Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 28, Tuesday July 17, 2007



Soul Food

Listen to your heart

There's an old story of a king who felt that his kingdom lacked sufficient doctors. One witty courtier dared to disagree, and then set out to prove himself right. The following day, he turned up at the court, red nose, watery eyes, coughing as though his insides would tumble up.

"You should have dressed more warmly," one other courtier declared.

"Gargle with salt water" the king's counsellor suggested.

"Drink hot tea," someone else added.

Very soon, advice, remedies and remonstrations began to pour in from all directions. At this, the witty courtier straightened up, addressed the king and said, 'Your highness, thus have I proved that your kingdom has doctors aplenty; what we really lack are enough patients".

Few other parables describe the nature of the Bengali so aptly; we are, after all, a people of limited choices, but many voices.

No sooner are you able to walk, talk and understand conversation, people here are trying to tell you what to do. Parents, partners, spouses, children, friends, bosses, colleagues, customers and clients... they've all got opinions about what's best for you, or rather what they want you to do.

"Eat this. It's good for you."

"Wear that shirt. It suits you"

"Take those subjects. They'll help you get a job."

"Finish this assignment, and you'll get a raise."

And on and on and on, till you drown under a deluge of advice, suggestions, requests, and downright orders, and pretty soon, you forget what you really want...if you ever actually knew, that is. Michael Bungay Stanier, Principal of the Toronto-based Box of Crayons, talks about the importance of connecting with our inner desires and wants. Here is a six-step exercise inspired by his teachings, to help you get clear on what you want.

My Bubble
Find yourself some time and space for yourself. It doesn't need to be much - five minutes in a room, ten minutes in a coffee shop, a 15 minute walk around the neighbourhood. Switch off your cellphone, and clear your mind of all the pending responsibilities and to-do's.

The heart of the matter
Connect with your core values, those ways of being that are at the heart of you being at your best. If you're not quite sure what they are - and you wouldn't be alone in this instance - then try visualising what they might be now. If you think back to "peak moments" in your life, times you felt you were on top of the world, then you'll see some clues as to what they might be.

Framing it
Once you've guessed what your core values are, the next step is to put it all in context for clarity. What makes you feel at your best? Is it about work? A relationship? Your own self-care? Something else? What's the challenge or situation or struggle you might be facing?

Reach for the stars...
If there were no obstacles, what would you really be doing right now? If you could not fail, what would total and fabulous success look like? Don't get caught up in the "How would I get there". Just let your imagination go on what outrageous success looks like.

The lowest rung on the ladder
Having decided what the top of the stairs would feel like, think about the basement. Clarify your minimum level of success. This is the bottom line, the "If nothing else, then this at least." Don't sell yourself short. And equally, make sure the "bottom line" really is just that. This is where you draw the line in the sand.

Meet at the middle
Now that you know what to look up to, and what lies beneath, search inside of yourself, and see if you can find that sweet spot of what you want between those two end points. Sit with it for just a moment and get as clear as possible as to what it is you want, what it looks like, feels like, tastes like. The clearer you can make it, the easier it will be to start planning on how to get there.

In the end, it's really all about shutting out the noise and listening to yourself. Who knows? Maybe the life you want is just one self-talk away!

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Reader’s chit

Let us hold hands

On a typical day, there is always a sight that catches my eye. It is rather odd that such a display is acceptable here (in Bangladesh), but is still not socially acceptable in USA. I am of course talking about two guys holding hands in public. Everywhere you look, you will see two guys holding hands. Even though I have grown accustomed to this, I will still always wonder. Are they just holding hands, or is there a hidden meaning to it?

In America it is a huge faux pas for men to show affection towards each other in this nature, even if it is as innocent as holding hands. When two men hold hands in America it generally acts as an indication of their preferences and orientation. Even in San Francisco, a city world-famous for this type of behaviour, you will see this gesture only in certain parts, to be specific, the seedier parts of the town. When I travelled to San Francisco two summers ago, I expected to see men holding hands everywhere. Instead I saw a typical American city with nothing out of the ordinary. As I mentioned earlier, you have to go the shady parts of town, and I only went to the tourist attraction areas. Ironically, if you go anywhere in USA, and if two women are seen holding hands, no one will raise an eyebrow. Many observers will not deem this action anything out of the ordinary. In fact many will think it's just two friends holding hands.

I spoke to many local men who were holding hands and told them the American view on this gesture. They had a look of incredulity at the very notion. They all pretty much had the same response, “We hold hands because we are good friends.” One young man found the American point of view quite hypocritical and sexist, “Their women can wear such skimpy and provocative clothing, but if the men just hold hands, he is deemed immoral.” All the young men I spoke to (it does rather seem like only the younger generation holds hands) had been holding hands since childhood. They all agreed that anyone who'll want to hold hands with intentions otherwise probably wouldn't do it for the fear of being found out.

It seems to be obvious that, for anyone with such intentions, to show it in public would be a great offence. It is socially acceptable to hold hands here and not in America; at the same time, it is okay to “come out of the closet” in America, but absolutely forbidden here. So which society has the right answer?

That is the beauty of different cultures; there is no right answer. We must remember every culture has different points of views. We must not pass judgment on other cultures simply because they don't match what is socially acceptable in our own society.

By Leon Khan

I owe it to you

Have you ever questioned yourself about who you are? Your character, your morale, your choice, your desire, your being…and their origins? Who really teaches you to be kind or tells you to be aggressive, more giving, or less rude to others? Is it in you when you are born or is it taught to you? Do life's circumstances make you who you are? Is it your teachers, your parents, your peers?

My parents never sat down and talked to me about things, about life, about complicated topics. But they always talked about things that one comes across in life. I have always listened to what they had to say but I do not know if I ever paid attention to them. But now that I look back, I realise that the foundation of my life comes from the teachings of my parents.

My beloved parents used to say:
Words really hurt a person, so be careful about what you say.
Be there for your friends at the worst times of their lives.
Do not expect anything from others.
Try to understand different points of view.
Be grateful for what you have.
Always give 110% in what you do.
Never give up, dream big, and always ask God for help.

So talk to your children, tell them about life, teach them right from wrong. There is no age too young to talk to them about life.

By Iffat Zia


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