How Relevant Are Short Stories In Our Lives?

How relevant are short stories

Short stories are as dear as lullabies if they are introduced at the right time. While babies derive delight in looking at the illustrations and hearing the familiar voice of their parents, children love to cuddle up with a good story book.

My earliest memories of short stories are connected with my grandma, who could tell me weirest tales without a book but only at bed time. Her favorite refrain that ‘if we tell stories during the day, travelers forget their way’ was taken seriously by us. Though I chuckle at her belief now but it brings fond memories of her face whenever I think of stories.

My love for stories grew as I chose to study and later teach literature and had an easy access to all those renowned names known for writing brilliant pieces. Some of them got entrenched in my memory as they encouraged me to imbibe the values that they glowed with.

This love was recently revived by ‘What’s In A Nameby Sally Cronin, an engaging collection of twenty short stories, each story inspired from real life and emotions that every individual has to live through. Another captivating anthology ‘Twelve Tales Of Christmas’ by Cathleen Townsend infuses a spirit of togetherness and warmth through its stories of human interest. Now I am reading ‘The Story Teller Speaks’ by Annika Perry and I am amazed at her enchanting style of holding the readers.

My blogger friend Nihar whose ever-inspiring creative stories make a delightful reading, recently requested me to share the short stories that have left a mark on my personality and I got this idea of sharing these timeless classic tales.

The first one that comes to my mind is the ‘Gift of Magi’ by O.Henry. When I had read this story, I was too young  to absorb the emotion behind buying a gift, too young to understand why gifts are so important, as I had rarely received them but I learnt how important they can be and why people make sacrifices. I often wonder – could there be a better example of true love?

This value of sacrifice is further highlighted in ‘The Last Leaf by O. Henry. Old Behrman, an unsuccessful, dejected artist who was always talking about his masterpiece,  had nothing to sacrifice but he wanted to save the life of young Johnsie who had lost the desire to live. The last leaf that never fell and saved her life was actually Behrman’s masterpiece that he had painted on a snowy and windy night! How benevolence and inspiration can uplift human spirit touches my heart whenever I read this story.

‘The Model Millionaire’ by Oscar Wilde is remembered not only for the excellent prose and succinct style of Wilde’s writing but also for inserting subtle messages for humanity like… “Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed.” Generosity could be an inborn trait and a kind act never goes unnoticed. If Hughie could donate his last sovereign to the ‘poor beggar,’ the beggar didn’t disappoint him!

Saki, whose real name was H.H.Munro has written several masterpieces but ‘The Background’ appeals to me the most, as it is a satire on the hypocrisy and love of art, which is considered to be more valuable than a human being who is treated like a rare piece of art as he carried the masterpiece of a tatoo artist on his back! The story jolts you out of your slumber and makes an effort to underline what is more important – a person’s dignity and freedom or just a piece of art?

Short Stories

God Sees the Truth but Waits by Leo Tolstoy made a deep impact on me and I have discussed it time and again to fathom why does God wait so long, why does an innocent suffer for the crime of another person, how could forgiveness be as noble as it has been made out to be? Spiritual interpretations of this story have failed to convince me why was an innocent man used as a tool for the purgation of the soul of a hardened criminal? Isn’t God all-powerful?

The Bet by Anton Chekhov delves deeper into human psychology, bringing out the frailties of human beings on one hand and nobility that one can acquire if one wishes to. The argument over what kind of punishment is better – life imprisonment or death penalty culminates in proving that life imprisonment could be more humane as it offers an opportunity to the criminal to change. The lawyer who chose to accept solitary confinement, just for the bet, slowly rose above ordinary human beings and understood how immaterial is the lust for money and luxury.

A Man Who Had No Eyes by MacKinlay Kantor has stayed in my memory for the outstanding style of narration, style and a sudden unexpected twist that leaves the reader spellbound. It is not just a short story… it is a comment on life, how we approach it positively and move on. A must read to change your outlook on life.

Sparrows by K.A. Abbas brilliantly highlights some harsh realities of life, which had hardened a man. But a streak of kindness, so natural to human instincts, didn’t die and it could be ignited by loving birds, without even a word. A man, presumed to be devoid of emotions, shunned by villagers and even his own family is transformed into a loving and kind human being by the love of sparrows for their own young ones.

God Is Near by James Herriot convinced me that love could be found in furry friends too. If we love His creation, we can feel the presence of God around us even without visiting any religious places. Dr. Herriot’s unspoken commitment to the dogs and cats of Miss Stubbs was no less than her housekeeper.

Short stories lay bare various facets of life. They are more effectual in conveying the values without sermonizing about them. Each emotion can be felt through short stories if they are told in their true spirit.

Have you read any of these stories? Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

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Balroop Singh.

