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Monday, March 30, 2009

New Cigarette Tax Will Kill Before The Cigarette Does

Come wednesday and the biggest ever tax increase on tobacco products takes place. The tax in the US has been increased from 39 cents to $1.01 for cigarettes and from 19.5 cents per pound to 50 cents for chewing tobacco.

Dubbed as a public health move one can see through the effort as being the only soul saver in the dwindling economy. The retail sales in other industries have gone down substantially in the last one year and consequently so has the tax collection. Therefore the government has targeted the ever reliable, 'smokin' hot' industry for increasing the tax collections so as to fund the bailouts.

Even though the anti-smoking advocates say that increasing the prices of cigarettes reduces consumption, not many people have quit smoking solely because of the price of the cigarettes.

If the government was really bothered about the public health they would have shut down the tobacco industry long time back. The fact that they don't says a lot about the motives. Sometimes I start doubting if the cigarettes really affect the human body. Maybe it is just a marketing gimmick to keep the product alive in the public memory.

The deaths directly attributable to tobacco will definitely come down since at this rate the cigarette tax will probably kill a person before the cigarette does. But will someone tell the powers that might be, that the cause of death will still remain cigarettes.

Someone, somewhere, has to consider the adverse social impact the ever increasing prices of cigarettes will have. It is a given that cigarettes are addictive and difficult to give up. Considering that a lot of people in the lower economic strata also smoke, the increased expenses on smoking are directly going to impact the spending power of the family on other essentials. Or does the government think that all men and women will always be morally conscious of putting their families before their habit?

Giving Up!

Many people feel that giving up is failure. One can blame King Robert the Bruce of Scotland for this behavior. Fortunately for them, both the spider as well as the King Robert the Bruce of Scotland succeeded in their seventh attempt. Unfortunately for all of us, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, the loudmouth that he was, told the story to everyone who cared to listen.

It wasn’t long before the story became folklore, notwithstanding the possibility that maybe the spider was just having a nice swing in the cave and King Robert the Bruce of Scotland thought that he was trying to go to the other side of the cave to spin a web. The spider saw this man staring at him and was probably pissed off at the intrusion into its privacy and decided to go to work.

Right from childhood people are being taught that they ought to try, try and try again. Don’t give up, they say. But everyone conveniently forgets to teach people about judging the necessity of the task as also to understand their own limitations. It is important to be focused and determined, but in the process one should not lose touch with the reality.

First, the necessity of the task. One has to decide whether he/she really wants what they are trying to do. Okay, at work it might be something that has been ordered and one has to follow it up. In that case, it is the responsibility of your immediate boss, who has assigned you the work and all the effort you are putting and the time you are wasting is at your boss’ or company’s expense. So let’s not get that into the discussion. But otherwise, in your personal matters, it is you who has to judge whether what you are trying to do is rational, whether you really want that thing more than anything else, whether the benefits of carrying out the task and achieving the objectives include something more than mere satisfaction. The internal debate on the acceptance of the necessity should always be the first step and will generally give you a clear perspective of the issue. If you are convinced, then go ahead otherwise give up the idea.

After you have accepted the necessity of the task, the second step is to undertake a SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats) analysis. This will give you a crystal clear idea about the chances of succeeding at the task and the aftermath. Suppose you decide to ‘teach a lesson’ to your spouse or child, there is the weakness element of you loving them and chances are that you will first give in and then give up. There is also the threat of messing up the relationship for ever. Similarly if you are 40 and still dreaming of becoming Miss or Mr World, you are not going to get the opportunity to achieve it. In both cases you are setting yourself up for failure in the short as well as the long run. I wouldn’t even think of wasting my time and energy on such things. If such wild thoughts are running in your mind, give them up now.

Once you have decided that the task is necessary and achievable, there is one more little thing that you need to do before you embark upon the task. Define boundaries, in terms of time, space, effort, energy, money, results etc. How much are you willing to put in and how much are you going to be happy with. If you are planning to learn playing the guitar, how much time have you at your hands, how much money are you willing to spend and how much learning are you going to be happy with. Will it stop at being able to pick up other people’s tunes or do you want to compose your own? If you have clearly defined goals and an idea of resources available you will know when to stop and give up.

Introspection and self appraisals throughout the activity are very important. Keep your mind free of pre-conceived notions and convictions. You don’t have to finish everything you start. If you are not getting anywhere, give up. Something better will come along. If you have learnt the Guitar for three months and then realized that you like the piano better or maybe that you’d like spending more time with your family, give up the Guitar.

