So, what is love?

Valentine’s Day is over with, I’m sure, more than half the world not bothering about it, since it’s more a western cultural occasion. But, to those of us who are aware of it, it is a good day to think about love!

So, what is love? Each of us may have a different definition or understanding of love, and, I think, that is true in all our different experiences. Sometimes, I think, though they are all aspects of the same thing.

Today, I want to define what I believe true love fundamentally is. It is not a feeling. It’s not just an act of will. Love, for me, is a total mindset that is constantly reaching out to the people around us in every aspect of life. It is such a powerful overwhelming motivation that it is able to remove and overcome every obstacle in its way for the sake of the well-being of the other person.

This is the kind of love parents have for their children, siblings for each other and friends for other friends. And, between two people who truly love each other. It’s not just love that doesn’t let go of the person loved; it’s a love that empowers one to reach out to the other for the other’s good.

I’ve not experienced love like that! Well, that’s not completely true. I experience it, but, only with God. If not for His love, I would not be the person I am now. Maybe, that’s why I’m not married! Just can’t find a man who measures up to the Godly example I revel in!

Some of you are parents, so, you know what I mean. A parent never gives up on helping a child become better. The parent may back off for a while to give the child space to find himself or herself. If at all the parent gives up, it is very likely because he or she does not have the skills or resources to beat the odds or the child is beyond redemption.

Nevertheless, that parent knows that that love compels him or her. And, the child will pick it up and never forgets.

If we can not give love like that, then, we shouldn’t start it. But, if for whatever reason we are in a relationship where such a love can’t be found, the best thing to do is to get out of it — if we have a choice. If we don’t, I guess, just make the best of it!

This Valentine’s Day, I had company. A young man and an older one! They are Americans who were visiting and we could only meet up on Valentine’s Day! Nothing romantic, but it was enjoyable chatting and connecting over Indian tea (milk tea with an array of savoury and sweet snacks!). When we are secure in an outwardly reaching love, it is easy to love in different ways: a friend to a friend, a sibling to a sibling, a lover to a lover. It’s love — more than money — that makes the world go round and round!

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Car safety tips

A friend sent some info about safety in cars which I’ll paraphrase here. It seems the headrests of cars are deliberately made detachable and sharp to break open the glass of car in case of fire and emergency. The glass, too, is kept easily breakable. Do pass this info along.

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Making our homes safe

It really is tragic when families die in their own homes, perhaps, needlessly. I am referring to the couple and two sons who died in a fire in their home in USJ 2, which is the section opposite where I live. It was too close to home.

If the home had been fitted with grills with an escape window, I wonder if such a tragedy could have been avoided? It is good that the media is carrying a good number of stories on fire-prevention at home and what to do in case one breaks out.

I think it must be standard practice to have a fire extinguisher in every home and to install smoke detectors, especially those with an alarm. I also think it is very important to have window and door grills that can be easily opened.

Most of us have grills with one panel that is a window with a latch. Usually we padlock the window and leave the key in an easily accessible place. If you use the air-con everyday, it is easier because you shut the windows and then there’s no need to lock the grill window. In case of fire, just open your window and the grill window and jump out.

The problem occurs when the grill is locked or if the grill doesn’t have a window to escape through. Surely, we can design a grill that can be easily opened in case we are trapped in a room?

When I changed my windows, I asked my contractor if he could find a grill for the window which doesn’t require a padlock and all he could say was, “Don’t have, don’t have!” I had suggested a three panel sliding grill with a latch on one end. (And, I was willing to pay for it!) The grill could be fitted in such a way that the latch is on the side of the window I don’t open. So, it would be hard for people to get to the grill latch but easy for me to get out. But, my contractor was totally closed about exploring the idea of a safe, padlock-less grill!

We fix grills to protect ourselves from intruders. An easy -to-open grill and an alarm system would solve that problem. Although the grill is a hazard in case of a fire.

Necessity is the mother of inventions, but, in this case, it surprises me that no one has designed a safe grill to install! I hope someone will come up with an affordable grill system that won’t trap people in — in case of a fire — but offers a quick escape route.

A suggestion that the fire safety experts gave which, I think, is very essential is the smoke detector system with alarm. Sometimes, when in deep slumber, we are not aware and, in case of fire, we don’t wake up to escape. A smoke detector alarm system would definitely solve that problem.

