These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: #34 (Right Here, Right Now: A Short Film by Anand Gandhi)

Pondering over the imponderables like the meaning of life, Karma, etc is one of my favorite things. As is the nature of such enquiry I get no definite answers but these exercises help me shape my personal ethics n value system.

Karma is the basic law of cause & effect: As we sow, so we reap. Intuitively we all know that Karma seems to be a basic law operating all our actions but at times I wonder, is it so really? n if it indeed does, then how exactly? The thing about karma is that it is sometimes hard to discern it’s effect because Karma weaves a complicated Web. It’s not a simple case like we get wet in the rain n we catch flu the next day.

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Right here, Right Now, a short film by Anand Gandhi (Who is currently making huge waves with his Magnum Opus, ‘The Ship of Theseus’) explores this complex web of Karma rather brilliantly. A good story can convey obscure ideas more powerfully than anything else. An ounce  of story is worth tons of theory.

A young man in his haste to go some place takes two actions – he screams at his mother for making him late, and he lovingly appreciates his brother’s painting. By doing so, he strikes off two cycles – one of frustration and sorrow and the other of love and joy. His mother vents out her anger on her maidservant. His brother gifts the painting to his girl friend. Thus begins the cycles of sorrow and joy, forming a Domino stairway, leading to an unknown doorway. After shaking hands with 15 other characters and traveling through 17 locations, in just two shots, both the cycles meet at the end in an attempt to give a logical understanding to the seemingly absurd human life. It’s a humorous look at the bizarreness of the cosmic accident, otherwise known as life.

 

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July 30, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My Favorite Things, My Values, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Uncategorized, You tube. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #32(Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield)

Miss Brill is a story about an old woman who lacks companionship and self-awareness. Each Sunday, Miss Brill ventures down to the park to watch and listen to the band play. She finds herself listening not only to the band, but also to strangers. She enjoys living vicariously by eavesdropping into the lives of others. Miss Brill spends her Sunday afternoon seated on a park bench, this is the highpoint of her life. She watches others around her and pretends that all of them including her-self are actors in a play; She weaves an elaborate fantasy around this thought n it gives her huge satisfaction to be involved in the grand scheme of things. On this particular Sunday she has chosen to wear her favorite coat which she believes to be fashionable. She is generally enjoying herself, listening to the band, lost in reverie n at the prospect of her favorite past time: Eavesdropping. But things take an unexpected turn, a young pair of lovers walks in n makes some rude comments about her. Why does she drag her old mug out of her home? Says the guy n the girl laughs at Miss Brill’s coat. This disheartens Miss Brill n she hurries home, forgetting even to stop at the bakery to pick up her Sunday indulgence of honey cake. Miss Brill is a story about the loneliness of an old, solitary Lady. But for me it worked differently. It spoke to me of two things.

 1) Why do people take so much interest in the lives of others? Granted one may be living alone, but there are enough things in the world to engage oneself constructively without taking interest in lives of others. One can enjoy one’s glorious solitude with variety of things like music, gardening, reading which are richly rewarding n not pathetic.

 2) Why do we let the opinions of others effect us so deeply n badly.By doing this we make ourselves a puppet into other people’s hands. Just one remark from the young woman about her coat n suddenly it ain’t her favorite coat anymore!! She goes home n packs it away. N by the way who is the young man to decide whether Miss Brill is wanted in the park or not? Instead of getting so wounded by careless remark by stupid young people, Miss Brill should have continued to enjoy what her special Sunday outing in the park n her treat of honey cake.

~The unhappiest people in this world, are those who care the most about what other people think. ~ C. JoyBell C.

~I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

~No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

~ He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” ~ Brigham Young

I find Buddha’s way of dealing with insults the best way. Once Buddha was passing through a village n some people in the village very angry with him for spreading radical ideas n inspiring youth to lead an ascetic life. So they gathered around him & started abusing him. Buddha listened to their abuses patiently n even compassionately!!! In the end he just said that he’d be passing through the village in the evening again n if someone had some more accusations they could abuse him then, People were surprised. They expected Buddha to retaliate n abuse in return, to get angry/upset/sad. But Buddha did none of these. He then explained that if someone gives you a gift n you don’t accept it, the gift is returned to the sender, in the same way he had not accepted the insult/abuse. Now I know Miss Brill is no Buddha n neither am I. But still we can remind ourselves of Buddha’s way n act a little more intelligently n not be wounded by harmful words of others.

Oh yeah, now the story!!! :

Miss Brill

Although it was so brilliantly fine – the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques – Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur. The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip, and now and again a leaf came drifting – from nowhere, from the sky. Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her fur. Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again. She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth-powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes. “What has been happening to me?” said the sad little eyes. Oh, how sweet it was to see them snap at her again from the red eiderdown! … But the nose, which was of some black composition, wasn’t at all firm. It must have had a knock, somehow. Never mind – a little dab of black sealing-wax when the time came – when it was absolutely necessary … Little rogue! Yes, she really felt like that about it. Little rogue biting its tail just by her left ear. She could have taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it. She felt a tingling in her hands and arms, but that came from walking, she supposed. And when she breathed, something light and sad – no, not sad, exactly – something gentle seemed to move in her bosom.

     There were a number of people out this afternoon, far more than last Sunday. And the band sounded louder and gayer. That was because the Season had begun. For although the band played all the year round on Sundays, out of season it was never the same. It was like some one playing with only the family to listen; it didn’t care how it played if there weren’t any strangers present. Wasn’t the conductor wearing a new coat, too? She was sure it was new. He scraped with his foot and flapped his arms like a rooster about to crow, and the bandsmen sitting in the green rotunda blew out their cheeks and glared at the music. Now there came a little “flutey” bit – very pretty! – a little chain of bright drops. She was sure it would be repeated. It was; she lifted her head and smiled.


     Only two people shared her “special” seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved walking-stick, and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron. They did not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked round her.

     She glanced, sideways, at the old couple. Perhaps they would go soon. Last Sunday, too, hadn’t been as interesting as usual. An Englishman and his wife, he wearing a dreadful Panama hat and she button boots. And she’d gone on the whole time about how she ought to wear spectacles; she knew she needed them; but that it was no good getting any; they’d be sure to break and they’d never keep on. And he’d been so patient. He’d suggested everything – gold rims, the kind that curved round your ears, little pads inside the bridge. No, nothing would please her. “They’ll always be sliding down my nose!” Miss Brill had wanted to shake her.

     The old people sat on the bench, still as statues. Never mind, there was always the crowd to watch. To and fro, in front of the flower-beds and the band rotunda, the couples and groups paraded, stopped to talk, to greet, to buy a handful of flowers from the old beggar who had his tray fixed to the railings. Little children ran among them, swooping and laughing; little boys with big white silk bows under their chins, little girls, little French dolls, dressed up in velvet and lace. And sometimes a tiny staggerer came suddenly rocking into the open from under the trees, stopped, stared, as suddenly sat down “flop,” until its small high-stepping mother, like a young hen, rushed scolding to its rescue. Other people sat on the benches and green chairs, but they were nearly always the same, Sunday after Sunday, and – Miss Brill had often noticed – there was something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards!


     Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping, and through them just a line of sea, and beyond the blue sky with gold-veined clouds.

     Tum-tum-tum tiddle-um! tiddle-um! tum tiddley-um tum ta! blew the band.

     Two young girls in red came by and two young soldiers in blue met them, and they laughed and paired and went off arm-in-arm. Two peasant women with funny straw hats passed, gravely, leading beautiful smoke-coloured donkeys. A cold, pale nun hurried by. A beautiful woman came along and dropped her bunch of violets, and a little boy ran after to hand them to her, and she took them and threw them away as if they’d been poisoned. Dear me! Miss Brill didn’t know whether to admire that or not! And now an ermine toque and a gentleman in grey met just in front of her. He was tall, stiff, dignified, and she was wearing the ermine toque she’d bought when her hair was yellow. Now everything, her hair, her face, even her eyes, was the same colour as the shabby ermine, and her hand, in its cleaned glove, lifted to dab her lips, was a tiny yellowish paw. Oh, she was so pleased to see him – delighted! She rather thought they were going to meet that afternoon. She described where she’d been – everywhere, here, there, along by the sea. The day was so charming – didn’t he agree? And wouldn’t he, perhaps? … But he shook his head, lighted a cigarette, slowly breathed a great deep puff into her face, and even while she was still talking and laughing, flicked the match away and walked on. The ermine toque was alone; she smiled more brightly than ever. But even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly, played tenderly, and the drum beat, “The Brute! The Brute!” over and over. What would she do? What was going to happen now? But as Miss Brill wondered, the ermine toque turned, raised her hand as though she’d seen some one else, much nicer, just over there, and pattered away. And the band changed again and played more quickly, more gayly than ever, and the old couple on Miss Brill’s seat got up and marched away, and such a funny old man with long whiskers hobbled along in time to the music and was nearly knocked over by four girls walking abreast.


