Joy And Sorrow – Two Sides of The Same Coin

I was just trying to connect the dots between Joy And Sorrow the other day, after I realised that the person who brought me the most happiness was also the source of some of my misery. To summarise, their presence brought me a world of joy and their immediate absence led to me missing them immensely and their absence over an extended period troubled me and sparked my insecurity.

Upon researching while trying to find a link between the two, I came across a beautiful poem by Kahlil Gibran that talked about how Joy and Sorrow are inseparable and connected at it’s source. If you haven’t read his words yet, check them out here! They’re just beautiful words that everyone should read once.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
     Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
     And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
     When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

Here’s all that I’ve understood, of why joy and sorrow go hand in hand.

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Just the way a dark night is followed by a bright sunny morning, in life happiness is followed by sorrow. Once you feel happiness at any point in your life, you wish to be in that situation forever but that is not how things work. Every positive is followed by a negative and every negative is followed by a positive and that is how you know the worth of happiness and the reason to grab it more often. When you know the feeling of happiness and suddenly get into a situation of a slight sorrow, you question fate about why it is happening to you inspite of the situation being as normal as any other situation.

Nothing in this world is constant. What might seem like happiness to you today might seem to be the source of your sorrow at some other point in your life. Nothing is constant and everything is relative. Hence, it is all in your perspective. That is precisely why it is important to practice gratitude, so as to make these moments count. Here’s a few metaphors to explain my point :

Life is a Blend of Thorns and Roses

Our life is a mix of opposites and contrasts. It is a combination of such opposing entities as happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain and enjoyment and stress. No human being can always be happy and nobody can be sad all the time. We as human beings feel dejected whenever something wrong happens with us and we do feel happy when something good happens to us.

Rose is an embodiment of love, passion and beauty. Its fragrance touches our heart and its soft petals soothe our emotions. But whenever we try to hold it, it hurts us with its prickling thorns. It signifies that whenever we want to achieve something big in life, something which gives us happiness and comfort, we have to go through lots of hardships or we have to face bad experiences of life.

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Disappointments Lead to Accomplishment

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Those who get all the pleasures and luxuries of life without struggling remain weak emotionally and naturally, weakness leads to failure. What happens when you get everything in life just by putting a finger on it? You won’t realise the importance of struggle and hard work as if life is all cakes and ale. The crux of the matter is that it is the fusion of pleasure and pain which makes one’s life successful.

A kid who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth gets all the amenities and delicacies in life. He gets expensive toys and breaks them within a couple of days. He doesn’t even feel guilty because he knows that he will get a replacement soon. Gradually he becomes impatient and throws tantrums when things don’t go his way.

On the other hand, a poor boy whose family can’t even make ends meet tends to show a totally different behaviour. Because life is nothing but an endless strugglefor him, he enjoys the little bit of food that can fill his belly. Moreover, if by chance he gets some broken toy lying on the street or in a pile of garbage, he picks it and keeps it with a great care.

This just shows us how we value things and think about things differently.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

It is an apt saying that fortune favours the brave. Brave people are not affected by the misfortune striking them adversely. They regard disappointments and frustrations of life as stepping stones to success. Nobody is born great. Those who defeat their adversities are bound to be successful. If you have everything going wrong in your life, take your time and strike back with even more enthusiasm and vigour. Stay calm! Be focused! Ups and downs of life make life worth-living and meaningful.

Life and Death

Life and death work together. There is no second that belongs entirely to life or entirely to death. The first second of life is also the first second of death. Death can take place even in the first second. Creation and destruction go hand in hand. One cannot find even one man who has been only praised, never condemned, or always condemned and never praised. Both go together.

Thus, the balance of the universe is always maintained.