We really need to give priority to making our homes safe. Having written this, I am going to invest in a fire extinguisher and a smoke detector alarm system!



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A health tip — affirm yourself!

The other day someone shared about a psychological problem and it took me back to a session I had with my therapist a few years ago when I, myself, was dealing with some anxiety and depression-related issues.

At that session, we discussed about what I missed growing up. And, my therapist said something that hit home. Regarding what I didn’t get as a result of losing family members then, she said, “You do that to yourself. You assure yourself.” I realised then that I am an adult woman, not a child, and I could affirm myself to make up for the affirmations I didn’t get.

I did just that. I realised that I was scared to use my savings for fear that I won’t have enough for old age! Well, I told myself, I should spend on some things I like doing and enjoy myself now rather than deprive myself in order to take care of myself in the future. So, I took some money and went on a holiday to the States!

It was my way of assuring myself that I would be able to take care of myself. I had an uneventful but pleasant time travelling through California and seeing Yosemite. And it was good meeting up with old friends. The point of the holiday was that I broke the fear that held me back from doing the necessary things to enjoy myself now instead of living a life of deprivation and hoarding my savings for old age!

So, now, I spend on extras that affirm some needs of mine that are not affirmed because the people who could do that are no longer around. I affirm myself in ways I can, not indulgently but responsibly. If it involves spending money, I go ahead and do it while making sure I have enough for retirement. I work so I still generate funds to cover a shortfall. But, that irrational fear is gone. My concerns for old age are what most of us have but that irrational fear no longer cripples me.

Self-affirmation, especially in those areas that cripple us from acting, is self-assuring and it helps to reduce our fears and in doing so frees us to act according to what we, as adults, know we should do.

If your fears are debilitating and crippling you from action, of course, it is best to get help. Most of the time, though, it is just baggage that gets in our way — baggage from unresolved experiences that stops us from doing what we know we should. In such cases, a dose of self-affirmation may help! If nothing else, it will help in developing a healthy self-concept.

I am no psychologist. This is just a little experiential common sense insight!





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Hope the rooster brings better fortunes

Taipan wasn’t choked with traffic like it always is before Chinese New Year. It was busy but if you had driven around a couple of times, you could still have found a parking bay. Which is unusual. In previous years, you’d rarely find a parking bay or you’d have to drive around and around only to give up and exit in exasperation.

This Chinese New Year, however, it was fairly relaxed. Traffic wasn’t heavy and was moving. Visiting a couple of shops, I noticed that there weren’t many customers either, despite the attractions of offers and discounts. A shop-owner I know lamented,”Look, Chinese New Year and like this.” There wasn’t a customer in her beauty salon.

So, people on the ground are not spending. But, when you read the mainstream newspapers, everything looks good. We are fed with statistics that the economy is growing, that the billions we are getting from China and other countries is foreign direct investment meant to regenerate the economy. We are getting all this money but where is it going?

The people are tightening their belts, not spending like they used to. So, where is the money going? The answer is a mystery. It is going into the economy to give jobs and raise incomes, we are told. But, people still don’t seem to have enough to spend.

Perhaps, the money is going to the rich who, whether in good or bad times, always have money to spend. If it is, then, clearly the gap between the haves and the have-nots are widening.

What really is the true picture of our economy or political situation? To get a more correct picture, we need to read foreign publications like The Economist or BBC analyses. If you read the local media, you need to be an expert at reading between the lines to find out what’s going on! Even then , you only get an inkling of the real situation but not the true state.

Most people, however, depend on the local mainstream media for news, but, are they being fed with spin or honest journalism? The local newspapers are owned by the ruling political parties so the news is tainted by the perspective of the media owners. The spin they create is that under the ruling leadership we are progressing.

But, if you read the alternative media, especially online, you get the opposite narrative: we are not moving forward and the sentiments are expressed in very emotive, opinion-based language.

Now, it is becoming more visible that more and more people on the ground are not getting more money. Who would they believe? The spin doctors or their own financially stiffling reality?

Local newspapers need to be more independent so that their readers can make informed decisions. But, this is what media-owners are afraid of: an informed readership can mean a loss of votes. As a result, we are in this state where we don’t know what is true and not true. We guess at it or look at alternative sources which often can’t be verified.

