Painted by me: Tea Plantations of Munnar (view from the balcony)
When my blogger friend Abubakar Jamil invited me to contribute to his “Life Lessons Series”, I said “yes” instantly not knowing how to say ‘no’ to any request from a friend, let alone this request which is an honour in itself. I had made a promise to share my Life Lessons, but this sounded so serious and reflective a subject that I kept procrastinating. It had been a few months and more than few reminders from this well-meaning and determined friend who would not give up on me! And yet, I thought, I will write when I ‘feel’ like.
And that feeling did come, when, out of no where, I get this sudden urge to refllect on my past; go down the memory lane to collect some weathered and wilted blossoms from the garden of life. And I am so glad it came naturally to me, for, I won’t write for this blog unless I feel it earnestly from within.
I have always aspired and espoused to live a life without regrets. I believe in going ahead and doing what I would like to do rather than waiting for the perfect time or perfect resources. For, I think there will never be a right time. What is of primary importance is a burning desire to do what you want to do. If that’s there, everything else can fall in place. And yet, inspite of this strong philosophy, why do I feel the urge to go back and reflect on what I could have done or not done? There is no way I can even undo what has happened and what those actions have led to. On the contrary, more or less, I don’t even think I would now like to change those events and actions. Altering those would mean, altering who I am today. And, honestly, I am happy with the ‘today’ that I am sharing with my hubby and daughter. Who knows, if I had done certain things differently, my life today would have read a different script, with someone else. No, I can’t even fathom a life without Avie and THIS specific little girl who’s my daughter!
I think, I want to go down this journey back in time for reasons more than just taking stock of the rights and the wrongs. Due to the pace at which we live our lives, we don’t often care to pause and mull and meditate over how our lives have unfolded thus far. And, to some extent, our otherwise positive philosophies about “living life in the present” or “getting on with life no matter what” or “looking ahead” don’t exactly fit in with looking backward.
I’m not suggesting this “looking ahead” attitude or philosophy is wrong. But, isn’t there joy and nostalgia and meaningful learning hidden in going back to those times when youth and rawness ruled; when matters of the heart were the heart of every matter; when opening gifts after a birthday party was the most exciting event ever; when mom meant everything and yet she would be the one taken for granted; when getting a campus placement on the first day equaled scaling the Mount Everest; and when work became life and life became work for the sake of the so called success and significance!
The other reason I want to reflect on the lessons from my past is to be able to leverage those learnings and focus all my positive energy and thoughts in making my current life more beautiful and meaningful.
And third, and most important – I want to see from my present perspective, if, consciously or unconsciously, any action or world or thought (or the lack of it) of mine may have had hurt somebody. I will, now, want to make it up to that person in some way or other.
So, as I go back in time, here are a few things I wish I had known then.
On matters of Aspirations….
I wish, back then, I had not given up my music lessons midway.
As a little girl, I loved music – be it playing the guitar, the keyboard/Clavier or just singing. I pursued all these feverishly only to abandon this dearest passion midway. May be due to the pressure of academics (or, was it a sheer excuse?). O! how badly, desperately, I wish, I should have mustered enough will power and not allowed my conviction and fervour to shake. For, I know, I had the natural talent and the yearning for music. If I had learnt it through all those years, I could have become a master at it today. It’s a lesson that resonates in my heart and soul loud and clear these days. But, I am so full of gratitude to the divine that He made me cast away my ignorance and I am back to playing my keyboard again. Not just that, since past one year, I am taking lessons in Hindustani Classical music. In singing, I am experiencing the purest form of joy and this joy, I am not going to relinquish, come what may! I have learnt that of all the things that we want to do, there will be that one thing that our soul aches without. And, it will be our greatest gift to ourselves, if we can recognize that passion early on in life and apply ourselves to it, whole heartedly.
I wish I had taken up English Literature as my honours (major) subject in graduation rather than Economics.
I have always nourished a love for writing – poetry, essays, journals and reading all sorts of literature has been my fascination. And yet, I ignored the well-intentioned pleadings from my heart. I can’t begin to fathom why I abandoned this beautiful subject; did not pay heed to my English Professor – Sir Anjan Das’s advice and instead took up Economics. But, as destiny, and my heart would have it, Economics fell on the way side as I went on to study Advertising and took up copy writing. Voila! That, got me back to writing. And, now this blog and one other are pushing me more and more in that direction. So, no looking back from here on…
On Matters of Relations and Emotions…
I wish I had not kept those many small expectations in relationships all the time.