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Book Review : Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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This book had been on my shelf of unread books since over a year now. I’d bought it over amazon when it was available at a throwaway price of simply 89 rupees (approx $1.125). Although I did not know what the book was about when I ordered it, I knew there was a critically acclaimed and widely successful movie based on it, which basically told me that it couldn’t be a bad one. After reading it, here’s what I thought : 

The title of this book has a deeper meaning to it than just 3 words that have now become synonymous when tied with each other, mainly due to the success of this book. It is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia).

These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.

The book starts off with the beginning of a midlife crisis for the author, crying in her bathroom and praying to God, something she’s never done before. Although she’d never prayed before, she found a great sense of calm and relief through it and that’s how her search for happiness through devotion and spirituality begun.

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The author had almost everything any middle aged person could aspire for – Money, career, friends, etc. However, a terrible divorce and a breakup later, with no clue of what to do ahead, she decided to take a year off and spend it across 3 countries over a period of 4 months each.

It is important here to note that Elizabeth Gilbert had been a successful author before this bestseller and had some money saved up and took an advance on a promise to write another book about her experiences. (On a personal note, as important as it is to take time off to discover yourself; taking a year off and living in 3 countries needs a lot of financial planning, especially if you have someone dependent on you. Debt can never be a solution in these cases and it is important to have a concrete plan!)

Moving on, the book is equally divided into 36 chapters each, for all the 3 countries she visits. The writing is nice and at times appears so dreamy, that you’ll find yourself falling in love with the country and the idea of it. Although, while it appears dreamy, this is also one of the most candid books I’ve ever read.

The author does not shy away from talking about her weak moments, her troubles and challenges, her hardships and about everything else which is very real that not many people talk or like to share about. The candidness along with the author’s humour make it a fun read almost through the whole book.

There were a few parts in the middle that seemed dull or filled with too much ‘philosophy/spirituality’, which I personally couldn’t relate to. But that’s truly subjective and one who’s ever been through heartbreak or wanted to take a sabbatical should be able to relate to this book quite well.

In conclusion, I’d not say it’s a ‘must-read’ because it’s not for everyone, however it is definitely a good book and a good read!

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Eyeing The Storm!

Does travel always have to be about sugar spice and everything nice? About rainbows, sunshine, sand and snow? What lies on the dark side when you flip the coin? Oh no, this isn’t an article about traumatic travel and bad experiences, on the contrary it is about finding your baddest self, pushing boundaries and coming out a survivor.

In the peak of summer vacations (May 2018), trying to get last minute train tickets to North India is an adventure of its own. After 2 weeks and 6,000, I had no tickets in my hand. As postponing the trip was not an option, it was time to find alternative mode of transport and so; 35 hours, 5 states and 4 “cheapest available” buses later, my broke ass was in Delhi. 

In the next 12 hours I cramped in a cold shower, a nice lunch and one hour of sleep on a bed that wasn’t moving at 60km/hr; before hopping on to bus #5; now accompanied by my friend that finally got us to Mcleod Ganj. In the second that my eyes feel upon the golden snowy peaks at 6am, the past 57 hours just melted away. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!

Excited to start the hike, we dropped our luggage, had a nice breakfast and at 10am began walking on the 9km trail to the famous (and crowded) Triund top. Taking our time, enjoying the views and constantly struggling to find peaceful sweet spots between Bluetooth enabled music warriors, we made it to the top at 2.30pm.

Enjoying the warm sun and cool breeze we stared at the awe inspiring snowcapped mountains, mesmerized and lost. It was all sunshine and sheep (coz their ain’t no daisies up there) till at 5.30pm we suddenly saw darrrkk clouds approaching. Before we knew it, it seemed like the ridge was floating as everything around disappeared. The clouds were moving in so fast that it looked like a time-lapse. Amused by the approaching storm, the pests of Triund started hooting and howling; like rowdy teenagers aboard a train in a tunnel.

Triund was soon hit by a thunderstorm. At 6pm it turned pitch black, with rain accompanied by thunder and lightning coming down hard. People had taken refuge in their tents or the tiny shops on the ridge and were enjoying this weather. My friend and I, sipped hot tea, watching the pouring rain, blissfully unaware of what was in store for us that night.