I am hoping, of course, that there will be a new government after the next general elections, and, one of the early business it will do is to introduce legislation to prevent political parties from owning public media organisations. They can have their own party publications but mass media mustn’t be owned by political parties. That’s the only way the people will get a true picture of government and public issues. Then, we can make decisions to ensure that the government complies with what we want — a better future.

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La La Land is here

If you are looking for an entertaining movie, then, I would recommend La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s a lightweight movie, meaning you won’t have to think too much, but it has enough content to keep you involved while enjoying the musical interludes and dance routines.

La La Land, by the way, is the nickname for Los Angeles and specifically, Hollywood, and the dreamy state it is associated with. The movie explores love between two people and how it helps each discover themselves and their dreams. In pursuit of their dreams, they begin to see how it gradually disintegrates their dreamlike love as they deal with the reality of their choices.

It’s a musical, light and entertaining and the genre is used to highlight the human need to dream and have those dreams come true, which, like the film world, is make-believe. The reality is something else, harder to accept but true and fraught with problems and, perhaps, just as good.

The movie is a musical right to the end and that takes the sting out of the reality. Life is like that, isn’t it? Full of problems, but there’s a song and dance that plays through it, which lifts our spirits and encourages us to the end, doesn’t it?

Enjoy the movie!


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Saree twists and turns

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read about the vigilantes who send a Facebook warning that women who are “inappropriately dressed” at the coming Thaipusam festival will be spray painted.

Really? Don’t these men have anything more manly to do than prey on women’s sarees? I saw some of the pictures of these “inappropriately dressed” women and saw nothing indecent about them. The women were wearing sarees matched with designer blouses that, yes, revealed some warm skin here and there. But, it revealed nothing that shouldn’t be revealed. So, I couldn’t understand what was inappropriate about them.

I don’t know whether these vigilantes are conservative fanatics who want to maintain their traditions or just plain misogynists.I can understand some peoples’ concerns over the erosion of traditions and the “old ways” but to expect people to conform by threatening them, that is totally unacceptable. It is violence and tyranny and should be checked.

It’s one more example of the conservative backlash. As the world gallops into the 21st century and beyond, we are seeing conservative groups rising up not just to be heard, but to impose their will on others to go back to the old ways. Whatever your belief system, religion, culture or lifestyle, the old political system, the old religion, the old lifestyle, the old social norm is under attack. The tendency is to want to reestablish the old order. The election of Trump, the medieval-styled Islamic terrorists like the IS, and Hindu supremacists (in India) are example of conservatism wishing to impose the old world on the rest.

I am not anti-conservative. I respect their beliefs. But, my concern is how do we live in this new world when the old is gone?

My feeling is that we should be prepared for a new world overtaking the old, even in our religious beliefs. God is not trapped by time. He can’t be “outdated”. Belief in God is not a primitive instinct. God is eternal and if He is, He is relevant in any time in human history. In other words, His power can be felt and experienced even in the current, very fluid, evolving modern times.

The question is how do we appropriate an eternal God to our particular timespan? That’s what religious leaders should be teaching their adherents, rather than demanding conformity to an old way.

Religious leaders should be living a life where thoughtful choices are made to live a modern life. Then, they can teach others how to appropriate the power of God into modern reality. We then produce people of faith who can cope with modern life and find their niche in it, holding their own, without insisting on conformity to the old way. Those who insist on the latter usually do so — often in the name of religion — mainly because they can’t cope with modernity.

In the aforementioned “saree case”,  the women found a modern way to wear a traditional outfit. While very modern, it wasn’t revealing. True, some women can make the saree a very sexy fit, with an exposed foot-long midriff and skimpy revealing blouse. But, that is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the times, everything is discreetly wrapped over to be opened up in the right context! Like a gift-wrap, Bollywood-style!

I’m glad that the Indian community leaders didn’t stop the women from wearing their fashion choice. They just advised them to dress appropriately and said that they don’t condone the actions of the spray painters. That’s how it should be. The women should be free to express their modern fashion sense with their community embracing it while cautioning not to step out line. It’s a good example of handling a sensitive religious and cultural issue in the modern context.

It’s the same way with living the life of faith, whatever our religious beliefs. When we learn how to live in this modern world without losing our faith and without harking back to a dying world, we live better. We may not completely belong, but we’ll cope better with modern life and still keep the faith.

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