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Rummuser for the topic/prompt 'Peace". I was extremely late with my post owing to the Holi holidays, which are very important in north India.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Five Ways Social Media Has Changed Our Lives

Has social media changed the way we live? You bet it has! I’ve been in India for 22 years and have visited home in Ireland maybe half-a-dozen times. The biggest challenge about this, for me, has always been coping with the difficulty of making contact with old friends and family. However, that’s all over now, thanks to Facebook. I check my phone every morning and read that uncle Ned in Dublin is furious over the biased referee in the boxing match or that my cousin Paula in Dublin went to see Take That in concert (or whoever!). I speak to my cousin Veronica in Scotland every few days thanks to WhatsApp. We haven’t spoken this frequently since we wrote to each other as kids. Social media has definitely changed our lives forever. I can think of at least five ways that social in which it has affected life as we know it.


  1. Social media makes the world more accessible to us. This is a fact. The world is at your fingertips. Find out which of your friends and family are on Facebook and once you keep your page updated and they keep theirs updated, you’ll be in touch forever. You don’t even have to write. You can wave to each other across the world every so often. That’s it.


  1. Social media makes us more accessible to the world. Yes, well this is probably one of the downsides. My friend Ruth had an alarming experience recently. A friend of hers asked to add her to a WhatsApp chat group. Ruth is a Christian, which means she belongs to a minority group in India. Her friend Seema is also from a minority community. Seema said a relative of hers wanted to discuss Christianity, so Ruth agreed to join the group. The ‘relative’ turned out to be a middle east-based male named Kamal, who had an extraordinary interest in religious matters. Ruth felt irritated when the gentleman continually quoted the Bible to  her to prove to her that Christianity was an erroneous religion. Then Kamal contacted Ruth on WhatsApp, independently. Without Seema’s restraining presence, Kamal started trying to sweet-talk Ruth, saying her that he felt drawn to her attractive personality and that he felt as if they had some kind of bond. Ruth was really upset and confused over this. She’s married and so is Kamal and she didn’t want to say anything offensive to him for Seema’s sake. Which brings me to my next point.
Ruth realised she'd probably been targeted as the next 'victim'


  1. Social media helps us discover information we really need to know. Ruth went on Facebook and discovered that Kamal is a member of an active religious group based in the middle eastern city where he lives. This group holds various functions in which solemn-looking (male) speakers in eastern ethnic dress give speeches in Arabic, Urdu and English on religious subjects, usually rubbishing Christianity. Their page also features videos of Christian people converting to the faith of Kamal and his friends. Also featured are screenshots of FB and WhatsApp Messenger conversations  with Kamal himself, in which he persuades alleged Christians to deny their faith and he literally walks them through proclaiming themselves members of his community. So Ruth realised that Kamal had obviously targeted her as his next ‘victim’. She took immediate action and blocked him from her FB and WhatsApp pages and couldn’t care less what Seema thinks about it.


  1. Social media has given a voice to those who have none. Okay, so I'm being a bit dramatic! But seriously… I live in a country where I have residency rights, but not citizenship. I don't happen to live in the country where I have citizenship. So I have no vote in either country, which I think makes me a second class citizen in both countries. When I think of how, in the past, women chained themselves to railings to get the vote, I feel great regret for what I've lost. My vote doesn't matter, therefore I don't either. But social media has helped me a great deal here. There are so many petitions being shared on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, that I make a point of signing and sharing petitions with which I agree and which I support. I may not be a full citizen of either of my two countries, but I am a world citizen through the power of social media. Petitions I have supported have gone to government ministers and other higher authorities and have changed lives and if there's something I feel strongly about, I can even start a petition of my own. It makes a huge difference to know I have a voice that matters. Also, if I have a complaint about the service offered by the pizza delivery company, the Internet service provider or even the mobile wallet company, leaving a message on their Facebook page or sending a Twitter message often gets better and quicker results than the phone or email. I know someone trying to set up a bank account abroad who was able to contact the desired bank through Twitter and is now well on their way to achieving their goal. So believe me, the power of social media is making it possible for more and more people to get their voice heard.
Nowadays, social  media has varied platforms