It’s not meant to be. They say that if you want something bad enough, the entire universe conspires to help you get that. So how difficult can it be for the universe to deny you something that you are not destined to get. There are times when this is the case and irrespective of your efforts you just wouldn’t get anywhere near your objectives. Don’t waste your life chasing something that is not meant to be yours. Give up.

Amitabh Bachchan auditioned for All India Radio and was rejected. Had he followed the advice of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, he would have succeeded and probably spent his life reading sordid news stories. He gave up and look where he is now.

Giving up does not necessarily mean failure. At times it means the understanding of situations and what one can do without. At times it means entirely justified changing of priorities. Giving up, at times, opens new horizons, presents new opportunities and releases one from an awful amount of burden of expectations. The best part about giving up is you can do it anytime. Give up something today and be happier.

Here, I give up writing any further on this topic.

Condom And The Pope

Pope Benedict XVI kick-started his tour of Africa with a controversy. He made a statement indicating that distribution of condoms are not a solution to Africa's HIV epidemic. He went on to add that on the contrary it increases the problem.

Maybe he was only furthering the philosophy of his predecessor who often said that sexual abstinence was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease. Or maybe he was just furthering the catholic church's agenda of rejecting anything to do with artificial contraception.

Either way, the Pope may have just popped the cat out of the bag. With 22 million people having HIV in Africa, any kind of means to reduce the incidence of transmission should be welcomed, even if it does not conform to the religious teachings. Education campaigns promoting abstinence have not really worked in the past even in developed nations, the nature's call overpowering the sensibilities time and time again. Who do you educate? The ones having the HIV? They couldn't care less. The ones not having HIV? How do they know who is and who is not safe to be with?

With a single statement, the Pope may have inadvertently indicated at the futility of using a condom. People in Africa might even think of saving the effort involved in procuring and wearing the rubber. It doesn't help. The Pope says so.

The Pope's next stop is at Angola to raise awareness about famine and poverty. Will he say something against distribution of food aid and World Bank Loans?

It's Just A Prick!

I remember saying that the first time about twenty five years back and that first time is still clearly etched into my memory.

It was when I was in my twelfth grade. It was a funny combination of students. There were eight boys and sixteen girls. Boy, were we boys lucky? Sixteen sweet girls of sixteen.

Anyway, it was at the Biology lab. That day it was raining outside because of which the weather was kind of chilly. Everyone else had left and there were only two of us left. There was a lot of formalin, chloroform and I don't know what else, in the air and it had an intoxicating effect on us. The door to the lab was closed and so were all the windows. I held her hand in mine. It was warm to touch and I could feel a slight trembling of her fingers because of anticipation. I pulled her hand slowly towards myself. I was very sure that if she didn't do it by herself, I was going to force her this time. We had been there for long and we were running out of time. She also seemed ready this time and let me guide her hand, but at the last moment she pulled her hand away and said, “I can't.” In desperation, I shouted, “Come on, It's just a prick.” The Biology teacher entered the lab at that point and came towards us. He was thoroughly disappointed and I could see it in his eyes. I was the last person he would have ever imagined to let him down. As expected he failed me and the girl, my partner in crime. She apologized to me for the last minute jitters. I told her not to worry, because, maybe I also wouldn't have been able to go through with it.

Even today, I always look away every time someone is ready to jab my finger. I know it's just a prick and that it won't even hurt that much or for long, but I can't look at someone actually doing it to me. However, I never shy away from them. Unlike the one that day, twenty five years back, which was just a class test, these are real blood tests and the tests can't be done without blood.

The Itch - Men Cheat To Save The World

Let me admit, I am not good at this and I do not even have any experience. It’s not that I never had the itch. Many times, but my partner faithfully kept scratching every time she noticed me getting the itch. She was so good at noticing it that at times she scratched even before the preliminary chemical initiation of the itch had started. And she made it be known to me that she had noticed. However, the itch never gives up and one has to be careful. Now it is 14 Years of marriage. It means the seven year itch back with a vengeance in double the strength and some. More so, if one resisted the temptation in the seventh year. My research on why men cheat has thrown up some interesting stuff.

