Though historians have produced varied versions of the different dynasties that ruled our country, by far the Gupta period has been considered as the ‘Golden era’ of Indian History. Rajat Pillai, the author of “Yoddha the dynasty of Samudragupta” tries to retell a complex episode of that period in an interesting and realistic manner.
The story begins at a time when Samudragupta, after his lifelong battles and huge territorial success, is an accomplished king. However, he is an exhausted man. He has just won a battle, has his trusted loyal friend Harisena by his side, but his heart aches for something else. He is the king and the most powerful man of ‘Aryavrat’. But there are other things in life that he wishes to enjoy now, after years of hardship and bloodshed which being a king, he had to endure.
Samudragupta for all these years has kept both his sons away from common knowledge. His elder son Ramagupta has been raised as a normal boy in the military camps and his younger son Chandragupta or ‘Chandra,’ as he was fondly called by his foster parents, was raised as a village boy unaware of his ancestry. Samrat Samudragupta battled death conspiracies keeping his enemies at bay for all these years. He doesn’t want his beloved sons to become a victim of hatred, like him. Hence, he had kept them away, far detached from his kingdom. But now its time to bring them back to the kingdom and declare his elder son as the crown king.
The storyline widens after this, as we come to know that a mysterious ‘source’ has deployed a secret spy to kill Samudragupta.
First things First. Does the book actually give away the secrets to a happy and long life as is promised on the cover? Well yes, it does. And in doing so it goes on to describe more and more about this mysterious Japanese concept – “Ikigai”
What is an “Ikigai”?
This Japanese concept, (pronounced Ick-ee-guy), which translates roughly as “the happiness of being busy doing that we like to do,” in a way explains the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese.
This book authored by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles illustrates the concept by studying the lifestyle of the inhabitants of Okinawa (an island in Japan), where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 100,000 inhabitants, far more than the global average.
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. Some people have found their ikigai, while others are still looking, though they carry it within them.
Our ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us and finding it requires a patient
search. According to those born on Okinawa, the island with the most
centenarians in the world, their ikigai is the reason they get up in the morning.
The book then goes on to explain this Japanese concept in more detail and how people in certain parts of the country following their ‘ikigai’ are happy, blessed with a long life.
The authors also mention about the “Blue Zones” or the geographic regions of the world where people live longest. He mentions five such places, where topping the list is Okinawa, the island in Japan that lives by the concept of ‘ikigai’ followed by: 2. Sardinia, Italy 3. Loma Linda, California 4. The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and 5. Ikaria, Greece. These people are mostly centenarians and have a number of interesting facts about them:
Many of these centenarians enjoy enviable levels of vitality and
health that would be unthinkable for people of advanced age
Their blood tests reveal fewer free radicals (which are responsible for
cellular aging), as a result of drinking tea and eating until their
stomachs are only 80 percent full.
Women experience more moderate symptoms during menopause,
and both men and women maintain higher levels of sexual hormones
until much later in life.
The rate of dementia is well below the global average.
Though the author does give due credit to the diet (80% concept), ‘moai’ (the philosophy of community living), some moderate exercise and art of relaxing, the focus of this book remains searching and then nurturing one’s ‘ikigai’
Garcia and Miralles lays down pointers that might help us reach our ikigai. They write, “Follow those things you enjoy, and get away from or change those you dislike. Be led by your curiosity, and keep busy by doing things that fill you with meaning and happiness. It doesn’t need to be a big thing: we might find meaning in being good parents or in helping our neighbours.”
Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor says, “There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, your mission is to discover it.”
I finished this book in 2 days flat (i.e. after office hours) as its a perfect page turner with numerous examples and case studies which adds value to it even more. I am sure it will be an amazing weekend read for you’all as well.
How many books make us pause for a moment and think deep? Well, this one does. After reading it, you are definitely bound to question yourself, “what is my ikigai?”. That, my friend is the purpose of this book.
My short story “Sushila” is one of the winners of the “Fiction writing competition” conducted by StoryMirror. 21 top stories have been now made into a compact ebook called ‘21 Dimensions‘. So, friends, Romans and countrymen, this marks my debut (albeit in a small way) in the world of books.
Sushila, the protagonist of this short story could be any of us. She is a wife, a mother, a regular woman out there. But what differentiates her from the rest is the journey she undergoes towards her ‘real’ calling in life after years of mundane domestication. It’s this amazing journey of her’s that would surely touch your hearts. ❤❤
There would also be 20 other equally interesting stories in this anthology for you, my readers to cherish and devour.