Back then, I would allow myself to feel overtly hurt and let down (and in turn ‘judgemental’) if a gesture was not returned; a thought not appreciated; a hand not held; a hug not shared; and many such things. In retrospect, I think if I had accepted those people as they were – with their own individualities – I would have been a happier person and my relationships would have been more fulfilling and long lasting. And, I am glad I have learnt a lot from that not-so-helpful attitude that I carried for years. I have learnt that ‘expectations’ stifle bonds. It’s a no-win proposition for two people/families on both ends. Today, I care for and value the relationships I share but I don’t fret so much as to affect my happiness and mental state by what people do or not do. I realize that in a relationship that matters to me, it should matter as much without me trying to change the person and moulding him/her as per my expectations. I have decided to learn something from the uniqueness of people as they are rather than invite misery from my selfish expectations of how they should have been or what they should have done.
On matters of Friends and Friendships…
I wish I had been open to making more friends in adulthood.
I always felt that the friends we make in childhood and in the teenage years are for real; for life. I never tried making real friendships once I got into adulthood – past the teenage years. Being a friendly person, I made friends and acquaintances at work and other spheres but the relations never evolved into anything more than casual friendships (except for one that culminated into marriage!). But, I have been proven wrong. Vehemently wrong! I stepped into my 30s – an avatar and a stage of life when the child and the family tends to become the centre of our world – at least for a few years. Who has the time to think about making new friendships? Let alone, lasting friendships? But wait, I had to meet this lady – same age and at same stage of life as mine. We shared vibes and we shared wavelengths and we connected like there’s no tomorrow. Chhavi Taneja, my dearest friend for life, dedicating this thought to you! I am so glad I approached your friendship with an open mind and an embracing heart.
There’s no denying the fact that childhood friendships are priceless for they were moulded from pure love and purest intentions. There was no analysis, no calculations, no contriving, no hidden agendas. Having said that, a friendship or two in adulthood too can be truly, deeply meaningful in its own right. For, a friendship that takes shape at this stage of life – when our aspirations, desires, thoughts, goals, values and ideals become closer and clearer to us; and when most likely we would have defined the essence of our lives – will be a friendship that will be immensely stimulating and satisfying – at an emotional and intellectual level. This will be a friendship that we can go hand in hand with – into the winter of our lives.
Another revelation about friendship, that dawned on me about an year back…
…was about not setting limitations when it comes to friendships. Be it limitation of age, geography, gender, distance or even lack of in-person meetings. I had never ever ‘consciously’ considered that my friends would have to be closer my age. But, I guess, due to some deep rooted societal norms, I carried this in my subconscious. Until an year back, that is.
Last year, when a customer of mine (via my online store) – who I had never met and never known other than by means of that one business transaction; sent couple of friendly emails, my first reaction was one of skepticism; then surprise tinged with affection and then one of returning the gesture. Vitoria Antar is a Brazilian living in America; 60+, very lively, elegant, ‘giving’ and caring lady. Our ‘online’ friendship developed despite we being one generation apart; despite we being continents away; and despite the fact that we have NEVER met – not even on video chat! Today, I can vouch that she’s my true friend and family. Infact, we share with each other what we probably do not share with best of real-life friends (and even family)! Can you beat that! And wait, this is not the end of my revelation. 2009 was a remarkable year when it came to learning lessons on friendship. I meet this another lady via Flickr, who’s a Brit living in Germany. Caroline Harrington and I clicked instantly. It was our common passion – photography – that introduced us to each other. But, photography was just a clue that we picked up. I think, we were destined to know each other. Caroline is the most vibrant, positive, genuine and loving person I have ever come across. Ever. Seriously! We have never met; never even spoken on phone! And yet, we have a STRONG soul-sister-like connection.
These three friendships – all three in the span of two years or less, have made me realize that the universal energy will guide us to find the scattered parts of our soul – in the form of soul-sisters, soul-mothers or soul-mates. Let’s not close our hearts and minds to all the beautiful synchronicity that life has to offer.
On matters of Making Choices…
I deeply wish that during my pregnancy I should have cared more for myself.
I should have enjoyed more; and I should have spent an easy, peaceful time. I have always been a workaholic to the core (I think mostly people are becoming that way, these days) and due to that trait (or rather, an obsessive compulsive disorder?!), I worked like a maniac, in spite of the sickening nausea, in spite of the persistent pain in my lower abs and in spite of scoldings from mom and bro and disapproving glares from hubby. Today, when I look back, I am aghast at my former self. Because, NOW, I realize I could have spent a more holistic time during those nine months – doing yoga, relaxing with aroma therapy, playing music, doing painting. How much more cherishable those 9 months could have been! But, I am much better off today. Ironic as it may sound, it took a pregnancy and the experience of motherhood to change my perspective on life drastically. Today, being a mother, a wife, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, a blogger – life is still plenty of hard work and far from being calm and quiet. But, I have peace. (I think peace and quiet are not exactly interchangeable.) And, I have satisfaction. The satisfaction of nurturing my own enterprise – on my own terms, accompanied by a deep sense of responsibility and ownership. And, the satisfaction of raising my little girl. This experience of bringing up a delicate young soul in the most creative way possible, is nothing else but spiritual. I am so glad I learnt sooner than later that a 9-6/7/8/9 job (yeah, the upper limit goes on stretching!) will suck the life out of me!