     Oh, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play. It was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky at the back wasn’t painted? But it wasn’t till a little brown dog trotted on solemn and then slowly trotted off, like a little “theatre” dog, a little dog that had been drugged, that Miss Brill discovered what it was that made it so exciting. They were all on the stage. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there; she was part of the performance after all. How strange she’d never thought of it like that before! And yet it explained why she made such a point of starting from home at just the same time each week – so as not to be late for the performance – and it also explained why she had quite a queer, shy feeling at telling her English pupils how she spent her Sunday afternoons. No wonder! Miss Brill nearly laughed out loud. She was on the stage. She thought of the old invalid gentleman to whom she read the newspaper four afternoons a week while he slept in the garden. She had got quite used to the frail head on the cotton pillow, the hollowed eyes, the open mouth and the high pinched nose. If he’d been dead she mightn’t have noticed for weeks; she wouldn’t have minded. But suddenly he knew he was having the paper read to him by an actress! “An actress!” The old head lifted; two points of light quivered in the old eyes. “An actress – are ye?” And Miss Brill smoothed the newspaper as though it were the manuscript of her part and said gently; “Yes, I have been an actress for a long time.”

     The band had been having a rest. Now they started again. And what they played was warm, sunny, yet there was just a faint chill – a something, what was it? – not sadness – no, not sadness – a something that made you want to sing. The tune lifted, lifted, the light shone; and it seemed to Miss Brill that in another moment all of them, all the whole company, would begin singing. The young ones, the laughing ones who were moving together, they would begin, and the men’s voices, very resolute and brave, would join them. And then she too, she too, and the others on the benches – they would come in with a kind of accompaniment – something low, that scarcely rose or fell, something so beautiful – moving … And Miss Brill’s eyes filled with tears and she looked smiling at all the other members of the company. Yes, we understand, we understand, she thought – though what they understood she didn’t know.


     Just at that moment a boy and girl came and sat down where the old couple had been. They were beautifully dressed; they were in love. The hero and heroine, of course, just arrived from his father’s yacht. And still soundlessly singing, still with that trembling smile, Miss Brill prepared to listen.

     “No, not now,” said the girl. “Not here, I can’t.”

     “But why? Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?” asked the boy. “Why does she come here at all – who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”

     “It’s her fu-ur which is so funny,” giggled the girl. “It’s exactly like a fried whiting.”

     “Ah, be off with you!” said the boy in an angry whisper. Then: “Tell me, ma petite chere–“

     “No, not here,” said the girl. “Not yet.”

 

On her way home she usually bought a slice of honey-cake at the baker’s. It was her Sunday treat. Sometimes there was an almond in her slice, sometimes not. It made a great difference. If there was an almond it was like carrying home a tiny present – a surprise – something that might very well not have been there. She hurried on the almond Sundays and struck the match for the kettle in quite a dashing way.

     But to-day she passed the baker’s by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room – her room like a cupboard – and sat down on the red eiderdown. She sat there for a long time. The box that the fur came out of was on the bed. She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.

May 14, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . My Favorite Things, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Solitude, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #31 (The Billionaire by Maxim Gorky)

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I once read an amusing anecdote by Osho which goes like this:

One day Mulla Nasruddin told me, “I wish I had more land”.

 I asked him, “But why? As it is you already have enough”.

 He said, “I could raise lot more cows”.

 I asked him, “And what would you do with them?”

 He said, “Sell them & make more money.”

 “And then? What are you going to do with that money?”

 “Buy more land.”

 “For what?”

 “To raise more cows.”

This is the way it goes, you never come out of it.

Similar sentiment runs through this humorous & Brilliant short story by the Russian author Maxim Gorky

The Billionaire

by Maxim Gorkiy


The kings of steel, of petroleum, and all the other kings of the United States have always in a high degree excited my power of imagination. It seemed to me certain that these people who possess so much money could not be like other mortals.

Each of them (so I said to myself) must call his own, at least, three stomachs and a hundred and fifty teeth. I did not doubt that the millionaire ate without intermission, from six o’clock in the morning till midnight. It goes without saying, the most exquisite and sumptuous viands! Toward evening, then, he must be tired of the hard chewing, to such a degree that (so I pictured to myself) he gave orders to his servants to digest the meals that he had swallowed with satisfaction during the day. Completely limp, covered with sweat and almost suffocated, he had to be put to bed by his servants, in order that on the next morning at six o’clock he might be able to begin again his work of eating.

Nevertheless, it must be impossible for such a man — whatever pains he might take — to consume merely the half of the interest of his wealth.

