2 Jasmine Flowers from My Backyard

I had some of the best middle school English teachers. They didn’t just teach me. They imparted love for the language and poetry. I also grew up with a great love for Tamil poetry.

I plucked these 2 fragrant jasmine flowers from the backyard. These flowers remind me of a beautiful poem from Poet Valli.

Here is part of the poem transliterated in English:

Kadavul thandha iru malargal kanmalarndha pon malargal
Onru paavai koondhalilae onru paadhai oaraththilae

Alaiyil midhandha malar kandu adhanmael karunai manam kondu
Thalaiyil iraivan soodikkondaan thaanae adhanai saerththukkondaan
Kuzhalil soodiya oru malarum koayil saerndha oru malarum
Irandum vaazhvil perumai perum idhayam engum amaidhi perum

Here is part of the poem in Tamil with English translation:

கடவுள் தந்த இரு மலர்கள் கண் மலர்ந்த பொண் மலர்கள்
ஒன்று பாவை கூந்தலிலே ஒன்று பாதை ஓரத்திலே
Two precious flowers given by God;
One fortunate enough to adorn a charming girl while other floated by placid water.
அலையில் மிதந்த மலர் கண்டு அதன்மேல் கருனை மனம் கொண்டு
தலையில் இறைவன் சூடிக்கொண்டான் தானே அதனை சேர்த்துக்கொண்டான்
Seeing the plight of the floating flower, the Creator with grace adorned Himself with that.
குழலில் சூடிய ஒரு மலரும் கோயில் சேர்ந்த ஒரு மலரும்
இரண்டும் வாழ்வில் பெருமை பெறும் இதயம் எங்கும் அமைதி பெறும்
Both the flowers get their glory by adorning;
So will the heart get filled with peace (for everyone)

English Translation was provided by my friend Daisy whose love for Tamil exceeds mine by many fold.

Desiderata – Desired Things

Perhaps it was because of the cold weather.
Perhaps it was because of too many “issues” plaguing my mind.
Perhaps because it is almost end of the year and I am reflecting on life with all it beautiful and sad moments.

Dylan (Adi’s piano teacher and a good friend of mine) and I were having a chat yesterday evening and somewhere along way the I said “Dylan, You know me. I am a die hard optimist. I believe the glass is always half full. I believe in goodness. I hate to say this. But, somehow I am beginning to think the good times are behind us. The goodness we saw as we were growing up is all past us. The simple times are gone…..”

Dylan couldn’t wait to cut me off. He probably couldn’t bear to see his optimistic friend in melancholia.

He read Desiderata out to me. “Desiderata” (Latin: “desired things”) is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann.

Desiderata - Desired Things - Ambal Balakrishnan

As he started reading the poem, I felt this huge lump in my throat. As he continued reading the poem, my spirit soared.

I hope this poem lifts your spirit as much as it did mine.

Read this poem to yourself. Aloud. With passion and energy.
Read the poem to your near and dear ones.

Feel good about yourself and everything that surrounds you.
There is goodness. All around us.
We live in the best of times.
We are meant to be.
We are where we are needed the most.
Life is beautiful. In all its glory.

Thank you Dylan.

Veterans Day Story

On Veterans Day (Nov 12, 2012), my buddy Mark Faust shared this touching story about his uncle.

Read and be inspired.

On this Veterans Day I remembered my hero, Uncle Eddie.

On occasion Capt. Edward Promberger was called a terrorist by some, even himself.

I notice now that business leaders are often referred to as something less than heroes, and worse, some even doubt if they have a higher purpose in their call.

My uncle piloted over 50 missions in a B-17 bomber in Europe. On several occasions he and his nine crew members were called back from a mission, but when hope was not lost Capt. Promberger would ask every one of his men if they were willing to complete the mission.

Eddie always thought about the fact that many of the men were married and some even had children. He looked at piloting that plane as if he had nine families he was caring for, not just nine men. Only if every man said yes, would he press on with these missions aborted by central command. On more than one occasion their plane would be the only one to complete the mission and then they would attempt a lonely return to home base.

A crew had a one in four chance of completing a tour, 25 missions. So it wasn’t often for a crew to re-up once let alone twice, but this crew stuck together for three tours. Throughout the war and their 57 missions, not one man was lost.

On one mission my uncle’s plane was hit by flak and his co-pilot and he were injured. My uncle’s vision blurred with blood, but he never considered retreat. Among many other medals, my uncle was awarded two distinguished flying crosses and a purple heart.

Uncle Eddie never married. I heard that he didn’t want to put someone through his frequent nightmares. He would wake up seeing a mission where bombs he dropped hit what he later found out to be an orphanage, a target he was ordered to bomb. He lived with those visions until his seventies. When he returned home, his first and only love, the woman who promised to marry him, was already engaged.

My mom told me one of my uncle’s happiest moments was seeing my three-year-old son and holding his hand. It was on that occasion that in a very quiet voice he shared several of his war stories that he had never shared before. One was of a particularly rough mission where three engines were hit. He ordered the crew to drop all the bombs and guns into the sea and then to jump to safety on an island well before getting to the home base. He so respected the Boeing plane he flew. He was able to land that plane and walk away. Later after the war when the Memphis Bell was touring the US he drove out to see it. He asked the General if he could fly it. The General said, “Capt. Promberger you can fly any g**damn plane you want!”

Events of late have caused some business leaders to consider retreat. To just give up, retire, sell out or whatever, rather than completing the mission. How many families count on you and your leadership? Are you even giving a hint of thought to retreat?

The scars of that war are still felt today. One joy for my uncle though was that in that in the last year of his life he met up with his first and only true love. She was a widow. In fact during his last waking hour, as he lay in the bed of the VA hospital, the hand of his true love, was in in his, and he died with a smile on his face.

Mission accomplished.

Never, never, never give up

Your children are Not Your Children

Thank you to my dear friend Anu Singh for sharing this beautiful poem with me.

On Children
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

—- Poem written by Lebanese-born American artist, philosopher and writer Khalil Gibran.

Why Do You Climb Mountains?

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

“Ambal, tell me again, why do you have trudge up these hills and mountains? Why do you go on these high-altitude hikes? What is up there?”

It is difficult to answer this question. There is so many dimensions to climbing.

Here is one of the answers – Visual Treat.

Check out this short 360-degree view from Clouds Rest at 9,931 ft. Sorry about the shaky phone video – the winds were quite strong.

This is what it really takes to climb any mountain (both the real and the metaphorical). Put one foot in front of another. And, repeat. - Ambal Balakrishnan