Hi Everyone

A big, warm, cozy, and gentle hug to everyone in the OS.me family. Winter has enveloped Hyderabad and the early morning nip in the air reminds me of my childhood in Delhi. I have meant to write multiple posts but somehow never found the time for it. Hence, you are now getting the ‘dear diary’ version of all my thoughts. I love that many of us can treat this site as a personal diary to pour our heart out and receive compassion and love. It’s almost the exact opposite of the diary Ginny Weasley used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. All Potter addicts will get this reference and everyone else, please read on. The paragraphs below don’t have any specific flow and are random thoughts on different subjects.

The Lure of the Hauntingly Depressing Book

I recently read the Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. He is a Japanese author, and I honestly have not read a more beautiful piece of writing. Imagine that you are on a bullet train. Through the left window, you can see the Japanese cherry blossom trees in autumn. The right window has the Alps in winter. It’s homely yet hauntingly beautiful, and warm yet very cold all at the same time. The author talks about the story of a young boy who is growing up in the 1970s Japan. The book explores his relationship with two girls, who carry enormous mental baggage. Suicides and mental struggles form a large part of the book.

I typically read these books and sink into existential questions about life’s meaning and human beings’ useless existence. This time it was different. Even as I was reading the book, I was always aware that every character had a way out. A little bit of mindfulness and meditation is a fantastic cure for everyone. Most writers find it really easy to devote hundreds of pages to the dark corners of the human heart and the melancholy of a lonely existence. A single leaf, a drop of tear, a long sigh is described with such grace that words float off the page.

It’s so hard to write about the good things in life. It takes a great deal of hard work to be happy, and you feel you gloat when you write about it. Most authors anyway live in their heads and find it hard to get out of there. That’s why I recommend reading Thich Nhat Hanh and Mattieu Ricard. Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay as he is fondly called, was expelled from Vietnam because he helped both the American and Vietnamese soldiers. Thay founded Plum Village Monastery in France and wrote 80 books. 

Mattieu Ricard was the son of a philosopher and art critic. He majored in molecular biology under a Nobel-winning professor. He was on this way to academic greatness when he went to Tibet for a research project. His experiences with Tibetan masters showed him that even the most celebrated people in the western world had the same anxiety and issues as any regular person. Mattieu spent 20 years meditating in the Himalayas and returned to the western world as one of Dalai Lama’s translators. Mattieu is single-handedly responsible for all the research that has gone into mindfulness. You can read more about that in this article I wrote for Black Lotus. 

We live in a world that glorifies discontent. ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ is the mantra of the day. We are repeatedly told we need a bigger house, an exotic vacation, the latest phone, and exquisite food to be happy. It takes extreme discipline and focus to be satisfied with what we have. Guruji, Sri Hari, and the OS.me family is the lifeboat that keeps me afloat in this vast ocean of samsara. 

The Myth of Exclusivity

My boss, who is also a very dear friend, told me her son got through an incredibly prestigious university in the US. Her son is very focused and talented. He hopes to become a doctor or at least be associated with the medical profession. He got early admission, which is a big deal because you don’t have to be on the tenterhooks till July 2021 trying to find a good college.

I congratulated her, and she told me the fees, which is an astronomical amount. Let’s just say you can buy 4 three-bedroom houses in my locality for the amount they will shell out for his four-year degree. As I reflected on his choices, I realised he has to take a bank loan to do a master’s degree followed by another specialisation. He will be in debt when he starts a job, and while he will be generously paid, he will need to pay off the debt and then work with other rich doctors who are busy buying mansions and fancy cars. 

Meanwhile, since healthcare is so expensive, insurance companies charge a hefty premium, and hospitals get doctors to work 18-hour shifts. Since doctors have a massive loan to pay off and a lifestyle they want to pursue, they don’t push hospitals to hire more doctors to reduce workload. So doctors are in debt, hospitals are understaffed, and patients pay a huge cost. Everyone is unhappy because we have gradually created a system where everyone loses. 

I think it’s important to remember this when we make decisions in our lives and our children’s lives. Almost everyone we meet is following a formula or a path that has been set for them. Take some time to think about what you could do off that beaten path. You may find it to be a much more rewarding and exciting journey. 

Mindfulness has Ruined Romcoms for Me

I would like to cross my heart and confess that I love romcoms. All through college, I rooted for Ross and Rachel. I went through 10 seasons of How I Met Your Mother and am a sucker for any half-decent romantic comedy. I was recently watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. It’s the story of a teenager and her mother as they find love in small-town America. A few episodes into the series, I suddenly realised that almost all of us are like these people.

We are just trying to find love outside us when we actually need to dive inside. We are looking for the perfect date, the right moment, the most amazing kiss, the grand gesture, and keep trying to replicate it when all we need to do is look inside. Suddenly all I could see is two very slim women, some slick lines, and a big fat lie that women could spend 15 years guzzling pizzas, burgers, fries, pancakes, waffles, and soda and yet come out looking like two models. They blundered from one guy to another, just trying to recreate the perfect moment while I sighed and realised that mindfulness has now killed the joy of romcoms for me. 

The Job that Never Turned Up

I love my current job, and I am very happy here. However, a friend told me about an opening at Google. He also told me about the interview process, and it sounded stimulating. I spent three days creating a new CV and sent it off to Google. I felt I was perfect for the job, and was sure they would see the same. I waited and waited and then waited some more. No one ever called. When I get obsessed with something, it can go on for a long time. I reviewed my CV, the cover letter, their job description and could not figure out why they did not call. Finally, I felt it was enough, so after dropping my son for badminton, I went for a walk. An hour of walking cleared my head and got life into perspective. I live in a gated community, and it’s a pretty fancy place. You are cut off from the world, and you start believing the world owes you a living.

As I walked on the streets near the academy, I was reminded of my childhood house. Small houses, open roads, pushcarts, small neighbourhood shops, people selling food outside their homes, the smell of fried pakodas, and children playing badminton on the road reminded me that there is more to life than my current obsession. I came back a changed man, and that peace has stayed with me.

I saw someone on LinkedIn update their job status with the job I had hoped to get. I felt a twinge of jealously and then I smiled. I closed my eyes and imagined him telling his family about his new job. I imagined how proud they would feel and how much it would mean to them. I prayed to Sri Hari to bless him and make him successful, and found closure. What I have is beautiful and is everything I need. When nature determines I am ready for something new, she will find me prepared and waiting. 

Wrapping Up

Thank you all for being a part of my life in 2020. I look forward to meeting as many people as I can in the Ashram whenever they open. You will always find me in the library, reading something. Please feel free to walk up and have a chat. 

May Sri Hari envelop all of you in divine joy. Happy New Year. 

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Akshay

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