So do visit the link above (21 dimensions) and show some love to this endeavour by StoryMirror Books and to Sushila.. 😊😊
Meera was 35, spinster, heart broken 3 times & bankrupt innumerable times. At this point of her life, just one thing mattered to her. Her OWN self. Honestly, she cared a hoot about the world around. And why should she? Did anyone care for her? No.
On her bedroom was a huge wall poster that read in big letters the biggest stress-buster line that one can wake up to. Every morning she looked at these words, smiled to herself and kicked off the day.
The day she was fired from her previous office almost without notice just because she went late and wasn’t properly dressed most of the time, she had made that poster herself staying awake the whole night. She had tried to argue with the Human Resource Manager that even though she reached late, she always completed the required number of hours, so how does it matter? Also she was working as a back-office executive, so her dress shouldn’t be a point of concern at all! Well no one heard her.
She joined another company the following week and this time, it turned out to be quite good for her. Life is pretty sorted for her now. She goes to her office, does her work and comes back home. She cares a damn about who thinks what. During moments when life pulls her down, she has her hand-made poster that screeches loud from her bedroom wall – Zindagi, I will rule You!
It was their 5th anniversary yesterday. No, not of the wedding, of something even greater than that. ‘Love‘. They had met 6 years ago and the guy had proposed to her 5 years ago on this day.
Unlike all other years, this year there wasn’t any holiday plans around the day. It was rather a formality to sort the remaining stuff between them. They were parting ways.
5 years of staying together meant quite something. Not everything can be returned though few important things were given back to each other. House keys, albums, laptops, bank accounts, all of this was discussed yesterday. They bid a final goodbye to each other.
Did she shed some tears after reaching home? Did he not cry for her? Well, who knew?
On the radio was playing this song as she slowly unpacked her bags in her new apartment.
“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, Now it looks as though they’re here to stay, Oh, I believe in yesterday.”
Xavier had left his home in Goa and had settled in Mumbai for good. It’s been few years now. However, each time he thinks of his hometown, his heart skips a beat, thinking of his loving mother. How must she be now? He often thought to himself. Has she become old and weak or is she the same woman, chirping around, the way she was all those years ago?
His father had a Bakery business and wanted him to join hands as he was the only son. Their business was doing quite well, they got most of the orders from the area during weddings and other occasions. Christmas was one season when Frederick, Xavier’s father had no time to even breath. But Xavier never wished to join his father’s Bakery business. He had his own dreams of making it big as a screen writer. So one fine day, he wrote a letter addressing his father and left the house.
Years went by, in all these years, neither did he approach his dad nor Frederick. But he often thought of his mother. The bubbly, caring and extremely loving woman. Violet, his mother, was never the same after the fallout between her husband and her son.
This morning Xavier was eagerly waiting for a phone call. He had submitted a script through a friend to an upcoming filmmaker. If his script was liked, his friend would be informed about it. Both he and his friend were waiting for the call anxiously. Finally the phone rang. Not his friend’s but his. It was his father.
Xavier was flooded with emotions on hearing his father’s voice after such a long time. His father’s tone was calm and unaffected. He said just two sentences.
“Violet left us last night. She had a massive heart attack.” Saying So, he disconnected the call.
Xavier’s eyes welled up, through the mist of his tears, he could clearly see the smiling face of his mother.
I was sitting at my study table and trying to concentrate on the most difficult and awful subject of all – Geography. Even though my face was buried inside the books, I could sense those large eyes staring at me from afar. There was something in her hands today, some sort of an envelop that she was carrying, trying to hide it from me, between those furtive glances. I stole a look at her and quickly went back to my book. She threw the letter at me all of a sudden. I sensed something hitting my nose briefly before falling down at my table. One look at the terrace and she was gone. I could see her pink dupatta vanishing in a jiffy, as she ran inside.
The letter that she aimed really well, fell into my study table right through the open window. I opened it with all my heart.
Words braced me like soft flower petals. I was drowned in them.
Dhaniya, our servant called out to me. He placed the evening tea on my table.
I came out of my reverie.
I looked across the window. An old, dilapidated house stood in front. The windows are broken, moss growing from every part of the shattered bit that’s left of this house.
They had left many years ago. Their house too had no one to look after it. Nothing remained of them anymore, except those letters that she aimed at me through my open window.
It’s 6.45 am in the morning and Murlidhar has already reached his workplace – Kaushalya Prathamik Vidya Mandir. He is the peon of this primary school.
