Category : Self Development

Am I Your Friend, I Ask…

“What a contrast between us! You live a warm and glowing life, surrounded by loved ones whom you care for and who care for you; you are anchored in contentment. I drift about without rudder or compass, a wreck on the sea of life; I have… no friends for the wholesome development of my affects, or enemies for my malice.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel, in a letter to his sister-in-law

I was recovering from an attack of viral hepatitis. Home bound. Room bound. Going slowly crazy.

All day – and most of the night – I played TV video games until my thumb got swollen from punching the ‘Fire’ button! One evening, the phone rang. It was a friend calling with some exciting news.

“Did you know that X and Y got married? Why didn’t you tell me?”

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Connectedness

Take for Granted

I paused in the street for a few seconds on my return from another college drop-off.

The lady who sweeps and cleans the streets was working in front of our drive. Just as she does every day, for the last 3 years.

She glanced up. Noticed my car. Hurried up a little.

I waited until she was finished. Opened the gate. Drove in and parked.

We didn’t acknowledge each other. Not even a smile or nod.

A nebulous socio-economic divide insulates ‘classes’ of people almost completely from each other, more so in my country than others. Apart from transactional interactions, ne’er the ‘twain shall meet.

Yet natural disaster has an equalizing effect.

It rips asunder this false shell to expose – and connect – the human heart that beats under us all.

Unites us in an all-encompassing embrace.

When a terrible storm flooded our city for a fortnight some years ago, this same lady and I had a lengthy conversation about the damage in the area where she lived.

She shared horror stories of shanty towns washed away in the deluge. Of families who lost everything. And of being rescued by lifeboats.

For a few precious moments, we connected – as fellow sufferers of an act of Nature, as co-passengers on the journey of life, as human beings.

And I wonder… why is this connection so rare?

I ask myself:

Should it need a disaster to make us recognize our mortality and connectedness?


P.S.: On December 8th, 2015, I had posted this after chatting with her:

“The lady who sweeps the roads had her colony submerged in Vadapalani. Relief workers provide food that is meager in quantity. Only yesterday, she got a tasty plate of biryani. All her clothes are wet and unwearable. No place to cook, even if she had rice and pulses. And the mosquito menace is intolerable. Just a conversation, lasting 5 minutes, threw up these priorities – clothing, food, mosquito repellant, cleaning up houses. Go out and TALK to people. See what they need. Then do what you can to help. #ChennaiSpirit”

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Banana fingers

Banana finger

A few of us grandkids walked home from Marina beach one evening with Grandpa.

We stopped by a fruit-seller’s cart. He sold bananas.

“How much are they?” Grandpa asked.

They haggled. The vendor pointed at the other end of his cart.

“For your price, you’ll get those.”

Grandpa glared for a while and said, “But those are so tiny.”

The wrinkled, elderly man in a torn, sleeveless vest held up his right hand, fingers splayed apart.

“Are all these fingers the same size, sir?” he asked.

It was a philosophy that cut through to my eight year-old mind… and has stayed with me since. I’ve used it several times over the years, in dozens of different contexts.

It always made perfect sense!

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Circular Logic

By and large, I’ve had an interesting, eventful, and rewarding life.

And am fairly content with it.

Yet, from time to time, when I get together with someone who knew me from a young age, they’ll remark that I could have achieved so much more – “if only I had wanted to“.

More money. More fame. More professional ‘success’.

After such conversations – for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a week – I’ll wonder if I really have set the bar too low, not been ambitious enough.

And then, inevitably, this argument comes to mind.

What if I had strived harder for 10x more – and got it? Would I then be content?

Or would I feel it was possible to have tried even harder – for 100x more?

And beyond that – for 1,000 times higher?

What THEN? Carry on, extending this limit… endlessly?

Each time, this argument is convincing.

But not always comforting.

Sigh!

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Contentment

Muffin on the Window

Contentment. Satisfaction. Bliss.

It’s Muffin‘s trademark position. Sitting on the windowsill, gazing out into our backyard.

Since her operation, we’ve not dared let her upon that precarious perch. Today, as a stop-gap solution, I pulled up a chair and lifted her onto the cushion. Watchful of any misstep on her part, I sipped my coffee.

The little one settled down – and then remained motionless as a statue. After a while, I set down my empty mug and glanced into her face.

And saw contentment, satisfaction, bliss.

Curious, I lowered my head to her side, trying to see the world as she did.

For a few minutes, I too lost myself in the tranquil view out of our window.

Enjoyed the silence. The lovely, soft green of leaves, dazzling brightly as they caught the sun. The occasional waft of a cool early morning breeze.

And the close companionship of my dear friend, Muffin.

It was magical.

I wished the spell wouldn’t ever break.

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