By Suma Varughese September 2010 Life is nothing but a series of problems, posed by the great examiner above. often, it is the vexing little issues of everyday life that stymie us. here are a few spiritual and practical ways to handle your hassles Life has a way of pressing our buttons and visiting upon us the very things we find hard to take. Hate traffic jams? You may be sure that each time you hit the road, a lockjam will confront you. Bad at saying no? You will thronged by opportunists. Does irresponsible behaviour get your goat? No wonder you are swamped with it.So what to do? Small stuff is really the stuff of our lives and wise heads have wrestled with the dilemmas and problems you are currently in the throes of. There’s nothing that can’t be licked if we know how to tackle it. Here below are a few scenarios with a few suggestions on how to handle them.Meet the SathesThe Sathe family lived in Mumbai and was remarkable for the fact that three generations lived together more or less happily. There was Aji and Ajoba, the senior Sathes. Mr Sathe was a retired college professor who now taught Vedanta to a few students. His refined, scholarly face shone with good will. Aji was the quintessential granny, loving, giving, and wise. Sathe junior was a workshop facilitator and counselor and fairly buzzed with enthusiasm and dynamism. Mrs Abha Sathe was a writer of children’s books and a very practical down-to-earth woman with a fund of common sense and intelligence. The younger generation was represented by Avijit, a young engineering student who was at heart a social activist. He was forever chasing a cause – welfare of stray dogs, friend of the earth, doing something for street children and so on.Nisha, the middle child, was in her second year of college and was a gentle girl who loved poetry and whose generous heart was always prompting her to shower gifts on people. Unfortunately, people took advantage of her generosity. Alka brought up the rear, a happy-go-lucky girl in class 10, prone to stumbling into trouble.The family had a tradition. If anyone had a problem, they would bring it up at the dining table. Fobbing off the freeloadersIt was Sunday night dinner. The family had a tradition to be present for Sunday dinner no matter what. Saturdays the children could hang out with their own crowd. The conversation was boisterous as Mom passed around delicious bissi bhele bhat (a spicy rice-dal dish from Karnataka). Nisha, Mom saw, had a shadow on her face. As everyone quietened down to appreciate the steaming hot rice, Mom looked across at Nisha. “How did your birthday lunch treat for your friends go? Did you enjoy yourself?” The shadow increased. “It was okay,” she mumbled.“What happened?” asked Dad.“I had invited just a few good friends but Rohit called me and asked me if he could bring a couple of his friends.” “What did you say?”“I said okay because I felt awkward to say no, but I was upset about it. And they ate so much. The bill was humongous.”There was silence as everyone chewed over the problem along with their food.“I would have said no,” Avijit said very decidedly. “That Rohit had no business to bring his friends when you were footing the bill. He needs a good kick,” he added indignantly.“Yes, but Nisha finds it hard to say no,” interjected Mom soothingly. “There are ways to handle this, sweetie, without being rude. You could have told Rohit that the event was by invitation only, or that it was for good friends only. ”“A good way to handle these sudden requests is to buy some time. Just tell the person you will get back to him in a while. That will give you time to think about what you really want to say,” added Dad.Nisha’s face brightened. “I think that is a good idea, Dad. I can see myself doing this.”Dad hesitated then added, “The long-term solution to your problem lies in becoming more assertive, you know. Why not come for my next workshop on the subject?”“There is an even longer term and surer way to achieve self-esteem,” said Ajoba with a gleam in his eye. “Vedanta tells us that we are divine, a part of the Creator, because the Universe is One. So therefore we can feel really good about ourselves. It is the perfect recipe for self-esteem.” “Really?,” asked Nisha, “I’m divine?”“Yes,” Ajoba said solemnly. “And so is everyone else.” “Man, I just can’t wrap my head around this – we are like God?” asked Avijit.“It might take some time for the thought to take root in you, but consider thinking about it. It’s just about making sense to me now and it’s changing my life drastically,” Dad said.