Validation Required?

“Johnny!” I heard someone call. I turned around to find an old friend of mine smiling widely. It is not that I was seeing him after a long time. I see him often and usually in church. I walked back to him and shook his hand, as usual. His wife joined him shortly.

“This is Johnny Philip. My friend. We studied together – a long time ago” [over 40 years ago, as a matter of fact], he held my arm in a firm grip and told his wife, with great pride.

“He talks of you very often”, she said, “but I just couldn’t connect the face to the name”.

A few seconds later, I saw another familiar face – again in church. I shook his hand and he smiled back at me.

“I am seeing you after many years, Robert, and am glad to see you”, I said.

“Happy to see you too”, he said, “It sure has been a long while”.

“I’m not sure if you remember me …” I continued, but he cut me short. “Of course, I remember you – from the time you were this high”, he said as he bent down to bring his palms below his knee level. Well that was more than 50 years ago, in another country!

“But you still look the same, and I don’t”, I said, and we laughed.

As I stepped out of church this chilly morning I accidently shoved another old-time friend off the side-walk and on to the parking lot. I apologized. He was my senior in college, [again, over 40 years ago!]

He pointed to another person on the sidewalk and asked me, “Do you know him?”

“No”, I shook my head – you know, the way we Indians do. (It’s an art, but that’s another story).

“My memory is beginning to fail”, he said. “I feel like I know him very well, but I just can’t remember who he is!”

Well, I couldn’t help him. But the sun was shining brightly and we continued talking and joking cheerfully until the icy winds encouraged us to bid farewell.

That reminds me: What am I most thankful for this year?

My friends – that’s who I am most thankful for, this year. Especially for those hundreds, regardless of their age, who have remained my friends for over 40 years. I am not leaving out the others, but the long-timers have a special place in my heart.

Thank you for having been my friend, sharing your time and other resources for, and with, me, for the experiences that we shared, and for all the fun times we had, still continue to have, and expect to have.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t agree on many things, and often favor different viewpoints. Ultimately, it is the journey that makes the destination worthwhile.

I thank God for my friends. You validate my existence.


Where’s home?

Home is where the hearth is.  Here’s an interesting video about dreams, life, passion and home.  Something to cool your eyes and hearts during these hot summer days.  Enjoy.

Path to Freedom

Paint Branch Creek after a Storm

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
– Ansel Adams

IMG_0097You could say this is my ‘backyard’ in Silver Spring, MD, USA.  I can look out the window and see the stream snaking its way down the valley.  Just a few weeks back, on May 15th to be precise, it was pretty stormy.  The normally placid Paint Branch Stream transformed itself into a roaring river as the storm raged.  The next afternoon as the waters were subsiding I went for a walk.

My thoughts strayed back to February 27th, less than 3 months earlier. It was just a few meters away that I had slipped on ice and fractured my left wrist.  On this day, though, the scene and the invigorating smell of the damp earth and the fresh air reminded me of my home state at the southwestern tip of India.  After the downpours of the hot and humid tropical monsoons of Kerala the earth and air seemed to look and smell the same.  After having endured the sparse, drab, grey and brown vegetation around here due to the prolonged, freezing and tiresome winter this past season, the sight around me now was a feast for my eyes!

I am a photo enthusiast, not a professional.  I love color, texture, and most of all, candid photography.  And what can be more candid than landscapes?  Landscapes don’t turn on fake smiles when you point a camera at them.  My camera is a well-worn Canon Powershot A2000 IS point-and-shoot.  Over its 5-year life it has seen some irresponsible handling.  There’s a slight chip on its lens and its sensor needs a bit of (a lot of, actually) cleaning.  Yet it gave me a beautiful picture.  I cropped it for the dimensions  I wanted.  Enjoy.

A Better Version of Myself

Who am I?  Who do I want to be?

I want to be happy.  Don’t we all?  But what is the source of happiness?  Ancient philosophers tell us that happiness comes from learning and practising virtuous character strengths.  As we grew up our elders have constantly been telling us that character matters – “if wealth is lost, nothing is lost; if health is lost, something is lost; but if character is lost, everything is lost”.

What determines our character? Can character be developed? What are my top 5 strengths?  Can I shape other people’s character? What is the key to human relationships? Who do I admire? Can character strengths be learned and developed? What strengths can help me become what I want to be? How can character strengths be used to improve life around me?  These are questions posed by the narrator (and writer) of a brilliant visual essay, ‘The Science of Character’.  It ends by asking “if you can be a better version of yourself, how do you want to be?”

Watch the 8 minute video on YouTube:

For additional resources to explore the subject of ‘character’ visit: