Only protecting my own

Written by Suraj Shah.

When trouble’s brewing in your neighbourhood, what’s the first thing you do?

Mayhem has kicked off in London and across the UK. Riots are taking place, shops are being looted, buildings are set alight and innocent people are getting hurt.

Business owners have suffered great financial loss, through damage done to their property, goods stolen and loss of trade.

Families, the elderly and the vulnerable are terrified about the damage done in the world around them. They are scared about the harm that may come to them and those close to them.

Communities are shocked that their own locals are doing so much damage to their neighbourhood.

Reports say it’s the poor fighting against the rich. I say it’s the deluded battling with themselves.

As news reports roll though announcing trouble that has erupted, with security forces deployed, and total confusion about the cause of the riots, there is immediately one question on everybody’s mind:

“How will this affect me?”

Will I be in any danger? Will my family be ok? Will my friends stay safe? Is my house ok? Is my shop ok? Can I still get home from work or will the roads be blocked off?

We contact our wives and husbands and children and parents. We check with our neighbours that our homes and possessions are ok. We frantically scour the news reports to see how widespread the riots are, and whether we or our loved ones are likely to be affected.

Less thought is given to all the people suffering due to the riots – the victims and indeed the rioters themselves.

We tend only to focus on looking out for and protecting our own – those we consider as “me” and “mine”.

Looking beyond ourselves

However, once we are satisfied that we are ok and our own people and possessions are ok, then, and only then do we give consideration to how others in the community are, and whether they or those important to them have been affected in some way. Or do we…?

Hiding from the truth

The truth is that we tend not to care much about those people and things that we don’t have a strong relationship with. We hide behind fake sentiments and insensitive jokes. We try to create disconnection and escape from the graveness of the situation. We busy ourselves in our work and mundane worldly matters, hoping that we are not affected by the situation in any way.

This is real

There’s no hiding from it. This is real. What’s happening in the world around us is real. It’s on our doorstep, and we must face it with eyes open wide. Yes, we need to protect our family and those who depend on us. Yes, we also need to care for the well being of our neighbours and those in our communities. At the end of the day, we need to care for one another, with true friendship, for everyone.

Forgiveness settles anger

Friendship, true friendship, cultivates a sense of care for all living beings. It reduces the worry about our own possessions and relationships, and enhances care for everyone and all things, all at once.

Friendship, true friendship, cultivates forgiveness. It brings downs our egos and expectations, and encourages more acceptance and understanding. It doesn’t allow for even a glimpse of spite, malice or revenge.  It wipes out anger and replaces it with peace.

By enhancing friendship with all those in the world around you, it helps you develop understanding, trust and a deeper connection with your local and global community.

How to enhance the quality of friendship

Enhancing friendship means we:

  1. Smile at everyone we meet, rather than ignore anyone who is looking for connection.
  2. Appreciate the qualities of those we come across rather than focus on their faults.
  3. Care for those who are facing difficulties, rather than insult them with “I told you so”.
  4. Adjust to other people’s actions rather than demand our way all the time.
  5. Listen intently to what is being said, rather than carry out our own internal chatter.
  6. Communicate words of positive encouragement rather than contribute to fault-finding.
  7. Immerse in the conversation and make them feel special, rather that it being all about “me, me, me”.

Enhancing friendship is more important now than it has ever been before.

What do you do to cultivate friendship within yourself?

(Photo courtesy of Andy Armstrong)

Making the most of a sunny day

Written by Suraj Shah.

Things change.
Day to day, things change.
Moment to moment, things change.

It’s almost the end of June, but recently the days have been mostly cold and wet.

Today’s an exception. It’s gorgeous. The sun is shining strong, the air is warm, and yet there is a slight cool breeze. Perfect.

Some say that Britain is experiencing a mini heatwave this weekend, and by Tuesday it will be cold and wet again. They say the forecast does not look good.

Perhaps that’s why, rather than hearing so many complaints about the heat, almost everyone is outdoors and making the most of this sunny Sunday:

  • birds are chirping.
  • flies are having a field day in the garden.
  • the occasional butterfly if fluttering by.
  • kids are riding their bikes.
  • neighbours are painting fences and moving lawns.

It seems that everyone is making the most of this sunny day, perhaps because they know it will not last.

Neighbours have washed and hung out their clothes and sheets since the early morning, capitalising on the warmth from the sun to dry their clothes.

Friends on Facebook report loading their cars up with their families and heading to Brighton to enjoy time at the beach, or the local park, or to meet their brothers and sisters who have invited them over for a barbecue.

You just can’t ask for better weather on a Sunday.

But it won’t last – the sun will go, the rains will come, happiness and fun will be replaced with misery and complaints.  It’s what the forecast says, and they never get it wrong, do they?

Even now as I sit here to write at the dining table, with the patio doors wide open to enjoy the bright sun and the warm air blended with the cool breeze, a jet aeroplane thunders through the skies above my head, making it’s way over to the local RAF base.  The peaceful sound of the birds chirping has been rocked by the roar of the jet.

Things change.  Day to day, things change.  Moment to moment, things change.

Knowing this is perhaps the reason we make the most of a sunny day.

(Photo courtesy of kooklanekookla)

Interview: Premal Shah on the loss of his cousin brother

Written by Suraj Shah.

“We talked at home openly about him, shared memories of him, laughed at the things he used to say and do.”

Premal Shah is a 37 year old Chartered Physiotherapist, married with two children aged 9 and 6. He is currently preparing to participate in the Everest Basecamp Trek in 2012, in memory of his cousin brother who recently passed away due to a brain tumour.

In this interview, Premal talks about the loss of his cousin brother, how he discussed the topic with his own children, and preparation for his trek to the Everest Basecamp.

You recently lost your cousin brother. Tell us about him.

Amit was 45. He ran his own very successful pharmacy business in Hackney, and also did a lot on work with the NHS in improving the lives of local people. He was married with two boys.

What were the last few months and days of his life like for him, for you, how did he die, and how was that for you?

Amit died because of a brain tumour that was diagnosed last year after a sudden downturn in his health. The family was devastated, but somehow he always managed to look at the funnier side of life. After his diagnosis, he committed his remaining time for his wife and children. We didn’t really see him, but communicated via phone and email. Time was precious to him, so it was important that he spent his time with those closest to him.

What were some of the biggest challenges for you, and how did you manage to deal with them?

For me personally, the biggest challenge was dealing with the idea that his life was soon to end, and that the treatment he was undergoing was unlikely to help him. I had no problem in explaining to my children what was happening. Honesty and frankness is vital. Sometimes the truth is painful.

What did you do to bring about peace within yourself at the time of Amit’s declining health and eventual death?

We talked at home openly about him, shared memories of him, laughed at the things he used to say and do. He was an amazing character, and one that should be celebrated.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from his life, his illness, and his death?

Life is precious, time can be short. Family and close friends should be valued.

You are planning a trek to Everest next year – tell us a bit about that.

In February 2012, I am going to trek up to the base camp on Mount Everest. I will be reaching an altitude of around 18,000 feet and trekking 8 hours a day for 10 days. I will be sleeping at times in temperatures close to -15. This is all in aid of raising money for Brainstrust, the charity Amit wanted to be supported. Amit was an amazing person. I want to do something amazing to honour him. I am out of shape and lazy, so the challenge will be that much more for someone like me.

Editor’s note: If you wish to support Premal’s trek in memory of his cousin, and through him donate to Brainstrust, Amit’s chosen charity, please visit

(Photo caption: Premal Shah proudly supporting the charity Brainstrust)