First a folklore:

A man was convinced that his destiny was to one day catch a rainbow. The man spent his lifetime chasing rainbows. He was committed and dedicated to his purpose, even though he was miserable most of his life. In the end, he did not succeed, in catching the rainbow, that is. He dies with his empty palm outstretched towards a rainbow. Goes to heaven and asks God, what his life’s purpose was. God tells him, “I am so disappointed in you. I had planned such a beautiful life, full of success and glory for you, discovery of anti-matter, The Body/Mind Connection, the bigfoot, ESP, aliens. You could have saved the world, only if you had stopped chasing those stupid rainbows.”

The moment the story got out, leaked by an unscrupulous employee in the heavens, all the men against whom the universe was conspiring, in the looooooooong but till then successful marriages, started feeling like they were chasing a rainbow and started doubting whether their life’s purpose was to stay committed. All around they saw women who may have been meant for them and they had been ignoring them. What if, they are with the wrong one? The question started haunting them. This story has been passed down by word of mouth for generations.

I said looooooooong. It is really funny that the first thirty years of life pass by so fast that one does not have any qualms about spending the next thirty in marriage. After all how long can thirty be. It wasn't much the first time. Sadly the brutal truth is that the years after marriage, especially the ones after the first couple of 'em, are longer, much longer than the ones before marriage.

Probably that is why all people remember their marriage anniversary. Counting days, not the ones that have passed but the ones that are left to be spent in hol(lowe)y matrimony. I don't remember anyone remembering any other occasion so vehemently year after year. When the years get too long, the man starts seriously feeling that his marriage has indeed slowed down the earth's movement around the Sun.

During this time the men do meet other women who make their hearts beat faster, time passes by swiftly with them and intuitively the men know that the only way to make the years shorter is to indulge themselves with other women and soon the idea becomes an addiction.

It is a fact that many men, have not done very well with cigarette addiction. Many times people, after giving up, have started smoking because they know that they would not be able to hold on to their resolution for too long. So why suffer and be miserable for the ensuing period? Might as well satiate their desire.

It is also a fact that the number of women in the world is far more than the cigarette stalls. Now considering the fact that the solar system starts acting up immediately after a man’s marriage, making the years much longer than they used to be, the man starts wondering how long he would succeed in warding off, what starts looking to him, an inevitable happening. I mean it is one thing surviving the relationship, it is entirely another warding off the prospects of hastening the speed of the earth. A slow earth! Is that the earth his kids would want him to leave for them?

Another fear which starts haunting him is that if he continued in his faithful manner the earth might slow down further and maybe come to a complete halt one day, putting an end to the life on earth as we know it. The men start panicking. I mean, who wants to be responsible for the end of the life on earth. It is this guilt of having somehow been responsible for slowing down the earth that the men know that they have to at least try, if not for themselves, then for the good ol’ earth and for their kids. You may call it cheating, but they are trying to save the world.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Today I learned The Most Important Lesson of Life

Today I learned the most important lesson of life. It really does not matter how many people love you, but whether you love yourself or not. You will NOT die if nobody in the world loves you, but you will MOST CERTAINLY kill yourself if you don't love yourself.

I was just having a conversation with my husband yesterday, where he happened to mention something about "destiny". And I said to him that we all have our "destinies" designed and preplanned for us. I believe that we cannot really change our destiny. Our "end result" or rather how we are going to "die" is already decided and so it doesn't matter what we do in between, we still end up the same way we were destined to. For example, if a person was destined to die in an accident then no matter how many precautions the person takes, he will end up in an accident by the quirk of fate.

What we CAN do is go through life as it comes and do our best under the circumstances provided and try to be happy with what we have rather than concentrating on the things that we don't have. For that would only add stress, unhappiness and ill health in your life.

Life does have its ups and downs. More downs than ups for most people. Life seems to be a continuous struggle. But that's the enjoyable part of life, and it is what makes you stronger and tougher as a person. Everything that happens in life, happens with a purpose. So, take all that life gives you with a pinch of salt. I also believe that whatever happens to you is ultimately what's best for you. You may not feel that way when everything is at its worst and you can't but help feel "victimized", but down the years as life unravels its mysteries slowly to you, you will realize the "truth".

I realized this important lesson just today all of a sudden. Somewhere along the way, I lost the focus of my life and began to go after the things that I never had. The more I concentrated my efforts in getting those things, the more miserable I became as I did not achieve them in the end. As a result I have only become stressed out, unhappy and am suffering ill health.

