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Happiness, I feel, is not in great or grandeur things but in really small things, its all about taking notice of them. Once we notice and appreciate the small things, they can really make us happy! Here is a small list of things, feel free to add to the list!

The fragrance of flowers in the air
The sight of a bird taking flight
Listening to a quiet song and the memories that follow
Gentle rainfall in the distance and that muddy smell

Seeing a baby smiling
The sight of full moon when you least expect it
A simple tasty meal when you are hungry
Meeting friends after a long time

A smile from a stranger
A call from a friend after you had lost touch
Staring into the sky and watching the colors change
Having a cup of coffee in the morning

A_time_for_a_cup_of_coffee

Listening to a favorite song being played in a restaurant
Getting a drink with friends
Having a bowl of noodles with a favorite TV show
Giving up a seat for a stranger and feeling happy

Driving through forest and seeing sunlight through the leaves
Getting a random compliment from someone
Making someone happy after complimenting them
Accelerating past a changing traffic light

Feeling so small while driving through the mountains
To laugh out so loud that your stomach aches
To find something to eat in the fridge when you are hungry
To do random little things which only you know about

And to contemplate and think about life
And feeling happy and smiling, life is good!

What the Heart Says…

I go through the week from Monday to Friday, waking up, taking the train, signing into the machine, working, looking forward to the upcoming Friday and heading back home in the evening finding it hard to find either good company or good food for dinner. It follows by watching Youtube videos and being on Facebook for a few hours, getting up again and repeating the cycle. And such has been the case for the past nearly-2 years. And nearly every Sunday evening, I ask myself the same question. Do I really want to go to work tomorrow? Am I at a place in my life where I want to be? And I get filled that feeling, of wanting to be elsewhere, doing something else…

Whenever you read blog posts from influential coaches and people like Steve Jobs, Anthony Robbins and Robin Sharma, you get a very similar answer, things which have started to sound “cliched” now. “Follow your dream”, “Follow your passion”, “Do what your gut feeling says.” “Follow what the heart says.” And then there is this overwhelming notion of quitting your job and travelling or starting your own company. Even this has started to sound cliched. It seems that the world around is bent upon making you follow your dreams. Or making you own a start-up.

But then why are so many people not doing it? Why do I see so many people in trains and on the roads not happy with their lives at all? Why is there this sense of dissatisfaction in people? Why do I hear my friends complain about lack of purpose in life?

I feel there are two reasons for it. Firstly, we keep looking at people who are way better than us and we feel we will never be good enough. We will never be like Steve Jobs. We will never be like that awesome person at work or like that person who seems to be attracting the attention of everyone. We compare with people who seem to be more richer, more famous and more attractive. Secondly, sometimes we hardly appreciate what we already have. Small things like having food to eat or friends to have good times with. Being able to see the glittering stars in the sky or taking a walk in the woods.

We need to look deep within ourselves. We have one life. We have a different trajectory. We are unique. We have a different calling. We need not force our trajectory to emulate someone else. And we have come a long way already. Yes, there is a long way to go but we are getting there. But our life is not that bad. We have a lot already. We need to see that fact. One of my friends Hari told a story of this guy whom he met while on his travels who used to always say “Life is good!” every so often and it was so infectious. And I so agree with that.

So to follow “what the heart says”, we need a right mix of courage and foolishness at the same time. Having that raw passion to live the life completely helps. And top it off with having that hunger to learn and become a better human being. To be honest, I am still trying to develop that courage. And one day I hope to be able to take the plunge. I promise to let you know when the day comes.

Anyways, I sincerely hope that you will be able to find things that make life worth living for its own sake. I hope that you will follow “what the heart says.” And this ends my thoughts which might have already started to sound a little cliched.

I am the Universe

As the rain falls outside the window, and as the guitar rolls on the speakers, I look at myself. There is nothing out of the ordinary that I see. This is me, and this has been the case for the last 2 decades. But I am struck with this feeling of amazement and wonder, something which I knew all the time, yet I hadn’t ever really grasped the meaning thus clearly. Perhaps it is the rain or the music, or maybe the mix of everything.

Science, or rather astronomy, has shown us that Universe is made up of trillions of galaxies, each having trillions of stars, and then this accounts for 5 percent of the Universe. The other 95 percent of the Universe is made up of “dark” matter and “dark” energy, things which we only have a vague idea about. The reason we need these terms is to account for the ever-expanding Universe, something which we cannot explain with our current knowledge. Its like throwing an apple in the air and it keeps on getting faster with time. Human beings, arrogant as we may be of our intelligence, are still clueless about most of the Universe.

One thing we can be certain about is that Universe is indeed big. As Carl Sagan puts it, Earth is just one pale blue dot in the cosmic ocean. In all this massiveness, where do we, Earthlings, fit? How do we find sense and meaning in this life form we find ourselves in? Can science even begin to answer the question? Are we humans attracted to religion because of our inherent need to find purpose and meaning in the nothingness?