 

 

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How Quotations Ennoble Us

A quote a day gives a new melody

If you are a regular reader of Emotional Shadows, you must have noticed that quotations form an important part of any post I share.

Sally G. Cronin, my author cum blogger friend has nominated me for three day quote challenge, which transported me back to one of the memorable moments of my life. Fond of collecting quotations, I had a notebook in which I would write one quote everyday. One day when our class teacher asked us to talk about our hobbies, I couldn’t say much and produced that notebook to save myself from that embarrassing situation. Her reaction surprised me. She took my notebook and promised to return it but she didn’t.

Next day I was summoned by the Principal. With great trepidation, I walked towards her room, wondering what had I done now, knowing well I was in for another punishment! I saw my notebook of quotations in her hand and was taken aback by her kind words of appreciation. The pride and encouragement that she infused in me doubled my love for quotations and writing them down most neatly.

A good quote is more than a book. It can leave a lasting impression on us… it can awaken aspirations, ignite the inspiration that lies dormant, it can connect us with great minds and their experiences, it can mold our perceptions and personalities.

Quotations have ennobled and enriched me.

It is hard to pick a quote as each one carries some profound truth about life yet we have our favorites.

My first pick has to be from my all time favorite poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling:

Quote from Rudyard Kipling's poem If

The above lines have adorned my table for many years and have inspired me:

  • To remain calm in provocative situations
  • To trust my abilities
  • To let people pass their judgment
  • To be patient
  • To respect my values
  • To listen calmly
  • To forgive those who tried to demean me

I have been a little rebel in breaking free from the rules. So the ‘three day quote challenge’ has been construed by me as ‘three quote challenge’ (just an interplay of words from left to right!) and I would like to share them together.

forgiveness quote

The above quote and many such have helped me reconcile to the whole idea of forgiving those who could have derived sadistic pleasure in enforcing their authority to establish their supremacy. I still read quotes about forgiveness to reassure myself that forgiveness purges us of any ill will that we may be carrying in our heart for those who were insensitive towards our emotional wellbeing.

Solitude

The above quote was a little puzzling for me but it has helped me in many ways:

  • In understanding the difference between loneliness and solitude
  • In introspection and self-reflection
  • In listening to the echoes of my heart
  • In resolving inner turmoil
  • In soaring on the wings of imagination
  • In enjoying my own company
  • In sky gazing when the clouds drift to reveal the rainbow.

Many thanks to Sally for nominating me for this challenge. It is customary to nominate some more friends for the challenge but I throw it open to all my readers who love quotations to write a post about their favorite quotes.

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

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Balroop Singh.

 

Why I Married At 23…Sometimes We Do Make Wrong Decisions!

Early marriage

Our decisions cling to us, we have to live with some of them all our life. We might live in the shadow of regret because we didn’t have the maturity to ponder. We didn’t have the guts to speak up, to express our resentment, to rise against what appeared to be a wrong decision.

What if a parent or sibling makes those life-changing decisions?

What if they were made under societal pressures or moral bindings?

What if they are seen to be quite right by everybody around us?

All these questions didn’t crop up when I married at 23 (actually 22+) and it happened to be a happy marriage.

Thankfully, I have lived by that decision without any regrets.

I am not alone!

I know many girls marry at this age, out of choice. But the million-dollar question is: Are they enlightened enough to gather the import of such a decision?

When there is an unwritten decree that you have to marry when you are asked to just because it is convenient for the people around you, when the society values your muteness at such decisions, when you are expected to concur with what your near and dear ones decide for you, when you don’t want to displease them…do you have any choice?

In many cases that decision may turn you into a puppet, a slave, a housemaid, a sex symbol, a money-churning machine – who cares? You are seen as respectfully, happily married woman!

Now many such questions stare at me and I realize how simple, how immature and young I was at that time.

I couldn’t even understand that I was abdicating my dream, my aspiration.

I was told that I could still pursue it. I just chose to forget it but that is another story!

I was told that everybody must settle down. I could hardly fathom the depth of those words.

Did I have a choice? I was not expected to question or even see the man I was supposed to marry though I did raise some queries and insisted on meeting him at least once.

It is another matter that I met a kind and understanding man.

All those who are married off like this are not that lucky.

Those were probably primitive times…we didn’t have any Google to ask all those questions. We just had a radio and a gramophone, which sang away to glory and who was interested in the news that women had been granted equal status, that they too could claim their rights!?

Nothing has changed in this technology driven, digital world.

The unwritten diktats of the society follow young, naïve girls to their grave.

Marrying young

Younger brides can be easily molded, that is the belief. They can’t wield much power and will-power, this weakness can be easily exploited.

I didn’t have the power or the authority; they too face the same scenario.