I realized that I could only spread happiness if I truly "loved" myself and found happiness within myself rather than expecting other people to make me happy. So, from today onwards I have made a promise to myself that I will forgive myself for all my foolishness and mistakes in life and will love myself till the end.

Be true to yourself.

A Life Spent In Transit

Can you believe it? I have spent my entire life in transit. Yes, I really don't know how many houses I must have shifted in and out of by now. How's that, you ask?

My father served in the Indian Navy and so since the time I was born and can remember, we have been moving houses many times. His transfers would force us to move places and everywhere we went we had to change houses at least two or three times. Since we were just kids, it really didn't bother us much at that time. In fact, we felt excited at the prospect of a change. Yes, a new place, new house, new surroundings, new school, new friends was all very thrilling and we took everything in our stride and adjusted very well to whatever situation we were put in.

My father continued his services for the full tenure till retirement age and even took two years of extension so that we could all get admissions into colleges. He then retired and my parents then moved into a house that he had built for themselves. In the meantime, I got admission into a college in Goa and moved into the hostel as my father had just got his last transfer to Mumbai.

I spent four years in the hostel and then came back home to try and get a job. I stayed with my parents for 3 years while doing my residency before I got married and moved to Mumbai where my husband was posted. My husband is also an officer in the Indian Navy and so my life stayed just the same. It was the same things all over again...transfers (pretty much to the same places) and shifting houses (same houses that I had spent my childhood in) mostly, except for a few new places where I had never been before.

While life has been interesting on the move and I have managed to see many new places in India, there are certain things that I crave for now as I am growing older. The feeling of "stability" in life is not there. I never feel "at home" anywhere. Even when I go to our own house for a vacation, I've never had that feeling that I am "home"! I am craving to have a "house" that I can call my own and feel "at home". I am now desperately looking forward to "settling" down in one place where I can open all my stuff from the boxes and not have to pack them ever again. I feel the need to "belong" somewhere.

I no longer want to move anywhere. I want to stay in one place and have familiar faces around me that I can see everyday around me, in my neighborhood. Staying in one place for a long time has its own advantages, like building contacts and becoming a familiar face for your shopkeeper, bank manager, milkman, etc...I have started envying all those people who have a stable life and a stable job.

My husband having now completed pensionable years of service has decided to take voluntary retirement. But, my worries are not over as yet. There is a recession going on at present and the corporate job sector looks bleak. Will that mean getting out of this service only to join another "Government" job? The feelings of being "unsettled" are only becoming stronger with each passing day. Where will we go? Will he get a suitable job? Where will we stay? Will we have a house of our own?

So many questions and no answers in sight...

I just wish I could "settle" down quickly and be able to feel "stable and secure" and also feel "at home" most of all!

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Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful. Alive. Vibrant. Full of hope, love, and variety. Why do we not see it that way any more? Maybe we are taking life for granted. We have stopped appreciating the “little” things in life, the little drops that make an ocean.

Look around you for a moment. Take a pause. Release all the burdens that are weighing you down, just for a moment. How does that make you feel? Good, isn’t it? Let yourself free from all the tensions, worries and relax your mind. Close your eyes, and try to hear the “rhythm” of life as it flows around you. Drink it all in, slowly, and let it seep into every pore of your body, mind and soul till it becomes one with you.

Now, try to fit in any music to that rhythm in your imagination and see how you flow with life. For me, the sound of life equates to a sitar and tabla combo. Can you feel the pulse of life in the music? The music is similar to the sounds of nature all around you….raindrops falling on the ground, the sound of rushing water in the sea, river, ocean waves, the sound of a waterfall, the birds singing and flying in the sky towards their homes, flowers blooming and the plants dancing to the sunrays in a clear blue sky and gentle breeze….yes, I can feel it all. Isn’t it refreshing?

Instrumental music has the magic to stir your soul and suit your moods. Be it the guitar, piano, violin, or even the saxophone, each one has the ability to lift your spirits and transport you into another world. So, put on some music of your choice, that fits your mood and drift off into wherever you would like to be….!

Life is beautiful.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Holi !!! Celebrate The Festival of Colors

The very colorful festival of Holi will be celebrated on 11th March all over India. It is a festival of colors, joy, love, happiness and spirit. Colors are the most important part of the festival as all the people get together and throw colors on each other.