To be sure, such a life is awful, but what is one to do? For what is one a millionaire — what am I saying? — a billionaire, if one cannot eat more than every other common mortal! I pictured to myself that this privileged being wore cloth-of-gold underclothing, shoes with gold nails, and instead of a hat a diadem of diamonds on his head. His clothes, made of the most expensive velvet, must be at least fifty feet long and fastened with three hundred gold buttons; and on holidays he must be compelled by dire necessity to put on over each other six pairs of costly trousers. Such a costume is certainly very uncomfortable. But, if one is rich like that, one can’t after all dress like all the world.

The pocket of a billionaire, I pictured to myself so big that therein easily a church or the whole senate could find room. The paunch of such a gentleman I conceived to myself like the hull of an ocean steamer, the length and breadth of which I was not able to think out. Of the bulk, too, of a billionaire I could never give myself a clear idea; but I supposed that the coverlet under which he sleeps measures a dozen hundred square yards. If he chews tobacco, it was unquestionably only the best kind, of which he always sticks two pounds at a time into his mouth. And on taking snuff (I thought to myself) he must use up a pound at a pinch. Indeed, money will be spent!

His fingers must possess the magic power of lengthening at will. In spirit, I saw a New York billionaire as he stretched out his hand across Bering Strait and brought back a dollar that had rolled somewhere toward Siberia, without especially exerting himself thereby.

Curiously, I could form to myself no clear conception of the headof this monster. In this organism consisting of gigantic muscles and bones that is made for squeezing money out of all things, a head seemed to me really quite superfluous.

Who, now, can conceive my astonishment when, standing facing one of these fabulous beings, I arrived at the conviction that a billionaire is a human being like all the rest!

I saw there comfortably reclining in an armchair a long, wizened old man, who held his brown, sinewy hands folded across a body of quite ordinary dimensions. The flabby skin of his face was carefully shaved. The underlip, which hung loosely down, covered solidly built jaws, in which gilded teeth were stuck. The upper lip, smooth, narrow and pallid, scarcely moved when the old man spoke. Colorless eyes without brows, a perfectly bald skull. It might be thought that a little skin was wanting to this reddish face, to this countenance that was expressionless and puckered like that of one new-born. Was this being just beginning its life, or was it already nearing its end?

Nothing in his dress distinguished him from the ordinary mortal. A ring, a watch, and his teeth were all the gold he carried with him. Scarcely half a pound, all told! Taken altogether, the appearance of the man recalled that of an old servant of an aristocratic family in Europe.

The furnishing of the room in which he received me had nothing unusually luxurious about it. The furniture was solid; that is all that can be said. Oftentimes elephants probably come into this house, I involuntarily thought at the sight of the heavy, substantial pieces of furniture.

‘Are you the billionaire?’ I asked, since I could not trust my eyes.

‘Yes, indeed,’ he answered, nodding convincingly with his head.

‘How much meat can you consume for breakfast?’

‘I eat no meat in the morning,’ he avowed. ‘A quarter of an orange, an egg, a small cup of tea, that’s all . . .’

His innocent child’s-eyes blinked with a feeble luster, like two drops of muddy water.

‘Good,’ I began again, half disconcerted. ‘But be honest with me; tell me the truth. How often in the day do you eat?’

‘Twice,’ he answered, peacefully. ‘Breakfast and dinner suffice me. At noon I take soup, a little white meat, vegetables, fruit, a cup of coffee, a cigar . . .’

My surprise grew apace. I drew breath, and went on:

‘But, if that’s true, what do you do with your money?’

‘Make more money!’

‘What for?’

‘To make more money out of that!’

‘What for?’ I repeated.

He leaned toward me, his hands supported by the arms of his chair, and with some curiosity in his expression he said:

‘You are probably cracked?’

‘And you?’ I said . . .

The old man inclined his head, and, whistling softly through the gold of his teeth, he said:

‘Droll wag! . . . You are the first human being of your species that I ever became acquainted with.’

Then he bent his head back and looked at me some time, silently and scrutinizingly.

‘What do you do?’ I began again.

‘Make money,’ he answered, shortly.

‘Oh, you’re a counterfeiter!’ I exclaimed, joyfully, for I thought I had finally got to the bottom of the mystery. But the billionaire flew into a passion. His whole body shook, his eyes rolled actively.

‘That is unheard of!’ he said, when he had calmed down. Then he inflated his cheeks, I don’t know why.

I considered, and put further the following question to him:

‘How do you make money?’

‘Oh, that’s very simple. I possess railroads; the farmers produce useful commodities, which I transport to the markets. I calculate exactly to myself how much money I must leave the farmer, in order that he may not starve and be able to produce further. The rest I keep myself as transportation charges. That’s surely very simple!’

‘And are the farmers satisfied with it?’

‘Not all, I believe,’ he answered, with a naïve childishness. ‘But they say that the people are never satisfied. There are always odd characters who want still more . . .’

