Taking risks.

My arms have been twisted by Jean from “Transforming Stress Into Personal Power” into writing on this topic. I wonder if it is because she thinks of me as a staid, risk averse person. In any case, her post is worth a visit and the comments there are very interesting too.

To start off this post, let me take you to my post “The Wildest Thing I Did In my youth”.

I quote from that post – “In my case, to rank one as the wildest thing I ever did in my youth would be an impossibility. There were so many!”

So, leaving my youth aside for the purpose of this post, let me take you to two huge risks that I took, which in retrospect, paid off.

The first one was when I was 47 years old, on the fast track in my career, in a senior enough position in a multinational company of repute, with all attendant power and pelf when I quit. I quit to register my protest with the direction the company was taking in India and to save my personal life from deteriorating into a meaningless one. I had spent half my then life with the company and that the resignation was received with total disbelief is an understatement.

I left to work for an Indian family owned company, and most people thought that I was daft. Subsequent developments proved to the skeptics that I had taken the right decision. I did have butterflies in my stomach for the first couple of years and there were times when I wondered whether I was indeed daft. That phase passed and I never had to look back, ever again.

The second big risk that I took was a little over two years ago, when I decided to invite my then 92 year old father to come and live with me. Our relationship had been on an arms-length basis for decades and he had lived his life the way he wanted. He had had no touch with the realities of the life that mine had turned into. While I had a very good idea of his values and behaviour patterns, he had had none of mine. I had a lot of deeply held resentments against him. Some of my relatives thought that I was daft explicitly, and some must have thought so without expressing the thought to me.

The initial period was rocky, but manageable. After my wife passed away, he started off on power plays and the relationship went from good to bad and back to good and bad a few times. On some occasions, others in the family, primarily my sister and her children and my cousin had to come to sort matters out, but for the time being, particularly after his recent hospitalization and recovery, things are placid. I am satisfied that I have done my duty, and that too, without compromising on my values or life style. I have had to compromise on some matters, but on balance, I am satisfied that I did the right thing and can continue to be satisfied with the outcome.

On both occasions, my late wife was party to my decisions and a solid support. Had it not been so, I would have not taken either decision. In the second case, my son too had to be part of the decision and he too had to make adjustments along with me. I am sure that he would agree that in retrospect, the decision has worked out as well as possible under the circumstances.

Again wiser by hindsight, the grass just grew by itself!

So Jean, enough? Or would you like me to dredge up some more from my trove of memories?

Update.

The hospital authorities and the orthopedic surgeon, ruled out surgery for my father’s fracture and discharged him from the hospital on Saturday.

I have now created a hospital room in his bed room with round the clock male nursing care as he has been advised total bed rest.

It is hoped that with the rest, the fracture will mend. Only time will tell.

On the personal front, I am totally without any pain from the prolapsed disc, but the ulnar palsy still troubles me, though not to the same extent as a fortnight ago. I seem to be on the mend there too. I am to go for an EMG on the 10th when further course of action will be determined.

I am now in a better frame of mind and can concentrate on my other pursuits like blogging, my evening and now, morning walks in my favourite park near home, reading etc.

Some good news in the form of the imminent arrival of my sister Padmini for a two day visit, some good new business etc, gives me hope that other good things will follow.

This is to thank all my friends who sent their best wishes and prayers during the tense period last week. I am touched and am grateful Thank you all once again.

Quiet Desperation.

“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. … I certainly do not deny that I still recognize an imperative of knowledge and that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognize as the most important thing.”
—Søren Kierkegaard,

Recently, I have been experiencing many conflicting emotions arising out of my current situation of not being able to do many things that I would like to do. The core problem based on which the other factors build, is the need for me to be physically present to provide the care for my father, which he would not get if I were to put him in a home for the aged or some such place, nor arrange for hired help to provide the same at home with all its attendant facilities to which he is used to. I am resigned to the present state of affairs, and that too is part of the problem!

I often feel guilty for even thinking such thoughts. That is the level of conditioning that I have been exposed to, by our Indian tradition of providing care for our aged. I have seen other relatives and friends in similar situations going through exactly the same experiences and though comparisons are of no help, I cannot help reflect on the time when I provided care for my late wife for nine years without going through these conflicts. The reason being, I suppose, that when it was caring for my wife it was out of love and when I am doing it for my father it is due to a sense of obligation that a dutiful son has to carry out due to the conditioning. It is also possible that in the former case, there was expressed appreciation and gratitude whereas in the latter the care giving is taken for granted.

On further reflection, I also conclude that when it was caring for my wife it was the higher purpose or meaning that one looks for in life at the level of self actualisation that Abraham Maslow talks about or, the meaning that Viktor Frankl talks about in his ” Man’s search for meaning.”