On the day of Holi the entire atmosphere gets filled with colors everywhere and is a beautiful sight to behold. People forget their differences and come together in friendship to color each other. There is love and joy in the air and sounds of the Dholak that beats in the background. People sing songs of holi in loud voices and force the whole neighborhood to join in the celebrations.

The women folk in the house would have prepared special sweets like the gujiya, Gazaks and "drinks" like the "Bhang" or the very popular "Thandai" which is enjoyed as refreshments by all the guests who visit their houses.

This festival of colors is very popular among children and they eagerly wait to play with their color filled "pichkaris" or water pistols, water balloons etc that they can throw on an unsuspecting passerby. Oh what fun it is, I remember, playing holi as a kid. It is not only the kids who come out to play, but people of all ages, young and old.

Holi is a festival where you can just let your hair down and let loose with no restrictions and have lots of fun. People move out in groups called "tolis" and visit all the houses in the neighborhood to color each and every person forcing them out of their homes, even the shy ones, no one is spared. So, hey if you are thinking of hiding at home, this Holi, don't think you will be spared!

Ideally the festival of Holi celebrates the arrival of spring and the colors used in Holi reflect the various hues of spring. But, unfortunately the colors that are being used in this festival may be toxic chemical substances that may harm you. Therefore to avoid an environmental degradation and to help de-pollute Holi several environmentalist are urging people to celebrate Holi with eco-friendly colors. These colors are prepared from natural sources and do not cause and harmful side effects.

Need to know more about how to prepare Natural Colors of Holi then visit this site: http://www.thecolorsofindia.com/natural-colors/index.html and learn how all the colors can be easily prepared at home. Also see some delicious special Holi recipes that you can prepare at home and keep ready for your guests tomorrow here: http://www.thecolorsofindia.com/recipes/index.html.

Wish all your near and dear ones, friends, family and yes even your foes a Happy Holi with sms messages or e-cards:
http://itschaitime.com/fresh/happy-holi-cards-free-happy-holi-ecards-greeting-cards/
http://www.fundootimes.com/sms/holi-sms.html

Wish all the readers a very "Happy Holi" and hope that you all have lots of fun playing with "natural" colors.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Other Side

Ever wonder about why people are not content with what they have and whether it is possible at all to be content and therefore happy? My answer is a resounding yes. Resounding because I heard it again as soon as I said yes. Maybe it was my alter ego, maybe God himself or maybe my son playing tricks with me, again.

Well, the research, if you can call it that, gave me the biggest reason for discontentment; ‘The Grass is Greener on the Other Side’. The single most cause of many of man’s miseries has been looking at the other side, whether it was money, men/women or power, someone always had more and/or better and one's own satisfaction was trivialized / overpowered by some other persons achievements and the poor chap does not even know it.

Happy people, where are they;

In the 60’s, during the hippy movement, everyone was happy and high. I was not there but whatever little I have read, they knew Grass to be something entirely different from the grass I am talking about. For them there was no other side. Most of them were on Grass and a slight difference in texture did not make any difference to them. 'Grass is Grass man!,' they would say. Beatles said, Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some California Grass. The song was about the grass being greener on the other side, but more than that the song was about getting back to where you belong and that is where most happiness and contentment is.

I spent some time in the southernmost tip of India. Okay, it was not Kanyakumari, just a few kilometers higher. It’s pretty close to the equator and the soil is also pretty much impotent. If you tell someone there that the Grass is greener on the other side, he/she will respond, “Green grass!” The place is so sterile and hot that the grass gets a yellow texture within a few hours of sprouting. For them the grass is green very temporarily, it is yellow otherwise.

Someone asked Einstein, “What’s on the other side?” He said, “mc square.” Today everyone wishes that he had known what really was on the other side. But the damage was done and the world forever is condemned to live under the shadow of the nuclear threat. Was Einstein happy? Yes, as long as he didn’t know what really was on the other side. Once he did find out, he regretted it and spent the rest of his life as an anti-nuclear activist.

Of all the geometrical shapes, the point is most interesting. No direction, no measurement, no attributes, it’s nothing but just a point. It is in the here and now. It is freedom. From a point one can take off in any direction. At a point there is no other side.

The point I am trying to make is that we should forget rather ignore everything. We should forget that there is another side, we should forget the grass is green, we should even stop looking at grass, it has been long since we stopped eating grass.

Most importantly, Are we even sure that Green grass is what we really want?