  1. Social media has platforms to fit almost everyone. Okay, Facebook is not for everyone. It has its share of detractors and certainly, if the user isn’t careful, it’s possible to get into danger from befriending the wrong type of person online, so caution is important. But leaving that aside, even the most avid Facebook hater will find a social media platform which suits them if they look around. A family I know in Ireland, the Dromgooles (names changed), make very diverse use of social media. Jack, the father, is very busy with his work, but when he gets time to relax and unwind, he loves to take artistic, still-life photographs. For him, Instagram is the social media platform of choice. He has gathered a loyal group of followers who enjoy his photography and leave appreciative comments. Jack has no interest in Facebook and leaves it to his children to spread the family news. Jack’s wife, Penny, also has no interest in opening a Facebook account but gets a lot of enjoyment from Pinterest, a search engine of ideas. Penny is a keen crafter and she also has huge interest in organic food. Her Pinterest boards have quite a following and help her to find people on the Internet who have similar interests. The two adult children, Jack Jr and Frances, use LinkedIn, a corporate networking site, to connect with people in their industries and advance their careers. They also use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. The youngest child, Faith, is still in school and therefore not allowed by her traditional-minded parents to open any social media accounts, but she gets to enjoy seeing the photographs which her sister and brother post on Facebook, not to mention her father’s photography. Whoever in the family has a phone uses WhatsApp to keep in touch by text or voice message, so everyone is available to each other at the flick of a touchscreen.


These are just a few of the ways in which social media has changed the way we live over the last few years. There may be even more ways. If anyone reading this post can think of anything to add to this list, please write a comment below and let me know. I'm very keen to find out more about the many ways social media has changed the lives of people, hopefully for the better.


I blog with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. The current blogging members of this group are: me, RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Shackman for the topic/prompt 'Life With Social Media".


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Friday, 17 February 2017

Consumerism

There has been more than one culture clash in my life recently. Attitudes to money would be the main reason for that, in my humble opinion.

My husband grew up in an era when one rupee (that's the Indian currency) had some value. Money was hard-earned and didn't come easily. When money had to be spent on items other than food, it was spent on items that were expected to last. That was the era of the lifetime guarantee. It would have been similar in some ways for me, although things had begun to change in the western world by the time I was growing up.


Life has totally changed. I remember when I bought my first mobile phone ten years ago. It was a solid little phone, no bigger than a bar of chocolate. It could make phone calls and had a little calendar in it. I loved it. But one day, when I'd had the phone about three years, it broke down. I brought it to a repair shop to get an estimate for the repair. The repair cost was the price of the phone itself. I knew it was time to get another phone. My next phone had a similar 'candy bar' design, but amazingly, it had Internet. The Internet recharges were reasonably priced and it felt great to have a mobile Internet connection, even if the screen was tiny. But no mobile phone of mine has ever lasted as long as my original one.
You'll still find the steet vendors here

Years ago, when people bought goods like clocks and tables, they were made to last a lifetime. Now, a 'lifetime' means three years. It's incredible. If I have a phone I love, I would see no reason to change it. But no-one seems to have interest in something after it's a year old. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but things have gone that way. And it's quite a culture shock for people of my husband's generation, many of whom are grandparents now. They would see themselves as working hard for whatever money they can get and when one of the grandchilren needs a new mobile, the older people would see the  money as simply being wasted. It's hard to explain. I suppose things have moved along pretty fast during the last few years.

A fabulous Asian mall
The older people in India have a habit of saving money, which was inculcated into them as youngsters. But when I mentioned this to a relative living in Ireland, I was told that nowadays, people live a credit card lifestyle. Apparently, the habit of saving is obsolete. No one has savings. No one holds on to old stuff. It's all update, update, update.

What's really complicated about Indian life is that there are several layers of society here. There's a layer of affluent, English educated elite who enjoy a consumer lifestyle, with all its benefits. At the same time, they enjoy some of the benefits of living in an economy where there are a lot of poor people.  So you have families where the kids eat pizza and chat on 4G mobiles while there is a servant (maybe even a child servant, though that's against the current law) washing the floor in front of them.

Because Indians follow traditions of giving their daughters and sons-in-law a lot of gifts at the time of marriage, this puts tremendous pressure on parents of girls about to be married. One doesn't wish to send one's daughter away to her marital home with household goods which are not of a high standard. Everything has to be up-to-date and state-of-the-art. Even if there is no demand for these items from the boy's side, the pressure remains. So one has to have plenty of savings to fall back on while keeping up with the consumer society. Talk about having the worst of both worlds!
Despite modern trends, traditional vendors are still around