Soon the rain stopped, AND IT STARTED HAILING!!! We left the overcrowded shop and ran to our tent. As we lay there laughing at people in the neighbouring tents demanding room service, I managed to doze off.

Suddenly, I woke up to the sensation of someone hurling stones at my leg. It took me a while to realize that the wall of the tent was now sticking to my leg and through it the hail was hitting me hard. Before I could gather my thoughts, I felt the tent uproot. It was a tiny tent, and before I knew it a quarter of the tent was already off the ground. We hastily grabbed what we could, put on our shoes and abandoned the tent. The second we stepped out, our tent took flight like an eagle. I held on to it with all my strength but surrounded by tents on all sides there was no way the tent and I could both survive.  Having no intention of Mary Poppins-ing my way down the valley; I sacrificed the ₹3000 tent and ran for my ₹3100 life.

Feeling cramped yet safe in the tiny stone structure, we were unapologetically sipping on hot chai and licking plates of steaming hot Maggie and Rajma Chawal; while a local who had dragged our (surprisingly still intact) tent patiently waited for us to leave. After something close to 2 hours he shoved the still assembled tent into our hand and virtually kicked us out of the shop. (Guys, people in Himachal are the nicest people you will ever meet and it there was really no place for him to keep us).

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We dragged our half drenched asses with the still assembled tent to the shop we had rented from; but there was no shelter for us there either. Like an animal, we inspected various spots and plopped ourselves on the most protected (by few rocks and other tents, also as far from the edge as possible) and least mucky piece of land. The tent owner zipped us in and warned us to not unzip the tent no matter what. There was now a sense of security in knowing that I would drag 20 other tents with me if I took flight again.

Lightning lit up Triund relentlessly while hail persistently tried to rip through our tent. As I lay there drenched, shivering in my sleeping bag next to my snoring friend I wondered if “I’d ever see civilization again?”; “Would I see another sunrise?”; “Was this the end?”, when the winds picked up again and I was pulled out my open-eyed nightmare.

Next thing I know, the entire tent has been pushed down on me. As I lay there flat on my back, suffocating under the tent while the hail stabbed me, I started to laugh. In total acceptance of the dangers around me, there was a weird sense of freedom in that moment. Being on that open ridge, exposed to roaring thunder and lightning, I felt more alive than I ever had. The fleeting nature of our lives; that we live through in such oblivion had never been so clear to me.

The winds slowed, the tent went back to normal and believe it or not I actually managed to sleep through that thunder storm. As soon as dawn broke, the snowcapped peaks glistened gold against the bluest sky I’d ever seen. With a hot cup of chai, I soaked in the chirping birds, grazing sheep and sparkling green grass. Smiling at my new self, ‘the survivor of the storm’.

500 people ran down Triund that day. Every café, street corner, souvenir shop of Mcleod Ganj was abuzz with stories of terrified campers from Triund top. The locals laughed and the tourists swore they would never go back to Triund.

As for me, I cannot wait to go back; and beyond.

Everyone today is a “traveler” and every “traveler” wants to “find themselves”. Often we get on a plane, get off at a tourist spot and see everything around us through the screens of our phones and view-finder’s on our cameras.

Travelling has become more about posting stories, clicking pictures (that you will never see again) or making vlogs. But do we actually try to find ourselves? Do we leave behind the world we come from and try to connect with the world we have come to? To experience it, soak it in, live in it? Or are we just trying to impress the circles on our social media apps? Don’t travel for your phones, “Travel for you Soul”.

That night, a storm hit Triund again. From the safety of the balcony at my hostel I looked at the lightening, the clouds and the rain. Sipping on my chai and smirking at the roaring thunder, hoping this storm too would help calm the storm inside a traveler.

Ps. For more photos follow @travelforyoursoul_ and check highlights on instagram!