On matters of Defining Priorities….
And, how can I ever wind up my life lessons without sharing the biggest of them all.
Yes, my dear readers – THE lesson of my life is what I share next!
I wish, I had known back then, the supreme significance and essence of – every single, so called, mundane day, replete with the daily chores that we often term as drudgery and interspersed with those moments and acts of togetherness that we relegate way down in our list of ‘To-Dos’. I don’t know if this is true with you but at least I had never paused to think of my each day as a blessing. I lived in a state of blissful ignorance by taking the most precious things in my life utterly for granted. And, by those precious things, I mean such things as the family dinner times, the everyday morning walks, the catching up on phone with each other, the looking forward to a Friday evening with great anticipation and eagerness, the lazing around on a couch with a cuppa and a newspaper, the whole family huddled together watching the favorite Television program, and..the satisfied, peaceful feeling of knowing that my family is doing good, hale and hearty; that I have them to lean back on, to love and be loved and to share good (and bad times) with….
I had never thanked the Almighty for each day that he blessed me with. Until, I found that the most precious person in my life was on the verge of life and…death. I learnt this lesson the harsh way when, last year, my mom was detected with the most fatal and complicated ailment of the heart. Our lives went topsy turvy in a matter of one week. The previous evening she’s booking a ticket for a weekend holiday and the next day, by mere chance (yes, it was detected in the most bizzare fashion; by a sheer matter of luck), we come to know of her heart problem which was so catastrophic that she needed a surgery as soon as possible. And, what a surgery it was! It took 8 hours and removal of her aorta, valves and root. Those EIGHT hours were the most trying times of my life and my family’s.
As we sat outside the ICU waiting for the news to be announced, what went on inside our minds can hardly be summed up in words. It was spine-chilling, hair raising, creepy…eerie! But, in those ghastly, unearthly moments I had found my definition of life! Never before had I seen it so crystal clear. This was the time when I spontaneously embraced the power of meditation and chanting. There was nothing else I could have done. But, I did not want to sit there a mere bundle of nerves. I wanted to transfer my most positive vibes and energy to mom and to the God-sent angel of a surgeon (Dr. Anil Bhan) who was fighting against odds to give her life. And, the vibes were well received!
But, that was only the beginning of mom’s long and traumatic recovery (she’s still going through it). Seeing your mother (or any of your loved ones) in unthinkable pain is akin to your heart being torn apart. Spending hours and days in the hospital milieu; witnessing hordes and hordes of families and friends of the suffering people hanging out there in every nook and corner – day in and day out; and, observing pain and misery left, right center made me clearly see what are the most treasured things in their lives and, in my life.
If I could have asked this very question to those people, who did nothing everyday except visit the hospital in the morning, juggle night duties as attendees of their unwell members, go back home to come back the very next morning with only one prayer on their lips, their answer would have been this and only this – that they want nothing else but take their family member back home – hale and hearty, so they would have a peaceful dinner together; spend lazy weekends together; go for a stroll and just cheer at the prospect of a Friday evening. The very things that were hugely underrated by – none other than me!
I am happy that I beg to differ with my former self and so blessed that I learnt this lesson well in time! For, what I have in hand is “today” and in my ‘today’ I have all those I love, the dreams that I must pursue and the acts of kindness that I must do. So, why wait for a Valentines’ Day to utter “I love You (still!)” to my hubby; why not take one concrete step forward towards my dreams today itself; irrespective of a Thanksgiving Day, why not express my gratitude to all those who care for me; why not pen a few lines of email every once in a while to those lovely friends conveying I miss them. Given the whimsical and unforeseeable nature of life, why delay in making those precious people in my life feel special by conveying how much they mean. Aren’t these words true – “today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present”.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.”
– Dale Carnegie
So, that’s it, dear readers. Wow! This has to be my day of reckoning! You may ask, do I feel exposed?! Well, no! On the contrary, I feel I have connected with myself and with so many of you, like never before. I feel healed! I have tried baring and sharing the truths as much as I could have. I think I must save a few more for when I can muster up more audacity! (winks)
There could not have been a better time to share the lessons from my life, when you and I are still fresh with our New year resolutions hoping to give wings to our dreams and shapes to our ideas. When going after our goals, if we do not forget the lessons we have learnt, the journey will become unambiguous and convincing and full of self-confidence.
I would like to know if YOU too, dear readers, have learnt a same or similar lesson (and other unique lessons) that you would like to share here? Did you, at any time reading this, feel a resonance or a synchronicity with my lesson learnt?
O! how I would love to hear YOU and know YOU!