“Pass me the salad, Avijit,” rapped Alka from the other side of the table.“Avijit, no longer. Your divinity is the proper way to address me,” he answered with a lordly air Dad winked at Nisha. “See, it’s working on Avijit already.” “A little too well,” grumbled Alka.Never be a messenger“I had a rough day myself,” said Dad, looking rueful. Everyone looked at him expectantly. “You remember Rajesh, my former colleague? Well, he’s been having some trouble with his marriage and I’ve been trying to help, but no go. They want to split.”“How sad,” said Aji, a look of concern on her kind face. “Yes, they are both gems but they are simply not able to resolve their issues,” said Dad. “Anyway, things got really sticky because instead of speaking directly to each other they would ask me to pass on messages. Today, Ranjana called me to pass on the message that she wants half his salary as alimony as well as the house and car. I got a earful from Rajesh when I told him so.”Ajoba held out his hand. “Never be a messenger, son. Ever. This is a manipulative game people play when they don’t want to face the person directly. You will unnecessarily get into something that is not your business and you will have earned the ire of the person you pass the message to.” “Oh, my God,” said Alka. “That is exactly what happened to me. My friend Anjali wanted to break up with her boy friend, Arun, and she sent me to tell him. Arun has not spoken to me since.”“You see?” said Ajoba. “We see,” echoed the family. “”Dad,” interjected Avijit slyly, “Next time you want to pass messages to Mom about coming late etc, you will have to do it yourself. No more messengers here.”Dad grimaced as the others burst out laughing.Overwhelmed? Chill“Good to see you laughing, beta,” said Dad. “I’ve barely seen you around and when I have, you have been looking like a bear with a sore head.”“Dad,” protested Avijit, “do you know how busy I am? I have to submit a couple of projects in a fortnight, my finals are in less than a month, and I have also promised time to a couple of NGOs. I feel so pressured that I just don’t know what to do. And the worst is that my mind is just not working!” His voice had risen to a high pitch and there was a frisson of alarm across the table. “You know,” said Mom. “I went through this phase myself about six months back. I had promised my publisher my book in a month, but it was nowhere ready, Life Positive had asked me to contribute a cover story which was due in a week and I had to look after the house and all of you too. I went through hell,” she reminisced.“What did you do?” asked Nisha curiously, sensing a happily-ever-after in her voice.Mom smiled impishly in recollection. “I simply took a day off. I told Aji that I was leaving the house in her care and went to the beach and walked for a long time. Then I had lunch at my favourite restaurant, Swati’s, and after that I went and saw a film. I didn’t think about my work at all. Just came home, spent the evening with all of you and had an early night. The next day, believe it or not, I woke up with an understanding on how I could sort out my time in order to meet all these deadlines and yet not lose my cool. And I did it, with a day to spare,” she ended smugly.“That’s crazy, Mom. I don’t even have a minute to spare and you tell me to take a day off!” roared Avijit.“Try it. It works,” Mom smiled.“Oh, okay, why not? Mom, I presume you are going to bankroll my little expedition to the theater and to Swati?”“What have I got myself into?” grumbled Mom as she pulled out her wallet. “Oh, and one more thing. Next time you take on a project, calculate how long it will take you and then double the time and that should be the deadline you state to whoever is supervising your project. That is what I do now.”“Wise woman,” said Dad. “I could use your remedy myself.” “Just as long as you pay your own way,” said Mom acidly. The children sniggered.Compete with yourselfAlka now opened her mouth. “I have a problem too,” she said. “My classmates are so competitive. The atmosphere has become pretty unhealthy. No one shares notes anymore and no one will help you with answers. Everyone is focused on how to score more. It’s just not fun anymore. Even Sangeeta, my best friend, is acting all sly these days. I don’t want to be like them. But I don’t want to be left behind either. Everyone’s worried about getting admission into college next year. That’s the real reason.”“There is absolutely no need to compete with anyone, ever,” said Ajoba, sternly, ready to l
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