Life outside of my box

I come from a conservative Hindu South Indian family where being submissive and being predictable are considered the highest qualities. I have been handed the following script on how I “should” live my life:

Kids “should” get good grades and go to well-known schools.
By age 22, you “should” get a corporate job and get settled.
By age 25, you “should” buy a house.
By age 27, you “should” get married to a spouse from the same caste.
By age 30, you “should” pop out the kids to make your parents happy.
For the rest of your life, until you finally kick the bucket, you “should” pile up as much wealth as you can so you can be the hero of your kids and the son of proud parents.

However, I consciously have chosen to get outside of my own belief systems to live my own life just like I mentioned in the below speech I gave to the students of Columbia university in August 2018. I broke the tradition of marrying a woman within my own caste system by marrying someone from a country outside of my own.

In doing so, I had to answer a barrage of questions from my family and friends on the uncertainties of marrying a Chinese woman. They asked me questions like “How wealthy is her family?” “Will she divorce me and take away all my money like the spouses from western countries?” “Will she take care of my parents during their old age?” “Which country would we move to should our temporary U.S. visa get revoked?” Well, I did not have answers to any of those questions but I managed to convince them by telling them some cock and bull stories. Just joking. My wife has so many traits that makes her instantly likable.

The reality I haven’t shared with my friends and family until now is that my wife was at her lowest point in her life when we met. She hated her job, lived paycheck to paycheck and threw temper tantrums from time to time. She expected her husband to be her next savior, pulling her out of the trenches just like her dad did when she was younger. I could have easily let the dark side of our relationship and my family’s concerns confirm my worst fears but I chose not to give into them. Fears keep you inside of your box but I chose to believe in impossibilities and live life outside of my fears. My deep connection with my wife and her openness to see through our conflicts gave me the courage to overcome my fears, and I married her in March 2017.

Well, just a few months after our marriage life took me by surprise as I experienced unfamiliarity outside of my own box. We faced challenges in our relationship in the first few months of marriage but just like I mentioned in this blog post, I looked at every setback in our relationship as an opportunity to better myself.

Some unexpected opportunities also opened up as my wife’s own transformation inspired me on a journey to discover more about myself and the legacy I want to leave for the world. With her love, support and compassion she woke up the inner Gandhi in me and helped me realize the full potential of my true self. As a result, I reinvented myself as a speaker and a coach, living with purpose and greater fulfillment than I ever did.  I also learned that I can get a US green card from a Chinese wife, a possibility that could not have happened in the next 10 years if I stayed in my own box. Today we were issued Green cards.

What I want to leave you with is that, it is your choice to live inside of your box or outside of your box. I experienced greater fulfillment living life outside of my box. But I caution you that life throws curve balls at you when you are living outside of your box and how you respond determines the size of your life.

box

Solution to solving the world’s problems

It shakes me to learn every day when I read the news about how the world is suffering from man-made problems. From bombings in Syria to nuclear threats by developed countries to terrorism and violent attacks and the list goes on. Being an engineer I learned that the only way to solve a complex problem is to break down the problem into a simpler form that can be easily solved. So the solution to all the complex world problems is breaking it down to solving my own problems first.

The fundamental way to approach a problem is to not look at it as a problem rather an opportunity to challenge me. It is like perceiving “climbing a mountain” as a problem that needs to be solved vs perceiving it as an opportunity to build my strength while enjoying the experience and magnificent views during every step of the ascent. When you take a positive perspective, the problem disappears and you start enjoying the process instead.

So to start with, I started acknowledging all the areas in my life that are making me live less than stellar life. Unfortunately, it takes me a book to explain how I overcame all the negative talk in my head. So in this blog post, I will take a stab at explaining how I addressed a specific conflict with my wife and how a similar approach can be taken to address border issues currently happening between different countries.

I always complain about how my wife does so little household work. What I later understood is that she does the best she can but after she reaches my expectation, in my mind I give her brand new milestones to reach. After a while, they become outdated as well and the process of setting new internal milestones repeat. I was being greedy. So no matter how much my wife did for me, it was never enough. If my happiness is based on how much my wife did for me, I will soon become a victim of my expectations. So the way I addressed is to give unconditionally instead. If I would like to have her contribution, I would express it as a wish and how I feel about my wish but take complete ownership of my own needs. Very quickly things took a U-turn in how I perceived life. The lesson I learned is that greed is part of being human. Once you can notice how it is making you a slave of yourself, you can rise above it to create a life of freedom.

If we extrapolate this solution to solving world problems, border issues like Jammu and Kashmir or Taiwan or Ghaza can be solved not by making arguments on why each country owns a certain piece of land and bombing each other. Countries can never have enough of what they want. Instead, if countries give selflessly by opening the borders to promote understanding, it can make a difference. As an example, India can open its borders to Pakistanis and help them understand how we feel about our insecurities around Jammu and Kashmir instead of trying to further provoke them. The bottom line is we are all the same in spite of our different belief systems. What I think we should really do to solve the problem is to declare Jammu and Kashmir as a self-governing state and designate it as a friendship zone for Indians and Pakistanis. In this friendship zone, radical Indian Hindus and radical Indian Muslims party with each other and do fun things like dancing, singing and dining together.

india-pakistan-friendship

So here is my solution to the world’s problems. Start with identifying areas of your life which are making you live less than stellar life. Are you being in the victims of your own greed? When everyone in the world can live a life of unconditional giving, there remains no problem to be solved in this world but only life to be lived.