SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Stories that Empower - the other story

Ammi midiththu, Arundhati parththu is a saying that is part of the Tamil marriage culture. Arundhati was the wife of Sage Vasishta and meant to be the epitome of pativrata. Traditionally most women like my Grandmother would idolize this role and play their part to the "t", even eating off the same plate!
I wanted to know more about Arundhati and I found a very learned woman who could coach her husband when he had no answers (thats pretty normal and true in most cases!). Yet the story that is amazing here is connected to my opening words...
At the wedding ceremony couples are asked to observe the double stars of Arundhati and Vasishta, (Alcor & Mizar in the Ursa Major constellation). Both these are binary stars visible to the sharp eyes. You would believe couples are asked to look at these stars to signify the union should be like the mythological characters - pure and perfect. Nope, that's not it.

The real reason behind it is that these stars display a unique behaviour. They rotate independently
(unlike other stars) and also revolve around each other. Alcor is a bi-star and Mizar is a quadrupule star. So this amazing star behaviour was understood by astronomers thousands of years ago and the rituals asked you to look at these symbols, so that you too would emulate. Be independent in your union and also interdependent. Learn from nature!

Wow! Mind blown to know the kind of knowledge that existed.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Stories that empower

The hangover correctly pointed out by my friend /storyteller! I have not had a more fulfilling time with stories as when she and I put together an event that revolved around women. 
"My Grandmother's Hands" is a personal story that tells about my Grandmother and how I remember her through her beautiful, hard working hands.  Wanting some more depth to this story, I looked around for a story that I could tell inside this one - Yes, a Story within a Story. 
I got two!!
Cut the chase and let me take you to the other story, that inspires me to share it here:
SavitriBhai Phule.
What really caught my eye, is that married at the age of 9 years to Jyotirba who was 13 years old, this child carried a dream with her to her spouse. This dream was not only recognised by him, but he helped her grow wings and taught her to fly and taught many others to fly too.
They belonged to a lower caste and in their village of Satara (near Pune), girls were not allowed anywhere near a school and books were meant for the privileged few. Yet she had kept with her a book given by a Christian missionary. This was the prized possession she carried to her husband's house when she got married. Noticing this, the young Jyotirba was inspired to teach her, albeit secretly, and she went on to learn English and Marathi from him. Looking at her Jyotirba realised that women regardless of caste wanted to study and went on to open the first school for girls with Savitribhai as the first teacher.
Reading this is at once inspiring and pathetic. Though this is around the time of India's freedom struggle, we are still talking about this country which revers women as Gods and historically has many stories of women who excelled and outshone men in all fields of knowledge.
Savitribhai Phule was the first Indian woman to become a trained teacher and yes she came from a caste that discouraged her from studying, that did not provide her the unconditional support she deserved as a human to pursue her passion.
The oppression she underwent was tremendous, yet her husband supported  her and gave her the courage to forge on. I mention her husband here only because I want to highlight the fact and the truth that a human being can face any odds and follow through with their vision and dreams providing there is atleast one person who believes in them unconditionally. Human success cannot occur in isolation and unconditional support can empower a person to excel in their chosen field.
SavitriBhai Phule went on to do many more courageous, path breaking acts for that time. She was also a prolific Marathi poet and here is one:

Go, Get Education
Be self-reliant, be industrious
Work, gather wisdom and riches,
All gets lost without knowledge
We become animal without wisdom,
Sit idle no more, go, get education
End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
You’ve got a golden chance to learn
So learn and break the chains of caste.
Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.
— Poem by Savitribai Phule

As our country still struggles with caste issues and gender bias, this story is a gift given to me that I share here. Why are we still stuck on caste. Science has proven that individual intelligence is superior to all, yet we deprive communities and entire ethnic groups opportunity to access of information and an equal platform - that is the biggest oppression of our times. We do it because it serves our purpose in the rat race, there is no other reason to divide human kind.

When I told this story to the group of women, they clapped their hands in appreciation and I was deeply moved. Every woman faces oppression at some point in their lives. It is ironical that many times the oppressor, in all probability, is another woman. The fault is not in the gender or the community we are born in, it is in our Thinking.
Women are oppressed and they oppress. Only education can change this cycle of pain.
We need to educate the Soul; not just provide literacy. We need to acknowledge and empower every human soul as unique and valuable, kind, generous and loving. Once this education is provided, then the Soul will be free to pursue what it wants and do what it cares deeply for, be it the family or their job or the community or the nation or the earth.

Sharing stories is the most powerful tool that can serve this purpose and I see it all the time....

( I said I have 2 stories...I will share that soon...)

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Stop telling yourself you are not enough
Stop comparing yourself with anyone at all
Stop examining your strengths and weaknesses
Stop all those voices that constantly make you feel less.

How many of us can truly say we are free from comparison and judgement? How many of us can truly say we are happy exactly the way we are? How many of us love ourselves and our lives unconditionally?

Very few of us.

Especially not me.

This blog post is not to dissect myself or my life. But to share my concern.

Everywhere I read philosophers and healers talking about being present and loving ourself unconditionally. They say be happy, show gratitude and rejoice in other's success for it will lead you to yours.

But it is not so easy - in a world that constantly compares and judges you for who you are and the choices they think you are making or not making, it is not easy to show unconditional love. They throw it back.

Forgiveness is thrown back with accusations of cowardice. Kindness is dissected with suspicion and returned with ridicule. Acceptance is treated as inauthentic and Sensitivity viewed as weakness.

Who creates the benchmark for anything, what determines the success of anyone?

Will being kind, accepting and sensitive ever reach me to my goal?
Do I have to become better than someone else, do I have to prove myself to anyone?

After all it is simply about me, my story and how I want to tell it.


This is an excerpt that was shared by a friend and storyteller: taken from the book
Sita- An Illustrated retelling of the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik

Here is Sita as the Strong, Forgiving, Mindful woman, who understands her role and her source of happiness - convincing Shurpanakha to find her inner peace and happiness.

Thanks to Devdutt Pattanaik and his imagination.

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