Nowadays in India, you can buy your vegetables in a modern supermarket. But you can still buy them off a barrow on the road or in a roadside vegetable market, if you prefer. Recently, while shopping for clothes for my nephew's marriage, I enjoyed a trip in Lucknow's Aminabad market, buying bangles to match whatever saris I was planning to wear at the various wedding functions. My friend Babita is an expert shopper in these traditional markets. An Irish friend, Aine, who was coming to the wedding, was with us. Babita told Aine and me to just select whatever bangles we wanted. Then, when the shopkeeper tried to charge an exorbitant price, Babita argued him down the right rate, with a skill that comes from years of practice. This wasn't only shopping. It was entertainment. 
Outdoor vegetable market

As for me, I like nice stuff. Nice phones, nice computers, nice clothes. But I tend to use all my possessions until they fall apart. I do not care who is impressed or who isn't. And even if anyone gossips about my 'cheap lifestyle' I'm not strong in Hindi, so I can't understand them anyway.

Some of the wisdom of the East seems to have influenced me. One should be less materialistic and more spiritual in order to maximize one's satisfaction in life. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!


I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Rummuser for the topic/prompt 'Consumerism".

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Image of 'Young Woman Talking On The Phone While Shopping For Clothes' by 'nenetus', courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
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Monday, 13 February 2017

Impatience

Many years ago, when I lived in Dublin, I met someone nice and started dating. I wasn't serious, I just thought we could have nice interesting discussions about India, which I found absolutely fascinating, as I was working in the Embassy of India back then. I had no intention of getting attached with a foreigner, with all the attendant cultural problems. I was happy living in Ireland and the idea of marriage couldn't have been further from my mind.

We both thought we could just keep things in control. One day, after a lot of emotional turmoil and denial, it hit us both that we were in love. Truly. Madly. Irrevocably. To the point where we couldn't live without each other. I'd known about the Indian system of arranged marriages and when it occurred to me that he would probably be married off by his family as soon as he returned to India, I felt physically ill at the thought. We are both tenacious and patient people. We realised that bringing our two worlds together would not be easy. There is no need to go into why we couldn't get married right away, but it finally happened. By the time we tied the knot in 1994, we had been in a relationship for more than seven years, most of it long distance. 

Even now, I find it difficult to believe we held on to the relationship for so long. Bear in mind that this was back in the days when there was no Facebook, no WhatsApp and certainly, no Skype. We got to see each other roughly ever two years at one stage. Sometimes, the letters we sent (I wrote practically daily, he wrote a lot less then that) didn't reach. But somehow, we made it. I'm in a Facebook group of women who are partners in inter-cultural relationships, many of them still in the long distance phase. It's very hard to explain sometimes that when we were at that stage, even a very short phone call was a very big deal.

We finally beat the odds and got married. We now have four kids, two already adults. We've been married over 22 years now. I often wonder how come we lasted so long.

The answer is simple. We were both patient. And we had enough faith in each other. My husband was born and grew up in an India where nothing came without waiting patiently. Even though I grew up in a country which was very different to India, I'd seen some difficulties in my early years and I had also learned that if we want something good to happen, you have to wait and not give up too soon.

I notice a huge difference in our children. They have grown up in an age where almost anything is possible. They have instant photos on the camera and can speak to their Irish relatives at the flick of a button. I can't imagine any of our kids having the patience we had to wait it out as we did when we were waiting to be with each other.

While I feel very proud of the fact that he and I had the patience and the tenacity to wait for each other for seven years, I have to say that the very patience which helped us get together has also let us down in a lot of ways. We started off living in my in-laws' house. Since the very beginning of my marriage, I have dreamed of my family having a home of our own. That never happened until now and maybe never will. My over-protective in-laws didn't want us moving out of the family home. Well, the elders didn't. They were afraid that people would fool me and that I would end up coming to grief in some way. So I learned to keep my thoughts to myself and just make the best of things.

I feel sad that I've never had a home of my own to enjoy. Even a slight difference opinion between my spouse and I and everyone knows about it. The rooms allotted to our side of the family are former common family rooms and right behind the front door of the house. So people into whose rooms we wouldn't dare trespass even by accident roam in and out of our section, without a care in the world for our comfort and privacy.
   
I try not to think too much about this, but when I do,  I really wish I hadn't been so patient and adjusting. Impatience would have worked much better for me in this case.

I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Pravin for the topic/prompt 'The Supernatural'. Sorry I'm  late with this week's post, guys.    

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Friday, 10 February 2017

The Supernatural

The supernatural...