Some people get fixated on acquiring more and more money without even pausing to think what do they want it for? Is it worth slogging for money after we have enough to get all our necessities? Where will all that huffing n puffing for more and more money lead us? Isn’t contentment a smarter choice?

~It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more, that is poor. ~ Seneca

 ~Greed will always leave you dissatisfied because you’ll never be able to get everything you desire. Greed never allows you to think you have enough; it always destroys you by making you strive ever harder for more. ~ Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Taking Stock: A Spiritual Guide to Rising Above Life’s Ups and Downs

~Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.~Socrates

~Money is just a tool, don’t let it make you a fool.

May 13, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Humor, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Osho, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #23 (When I Retire, We Will See the World)

When I Retire, We Will See the World

It was 10 p.m. Fritz said good night to his wife. She was watching TV. He went to bed. Tomorrow was a big day. It was his last day of work. Thirty years with the federal government. Thirty years of flying out of town for weeks on end. Thirty years of interviews, meetings, and heavy briefcases. Tomorrow it would all be over. Not that he didn’t like it. He had enjoyed his career.

Fritz felt blessed. His father had had a tough life as an unskilled laborer. Whenever Fritz was a bit discouraged or upset, he thought about his overworked and underpaid father. He thanked God for his own good life, and for the fact that he had been able to make his dad’s last years comfortable.

His two children were married and had their own careers. His wife Paige kept busy with, among other things, her bridge club. She had tried to get him interested in bridge, but without success. Fritz was content with his own Friday night poker group.

Friday morning, he went to work for the very last time. Those who knew him well would miss him. Fritz was a genuinely nice guy. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. Some people might have thought he was a little dull, but he was intelligent, a hard worker, and a team player. He had taken only three weeks of sick leave in 30 years.

A small group took him out to lunch. When he returned from lunch, the whole office gathered around for cake, ice cream, a farewell card, and a few short speeches. They presented him with various going-away gifts, including a big paperback US atlas. It listed all the motels, campgrounds, national parks, tourist spots, and other information to help guide a leisurely traveler throughout the good old USA. He had told his friends that he and Paige were going to spend a couple of years visiting all the places that he never had gotten to explore while there on business. As a final gift, his supervisor told him to take the rest of the day off.

Paige’s car wasn’t in the driveway when he got home. She was probably shopping for some traveling clothes. Maybe she was out arranging a dinner at a restaurant that evening for just the two of them. That would be nice.

But something was wrong. When he hung up his jacket, he saw that the bedroom closet was half empty. Paige’s clothes were gone. Her shoes were not on the closet floor. Confused, he looked around the bedroom.

He saw an envelope on the lamp stand. Inside it were two pieces of paper. One notified him of a divorce proceeding. The other was a hand-written note from Paige. “I’m so sorry,” it began. She said that her lawyer had told her to wait until today. If she had sought divorce a year earlier, like her boyfriend had suggested, she would not have been able to qualify for 50 percent of Fritz’s pension. She hoped that he would find it in his heart to forgive her. She felt terrible about this, she wrote, because “you’ve been so good to me. But I can’t ignore my own heart.”

Fritz sat immobile on the edge of the bed. Her note was in his hand; her words were burning in his brain.

Maybe an hour later, the phone rang. He picked it up on the fifth ring. It was Bob, wondering if Fritz was going to play poker later that night.

Though it’s so short, I found it a fascinating read with a surprise ending & it made me think too!! Often we wait for a certain day when finally everything will be in place for us to undertake big adventure in our life…but sometimes when that day finally arrives, life (or maybe we can say fate) pulls the rug from our feet. What we never imagined in our worst nightmare happens just on the our Big Day, the timing is ironic!! Life’s way of mocking at our anticipation n complacency. Far too many slips between cup n lip, as they say. Just a day before Fritz was thinking his life had been god n not as tough as that of his father n after he came back from office after his retirement party, he thought maybe his wife was planning a surprise dinner for him. But his wife n life had other plans for surprise.

On another note, though this is a very short story, we get a pretty good glimpse of Fritz’s character. He is hardworking, dependable, cares about his wife n father, & he’s not a loud party animal. One huge lesson for all married folks, it’s not good enough to provide for the family, the spouses must share atleast a few common interests. Him playing poker n her playing Bridge is not going to work for the long term. Also, we should not keep postponing things we want to do like traveling or whatever be it that our hear desires till some future day. If we do, it almost invariably happens that day doesn’t come at all. Between all our busyness, we have to make time for life or  life will pass us by while we are focusing only on work, money, success n responsibility. 

February 26, 2013. Tags: , , , . Reflections/Musings, Short-Story. Leave a comment.