By Suma Varughese November 2010 We continue with the saga of the sathe family (see lead story, september 2010 Sweet_solutions_to_lifes_little_troubles) through a regular column exploring sound solutions to everyday problems It was dinner-time one sultry November Sunday at the Sathes’. Mom had produced a mouth-watering vegetable and paneer biryani. The flavour was redolent with the smell of fried onions and spices, mingled with coriander and pudina. Ashish was frankly drooling and trying to pick up some of the cashews on top, hoping no one would notice. Too bad, Alka did and gave him a smart rap on his hand. But why was no one eating? Oh, oh, that empty chair gave away the answer. Dad was missing. “I ’m hungry ,” moaned Alka, pretending to fall over into a faint over her plate. “Where’s dad?” clamoured Ashish for the nth time, craning his neck to check if the said personage was anywhere in sight. “He’s talking to Ramesh uncle on the phone about politics,” said Mom significantly. Everyone around the table groaned. They knew what that meant. A cold dinner. Dad loved discussing politics with his best buddy, and that too at length. Ashish kicked Nisha under the table. “Go and get Dad,” he told her. “You are his favourite. He won’t say no to you.” Nothing loath, Nisha slid out from the table and ran to the study where a voice could be heard holding forth with great fervour. The family listened as Nisha smoothly took the receiver from her father’s hand and spoke on the phone, “Sorry, uncle,” she said firmly, “but Dad has a date with us, and he is very late…” Down went the receiver. Soon they could hear two pairs of footsteps approaching them. “Neatly done,” said Ashish approvingly. “The girl is getting quite assertive,” said her mother with delight. Nisha appeared, leading Dad by the hand. “Sorry, folks,” said Dad, looking shame-faced at the circle of accusing eyes facing him. “I got a bit carried away… Wow, biryani. Let’s eat!” After the family had sated their first pangs of hunger, the conversation resumed. Dad had a thoughtful expression on his face. “I must have had that conversation with Ramesh a hundred times at least. And nothing comes out of it ever! The state of our country troubles me, but this is not the way to go.” Ajoba put his left hand gently on his son’s right arm. “Why not discuss something you can change?” “Yes, like getting the society people to sort out the garbage into wet and dry heaps, or trying to get more buses for our area. Earlier, we used to have a bus every 10 minutes. Now we have to wait for half an hour,” said mom. Dad brightened “You are right, baba,” he said. Ajoba continued. “Stephen Covey, the man who wrote about the Seven Habits, talked about two circles – the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern relates to all the stuff that interests us and bothers us – the Commonwealth Games, the Babri Masjid issue, the corruption in society, or SRK’s six pack. Obviously this is far bigger than the Circle of Influence which nests within it for it relates to what we can do something about.” He added, “The more we stay in our Circle of Influence the bigger it gets and if we stick with it, it can soon get closer and closer to our Circle of Concern.” Dad looked fascinated, “You mean if I focus on issues I can do something about, I may get to a place where I can influence national politics?” “If that is what you want. How did Gandhi get to where he was? He started out protesting against discrimination in South Africa and he ended up getting our country its freedom.” “Hey, dad,” said Ashish slyly, looking at his father’s excited face, “Better get your Gandhi topi ready!”
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