Everyday morning, it is he who arrives the school compound first, sweeps the entire school, which includes the principal’s or Head sir’s (as he is called here) room. Hariprasad Jha is the principal of this school. Murlidhar was very young when he had lost his parents. An orphan, he used to beg at the railway station. Hariprasad, then a senior teacher had given had spotted this boy at the station, felt pity at his sorry state, gave him shelter and later on this job. Today Murli is a man of worth, earns bread for the family and father of 2 sons, both of whom study in this school. And he owes all of iy to his Hariprasad. Whenever he speaks of his “masterji” his eyes well up in gratitude. “Had masterji not been there in my life, all of us would have drowned in the sea of life.” He would philosophies to his sons.
Like all other days, today too, Murli has reached his work on time but the regular zeal is missing today. He generally begins his sweeping work from the Head sir’s room which is the first in the row of rooms followed by 4 classrooms and a staffroom in the end. However, today he chose to sweep the staffroom first, quite the opposite of what he has been doing for these years.
After sweeping all the other rooms, Murli finally reached his “masterji’s” room with his broom. He stood at the threshold of the door. His heart heavy with the thought of the ‘new’ person who would be coming today. Hariprasad Jha has retired yesterday. A farewell ceremony was organised in the school premises. Murli was shedding tears as his favourite ‘Masterji’ gave his farewell speech. There were others also who felt sad at his exit, but none was affected like Murli. Hariprasad had affectionately put his palms over Murli’s head and said ‘Murli, nobody can stay here forever. Each one who comes has to go one day. Whoever comes in my place, be good to him. Help him whenever he needs you.’
In between copious tears, Murli had said “Masterji, I hear from other teachers that this new Head Sir is very rude and moody. I am a mere peon, I don’t think he will ever speak to me the way you did. No one can take your place Masterji.” He had cried.
A drop of tear welled up around the corner of Murli’s eyes thinking of his dear Masterji. He stared at the room. The table was kept neat by Hariprasad for the new Principle. The wall hangings of Rabindranath Tagore, S. Radhakrishnan and Swami Vivekanand were securely placed just as usual. Nothing was different from other days, yet a huge unfamiliarity struck him deep. He entered the room. Infront of him ‘that chair‘ stood erect. The chair that seated his Masterji, his saviour, his idol for all these years, is now lying vacant. Murli looked at the vacant chair, something sharp pricked his insides. His Masterji will never sit on this chair ever again.
Usha came to the drawing room with her hot cup of tea. Her newspaper was waiting for her on the table. It was 6.45 am and her family was fast asleep. It was this time of the day that she enjoyed the most, she with her tea and the paper, the perfect combo, ready to brace yet another day. She turned the 1st page of The Times Of India. A beautiful housing complex with lush greenery on the 2nd page instantly lured her eyes and her heart.
“Live the way you have always imagined, amidst the finest integrated township.” It read at the top.
The tall buildings were beckoning her.
“Ready-to-move-in 2.5 & 3 BHK apartments with exclusively dedicated swimming pool and gymnasium.”
The lush greenery of the complex looked so alluring to her. She opened the gates of the building and ran into the premises. She flung herself over the finely pruned grass and looked up into the azure blue sky. The sky from the window of her small 1 Room kitchen looked dark most of the time.
She took the lift and pressed the button ’24’. Usha always wanted to live in these high rise buildings. The lift reached the 24th floor. Usha pulled out the keys of her flat from her handbag and unlocked the door.
A gush of fresh air welcomed her into her sprawling 2 BHK flat. The white curtains flew with the wind coming in from the balcony. The ‘ting-tong’ of the fengshui hanging from the door reverberated across the room. She went and sat in her sofa. The soft cushions of the sofa pulled her into the seat. She drowned in comfort.
‘Usha, where is my tea?’ She could hear her husband scream. But how come he is in this house now? He must be in his office at this time. She thought to herself.
‘Usha, Ushaaaa…”. Her reverie broke. Alok her husband was standing in front of her. He was screaming into her ears. She still had the paper in her hands. She got up, went to the kitchen and planted the cup of tea in Alok’s hand.
She went inside the kitchen once again and started with her daily chores.
Even though for a few seconds, Usha had a dream, a dream she could die for, a dream she would love to live for. The dream of owning that house.
This is my Day 20 post for the #BlogchatterAtoZ challenge organized by Blogchatter.
Kipula was a small hamlet in the Koraput district of Orissa. With no more than 6,000 people residing in this village, it didn’t boast of many amenities. The people in Kipula made their ends meet by doing odd jobs at the local factories and mills while their children mostly remained uneducated. Lack of education would in turn not fetch them jobs in cities and the standard of living remained just the same. This was a vicious circle. Though kids went to a local primary pathshala (private school usually having a single teacher who owns it), they could not continue their education further despite a high school being available in the nearby Debghar town, as there wasn’t any proper transport system from Kipula. The non-availability of schools in the village was never a concern for the locals though, who had more pressed issues like feeding the many mouths at home, until…