Do I believe in the supernatural? Yes, I do. My husband and I were both raised in homes where faith and religion were given the utmost importance. Although the religions were different, certain basic beliefs were the same. We both learned, in childhood, that this natural world is in a certain dimension, but there are other dimensions which cannot be easily seen or sensed in this one. We believe we have come to this life for a certain purpose and that there is a higher power, known as God, to whom we must answer when the time comes for us to cross over into the next dimension after our death in this world.

Common knowledge and belief

What's so unusual about that? Millions believe the same thing, in some form or another. Even the most primitive human communities live in constant awareness of the supernatural dimension. In fact, they're even more aware of it, living, as many of them do, at the mercy of nature. 

My native Ireland is full of supernatural stories. Stories about banshees, women of a supernatural race who would wail loudly when the death of a member of certain families was imminent. A particularly popular myth in the southern part of the country concerned 'changelings'. A family with a particularly beautiful child had to be careful not to brag about it. For if the 'faerie folk' came to know, they'd kidnap the beautiful infant and leave an ugly one in its place. 

Could it be that those changeling stories resulted from the replacement of dead children in wealthier families by babies from poorer homes because servants were trying to avoid blame? There was a custom of children of noble families being fostered out to families of a similar status who lived in different regions of the country, in order to foster kinship. Who knows how many changelings resulted from such situations? Two times of the year when a lot of supernatural activities occurred in Ireland were spring and autumn, when the world slips into a different season. 



Common Ireland/India traits

Pre-Christian Ireland had a mythology of its own, with gods, goddesses and festivals aplenty. Hindu India was no different, having a plethora of spiritual deities and as many religious festivals as anyone could want. And strangely enough, a lot of supernatural activity went on around the spring and autumn seasons in India too.

The supernatural and faith

I consider myself to be a faithful Christian, but I've always had a bit of a fascination with the supernatural. I sat up late many a Saturday night in Dublin, watching horror movies about vampires and mummies, although they're not really in my comfort zone. I once listened to a song about a bunch of kids getting excited about telling ghost stories late into the night. There was a line which said: 'It's kind of fun getting scared when you know it's not for real'. That is certainly true.

In the Book of Genesis, the Bible tells us that God was tired of being ignored by the human race, which had turned away from Him and started to worship other spiritual entities. So he communicated with Abraham the patriarch and made Himself known as the eternal Father God. He took Abraham's descendants  (those which came from Abraham's especially promised and very blessed son Isaac and his younger son, Israel) as his own people and kept them separate from the world, until there was a conducive atmosphere for Jesus Christ, God's only-begotten Son, to be born as a Man. Once Jesus Christ performed His work of redeeming the human race from the clutches of death with His own Blood sacrifice, He returned to His Father. But when the Father was preparing the great grandsons of Abraham and their descendants to be the people from which God the Son would be born, he was very careful to instruct them to stay away from any kind of unauthorized supernatural activity. The Israelites were forbidden to practice mediumship and also forbidden to indulge in the local religious festivals of the land of Canaan, in which they were to settle. They were also forbidden to cut their skin or even to have tattoos applied. Apparently, the Canaanites carved religious symbols of their own into their skin. The sooner the Children of Israel lived a life pleasing to the Father, the quicker the Will of God could be done. The Israelites disobeyed numerous times and it took about a thousand years for the Father's Will to be carried out in Israel and ultimately, the world. If we want to please the Father, we have to steer clear of idolatry and superstition and concentrate on reading the Scriptures He has given us. The Father desires to be worshiped 'in spirit and in truth' (NT John 4:24).

The Supernatural - personal experience?

I don't have much personal experience of the supernatural, but one recent experience comes to mind. I used to bring my dog, Duggu, for a walk down a certain road every morning. I noticed that when we walked on a certain stretch of the road, the dog became very aggressive and disturbed, jumping around, pulling on his lead and even seizing my arm in an aggressive manner. Duggu is a big dog, so that was a scary experience.  When I talked to a couple of friends about this, someone pointed out that the stretch of road where Duggu went crazy was beside the cemetery of a particular community. I hadn't been aware of the fact because there are no headstones, just flat soil and lots of overhanging trees. Obviously, Duggu could see things that I simply couldn't. Despite not possessing human intelligence, it appears that dogs can see into the other dimension to some extent. Scary, eh?

Who knows what Duggu saw in those overhanging trees? I avoided the cemetery road after that discussion and the situation immediately improved. As God taught the Israelites in Biblical times, it's better to stay within the set boundaries and not move over the edge of this dimension. I truly believe that.

I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to my Shackman for the topic/prompt 'The Supernatural'. Sorry I'm a week late with the post, guys. I'll do an extra post this week to catch up!

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