The patriarchal societies are driven by the same age-old traditions of marrying a young girl, demanding (or expecting) dowry and considering the wife as a personal property.

My own niece met with the same fate and I couldn’t do anything! Isn’t it strange? But she chose to divorce!

She could only do so when the choice lay in her on hands and I appreciate her bold step.

I am not shifting any blame.

I could have also made a wrong decision. Many people do so.

I am only trying to understand how much has our society evolved. How much freedom have we attained and who have actually got that freedom?

At the same time, I am awe struck at the wrong decisions made in the western world, where dating at teenage endows them with too much of freedom.

They have all the choices!

We all make wrong decisions but when we make them ourselves, we move on, thinking it was a bad dream, a little mistake, and an aberration.

How long will the societal oppressions keep demanding the sacrifices of young, innocent girls? How long would their ambitions be thwarted by the biased demands of the culture and the dogmas?

Thank you for reading this. I am sure you have some thoughts to share. Please do so.

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Balroop Singh.

Image adapted from: http://kenmclane.org

 

How To Enrich Your Personality With 3 Simple Values: #Consistency #dedication #sincerity

Personality

When I think of impressive personalities, consistency seems to be the most important requirement. We may feel more detached and free in today’s world, dedication and sincerity may appear to be a bit outdated but they are still revered and valued.

Consistency of principles and conduct give a distinctive shape to our personality. When we don’t change our behavior in the midst of crisis, under pressure or due to threats, when the influence of circumstances doesn’t crush us or change us, we can call ourselves consistent.

Consistency in relationships is the key to happiness and serenity. All relationships need an assurance, an assertion and an affirmation that they can be banked upon. Consistency lends that much needed emotional mortar to firm our relationships.

Consistent parents raise happy and healthy children and make a positive mark on their ever-evolving personality.

Dedication and sincerity are the offshoots of consistency, which align our actions with our concepts.

“Consistency makes the rain drops to create holes in the rock. Whatever is difficult can be done easily with regular attendance, attention and action.” -― Israelmore Ayivor

Just consider what consistency can do:

  • Consistency of thoughts evolves us into a better person. Even if our thoughts happen to be negative at times, they are shoved away by being positive and consistent.
  • Consistency of beliefs leads us through the darkest tunnels of our mind. Trust speaks to us during those disappointing moments to focus on positive aspects of life.
  • Consistency of values makes us a luminous personality. It makes us as tall and as bright as the lighthouse. People notice that consistency and get inspired.
  • Consistency of upright behavior endears us to all our acquaintances and friends who know that they can pin their hope on us.
  • Consistency of affirmative outlook sends a positive message to all those around us.
  • Consistency of diet, exercise and meditation keeps us healthy and fit.

Despite all the good that consistency brings to our relationships, and us… nobody cares about it! Why?

It is probably very demanding.

Demands of consistency:

  • Our actions should be in harmony with our values.
  • We must uphold our principles in all situations.
  • We treat all people with the same respect that we expect from them.
  • We need to maintain our integrity even during difficult times.
  • We have to come up to the expectations of others.

Our actions reveal our values and principles. If we don’t follow them consistently, we give out a clear message that we are faking our relationships. It is our behavior that exhibits what lies within us.‘ Without consistency there is no moral strength’- Owen

Dedication and sincerity:

I know these two terms are quite discomforting. One day, when I was emphasizing on their importance, one of my students kept staring at me in a strange manner, very clearly conveying through his looks that I was going overboard and should come back to the topic, which had triggered the so called ‘sermon.’

I could never forget those looks!

Those looks followed me, haunted me yet they couldn’t deter me from talking about these values whenever I got the opportunity.

Consistency, dedication and sincerity can enrich your personality.

How they help:

My conviction is that it is our zeal, our passion for work, which makes us noticeable. Whether you are a homemaker, trying to make your home more comfortable and loving, an entrepreneur or an ordinary worker, dedication and sincerity gleam through your work.

My friend, we can call her ‘Sage’ was so committed to her work that she was the admiration and envy of her colleagues, some of them waiting in the grass to pull her down the ladder of success. That did not deter her from her path.

She didn’t change her personality to please others.

She didn’t worry about being disliked.

She became a source of inspiration for many young men and women who were aspiring to make a mark through their work.

She has got many accolades for completing all the projects within the stipulated time despite the challenges she had to face in the form of limited resources and lack of support.

All those who interact with her immensely esteem her sincerity.

“When pure sincerity forms within, it is outwardly realized in other people’s hearts.” – Lao Tzu

Sincerity is like ‘truth’, which gives more of pain and poise but has long-term effects.

Have you ever felt admiration and pride for some persons? In what way are they special?

Have you aspired to emulate those affable personalities?

Were you attracted by their pleasing traits? Which one impresses you the most? I would love to hear your views.

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Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.