Yes, there are way too many questions to answer. And, answers cannot be found from just one source or one book. If that were the case, everyone would have found their answers by now. These questions require constant self-searching and I feel each person answers the questions, his or her own way. There are many philosophies and religions available for us to choose from. But one thing is certain, science has a power to show us, awaken us and enlighten us about how precious and rare we are, as living beings, in the cosmic massiveness.

Our body is made up of multitude of elements ranging from iron, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, sodium, carbon and so on. Where do all these elements come from? How did Universe create these elements in the first place? The answer lies in the core of the stars where nuclear fusion creates all known elements in the Universe. Following the death of the star, all these elements are released in a massive explosion, spilling them across space. And its these elements which lie inside our body now. Its in the death of stars that new life awaits.

Instead of we being separate from the Universe, we are part and parcel of the Universe. I am the Universe. And Universe is me. The atoms and molecules that sit in our body today have undergone countless cycles of birth and death across massive portions of the Universe since the birth of the Universe: the Big Bang. Guess, its safe to say that we were born 14 billion years ago. And to top it off, through the incredible process of evolution, we have been gifted the intelligence to fathom this fact. I find this incredibly amazing.

So, what is the moral of the story? We are made up of the Universe, and perhaps we have only one life to experience the beauty of the Universe. We must take steps to not only appreciate what we have, but also use this incredible power as human beings to do things which matter to us, things which might be very small, but gets us closer to realizing the beauty of this Universe we find ourselves in. Showing love for the loved ones, making others a bit happier, taking time to enjoy the nature, appreciating the multitude of cultures, enjoying art, pursuing our passions and putting ourselves through myriad experiences are some ways I feel we can justify being “alive”.

We all are awesome. And we all are a part of one big human family. After all, how many pieces of matter in the Universe have the ability to think, enjoy, love, feel and appreciate what they find around them. There might be other living beings in the Universe, but for now, we are the only ones we know about. We are the products of the magnificent workings of the Universe, which has amazed us and will continue to amaze us for eternity. No matter how we may look, feel, or act, we are all awesome in our own ways, after all we are the products of the Universal amazingness.

The Gift of Life

They say life is essentially simple. It is meant to be enjoyed. But, what is “enjoyment”? Many people have different interpretations on what “enjoyment” actually means, my definition also varies from time to time. Some people think its about indulging in self-pleasure and some people think its all about living in the present moment. But, what I feel is that enjoyment of life is all about experiences. If this were the only life we had, are we experiencing the life to the fullest with whatever means we have?

There are many things to experience in life. Experiencing and learning about nature gives us the understanding of how incredible we are, and how incredible the planet we live in. Experiencing and learning about cultures gives us the understanding of how interconnected we all are, and how incredible we are as species. Experiencing growth by using our strengths and overcoming weaknesses at work, sport or personal habits makes us in touch with the massive potential we have. And then there is so much, so much more to do, feel, see, hear, read, talk and experience. The list is endless.

We all are indeed awesome. Usually, we end up in this sinusoidal state of life which fluctuates with external conditions. External situations take control of how we feel. But, if we elevate ourselves to make ourselves truly experience the wonder of this life, external conditions would rarely affect us. No matter how many setbacks we may encounter, in the end, we would still be alive. And after everything, if we are still alive, we have the most precious gift that the Universe could give us. The gift of life.

A Singapore Story

A Singapore Story from the eyes of a cleaner, someone I came across while walking on the streets of Singapore..

I live in Singapore- the city of dreams. People from all over the world come here for different reasons. They always seem to have a lot on their minds. Perhaps wrapping up a business deal or catching the next train to make it in time for a party. Its a good place to live. Infrastructure works all the time. Everyone is efficient. And the city is spick and span. In fact, I am responsible for it being so clean. I am a cleaner. I pick up trash on the roads, I make sure that the roads are clean, parks neat and everything looks nice.

I was born in Singapore couple of decades back to Malay-Chinese parents. And like most other kids I grew up learning mathematics and science, something which I find myself having no interest in whatsoever. I was always a kid interested in painting. And in politics. But given my family background, my parents did not really encourage me to follow either. So here I am. Going through the lowest rungs in school, I eventually dropped out from poly. I was a failure, maybe I am a failure as far as what the society thinks of me. But I am smart. I read whatever news I find in the scrap newspapers on the road, I overhear people speaking. Thankfully I am fluent in Malay and Chinese and I can manage English decently as well. It helps.

My locations to clean the public areas are mostly Brasbasah and Dhoby Ghaut, which also happen to be the places where all the museums are. Usually I cant really afford to go in, but I try to sneak in whenever there are Open Houses. I got an idea to write this when I overheard someone talking about writing an autobiography. I think I was in the park right in front of Singapore Art Museum that time, picking up a trash can of coke.