Now, the conflict and the guilt, is in not being able to assign the same intensity of “meaning” to the current situation, which is more like the Quiet Desperation that Thoreau talks about in his “Walden”.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” (Bold lettering mine)

– Henry David Thoreau, in Walden.

I have read Walden on three different occasions and on each, I have spent time on this particular paragraph in the first chapter. I have kept this quote in a number of places so that I can go to it at need to reflect on this observation, whenever some thing triggers it off.

In the present particular situation, I wonder if it is really the wisdom that Thoreau talks about that I do not do desperate things like arranging for alternative methods of giving care to my father, or running away from it all, or whatever, or whether it is something more noble! Whatever it is, I often do feel like I am living a life of quiet desperation and that annoys me. That it annoys me further aggravates the desperation and it is, I can clearly see, a self fulfilling prophecy or a reinforcing loop or whatever else one wants to call it.

At the end of all such reflection, I simply conclude that it is perfectly normal, and I am just a human being with normal instincts and reactions and it is perfectly the normal thing to do, living a life of a quiet desperation. But as Soren Kierkegaard points out in the quote given at the beginning of this post, I am still in search of the same “most important thing.”

Or am I?

The Story Of My Life.

That friends, is the current story of my life. This post has been in the making for quite some time and when this cartoon appeared the bulb went on about the timing.

Bar a few times, I have lived away from my father for more than half a century. What I knew of him from before that, and what I have seen of him on and off since then, did not prepare me for the situation that I am now in.

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
– John Bright

That about sums up my father’s personality. In retrospect, I should have anticipated his behaviour pattern, with all the theoretical knowledge that I have picked up in my career as a Manager. I still do not know what prompted me to invite him to come and stay with us, though to a large extent it was Urmeela’s idea that we do. I have been used to being appreciated for whatever I did for her throughout our married life and Ranjan does the same for whatever I do for him.

In my father’s case, it is just out of the question. It is his right to get service from me. He is just not conditioned to appreciate or thank his children or his late spouses for anything done for him. The blue blooded old fashioned patriarch. But let some thing that does not please him happen, then it is his right to criticize and sulk.

It is something that I can handle by and large and I am quite unaffected by his behaviour, but there is an added problem. He is hard of hearing and will not wear his hearing aid. I have to shout to get him to understand what I say. I suppose that this distorts my body language or whatever, and he goes off into orbit when that happens. Now, this is something that I am unable to handle. I have simply stopped communicating with him unless he wishes to talk about something and I refuse to shout and he is forced to lip read or wear his hearing aid.

I suspect that Salam is clairvoyant. He has given me another cartoon to suggest a possible frame of mind for my father.

I am sure that this post must ring a lot of bells with readers with similar people in their lives. It would be interesting to share some thoughts on how they handle the situation. I welcome comments and advise.

What Have I been doing?

Recently, I have not been blogging as much as I normally do. This has been due to the turmoil that all of us went through post November 26, with telephone calls, emails, group mails, social network alerts and comments on posts etc. This activity has certainly tapered off but has not completely disappeared.

I was also preoccupied with the planning for the arrival of my father to live with us, his arrival and settling him in comfortably. After his arrival, some alterations to the bathroom to suit his convenience had to be arranged for and finally, all was completed to his satisfaction yesterday. His personal effects that have been trucked, is expected to arrive tomorrow and that will take a couple of days to unpack and arrange.

Next week therefore, promises to be busy with the unpacking to start with, my weekly class, and a planned for visit to fit my father with a hearing aid too. So, I may not be able to post much next week too. I am just about managing to keep up with reading my regular bookmarked blogs and commenting on them.

In all this, the horror of the recent terrorist attack has never been far away from my consciousness. There are so many mails and analysis in newspapers, magazines etc that one is not allowed to forget. The paradox of the captured terrorist singing like a canary, seeking forgiveness from India, all those affected and pleading to be sent back to Pakistan is an amazing development. This baby faced monster expects India to do all this? What drama!

If proof was needed that these animals do not have the same normal feelings that we other human beings have, can be summed up by the news item in the BBC. I reproduce it here to illustrate and also give a link for those interested to read the full article. The report is following the visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan by Mr. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Britain. Do read on.

“The prime minister’s visit to Afghanistan came a day after four Royal Marines were killed in two separate bomb attacks.

Mr Brown spoke of his “disgust and horror” at the willingness of the Taleban to use a 13-year-old child to deliver a bomb in a wheelbarrow to a Marine patrol, killing three men and the boy.” (Emphasis mine)