Singapore is a good place to live. But its expensive. But I am still happy, because I can make enough to eat rice in hawker centers and get a bed. I have rented a room with three other fellow cleaners and we all take up bunk beds. Since I cant afford to buy an iPhone or an iPad, I cant stare at that screen when I am free. So, I just walk. I go to Orchard, Somerset, Little India, Chinatown and the rest. Singapore is really beautiful. As for the other cleaners, they dont like to talk to me. They think I act too smart or something. I dont want to talk to them anyways, they barely have an opinion on anything. All they talk about is girls, food and holidays.

One thing I have noticed in Singapore is that people sometimes look too depressed. I happen to pass condos in Orchard and Serangoon sometimes, and all I see is people who are either too busy or too depressed to smile to each other. I wonder if I would be the same if I were in that situation. Seeing them coming out of their BMWs looking all sad makes me sad. I mean getting into those BMWs is what we all are fighting for right?

Another thing about Singapore is that people work hard. They work from day to night and night to day. One thing that I would like to see more is people coming out and walking on the streets laughing, playing, doing something. I guess everyone is too busy with their iPhones. Thank god I dont have one. Would I be like them if I had one? I wonder what is so special about iPhones, it has made people forget that people exist!

You will be wondering as to why I am not talking about myself. You see there is nothing interesting about me. I haven’t had any girlfriends. So I dont have much to say about girls. You see, the problem is that I like smart girls. But they don’t seem to like me. They want more sophisticated guys, and my position as a cleaner does not help. The girls I meet are usually working in someone else’s houses and all they care about is their looks, food and holidays. They keep on harping about things which frankly do not interest me. Ah I am getting tired of them!

Hmm, what else? Singaporeans are well-educated. Most of them. Even though I would love to talk to them about the current issues in the society, my position as a cleaner does not help. Is being a cleaner so bad? I mean I am responsible for keeping the country clean, something which every Singaporean is proud of! I feel bad sometimes. I hope I get some credit some day. Perhaps, someone will read this story one day.

You might be wondering what is my name. But, again like my existence, my name does not matter. I am just one of the millions which inhabit this lovely country. I am a Singaporean. Perhaps if you happen to be near the museums one of these days and if you happen to throw scrap around, I might be the one picking it up. See you then!

Time

As I stand on the side
watching time flow by beside me;
I feel inspired
I feel motivated
to continuously move on
holding on to the past
but moving on nonetheless
every moment
creating a new history
creating a new memory
holding on
yet moving on…
enjoying
making every moment special…

But as I try to make every moment special..
sometimes it’s easy to fall down..
and not care about anything
and keep going back to the past
holding onto the special moments
holding onto the moments that could have been
even more special
and constantly wondering
what else could have happened
recollecting those moments in the past
I forget the present
the past lingers
and the past haunts
as the past intersperses with present
and present fades into the past
I lose track between present and past..

And as I try to make every moment special..
sometimes it’s easy to fall down..
and keep looking at the future
building castles of dreams
building castles of imagination
of what will happen
and what will they say
when i do this
building these moments in the future
I forget the present
the future shines
and the future overpowers
as the future intersperses with the present
and the present threads into future..
I lose track between present and future..

Still the time keeps on flowing..
and what I am left with in the end
is only this present moment…

A Few Questions

We are surrounded with hundreds of things. There is just so much news, information and stuff out there to know. Its overwhelming at times. But, among all these excesses of information and knowledge, what is it that truly matters?

As I travel on trains and on buses, there are hardly any smiles on people’s faces. Their eyes seem to be stuck on their devices. As I walk on the road and smile to someone, I get back a cold stare. What is it in people’s minds which prevents them from smiling back?

As I go into a restaurant alone and ask for a table for one, I am given sympathetic looks. In fact, after a while I am looked to as being a bit “weird”. Its almost as if its socially unacceptable to eat alone. Why does society discourage being alone?

As I go into a bookstore, the first thing I see is hundreds of self-help books. Most of the books say “Follow your passion”. But most of us dont end up doing that, and the only way to feel better is to read more of such books. What is it that we are trying to find help for?

Each person is unique and special in his/her own way. But, wherever we go, we are being judged. At workplace, at home, among friends and among new people. And how are we judged? Numbers. Marks, GPA, salary, increments and it goes on and on. Isn’t it unfair to judge everyone based on just a couple of numbers?

As I walk into the woods and feel the rain on my face, as I meet people on the streets and immerse in their cultures, as I feel the wind and see the stars, I realize that this world is indeed beautiful. It is indeed incredible. Its a blessing to be here. Our time is limited. Am I doing enough?

As I ask more questions, I wonder- Where are the answers to be found?

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