In the Business of Life, Don't leave Gratitude Behind
My most precious Gratitude,
Your accent, dialect, jargon, and lingua franca are difficult to decrypt, decipher, and understand. I have struggled all my life and realize that you can only be felt. I read somewhere today that you are dying a silent death. It gives me immense satisfaction to know that you choose to live in me. Is there something special about my heart, or is it my stubbornness that I don’t let you go?
Either way, I am happy. You see, you have kept me right where I belong- ON THE GROUND, IN DUST. I started a life with my parents where we were always ‘IN- NEED.’ A humble life brings in its own grand challenges and turmoil. I hated the thriftiness then, despised the frugality which enveloped my life, and once even thought of stealing a Barbie from a friend’s house because I didn’t have one. You saved me then. But I didn’t thank you. You see then, my eyes could only see that much.
Later, life blessed me with abundance beyond my appetite, my needs, and my survival. You made another grand entry in my life and helped me feel satiated and content in more or less; the notion of each is relative. If that wasn’t enough, age and experience( which I fondly refer to as LIFE) alerted me from the uncritical gullibility of finding happiness outwards in 'things' and presented me with eye glasses through which everything is far too clear even if it is not visible. I am thankful.
The way I see it, you are not an easy partner to live with. A world teeming with temptations and a wallet overflowing with cards, a world infested with ‘more, better, brighter, sleeker, smarter, classier,’ it is difficult to make peace with ‘less,’ ‘limited,’ and ‘without.’ In a world diseased with ‘get, want, acquire, accomplish’ it is easy to forget the well- being that comes with the art of ‘GIVING.’ I had once read somewhere that ‘the character of a person is known by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.’ I made it a motto of my life, a conscious choice to keep you alive.
So, when the rickshaw puller, with a tattered baniyan and pajamas, pulling me and my mom in the sweltering heat, woefully looks at the uphill road, I GET DOWN. You whisper something in my ears, and I GET DOWN, MY SON GETS DOWN AND MAKES MY MOM GET DOWN TOO.
When we reach home, I sneak in my Dad’s cupboard, take out his not-so-favorite shirts and hand it over to him, secretly. You see, my mom has lived a budgeted life; for her, it’s challenging to let go. I do not blame her.
When the maidservant comes shivering in Delhi’s bitter cold, barefoot, heels cracked and sore, I do not overlook. She is as cold as me when she looks at the sink full of dirty dishes. I see the pain in her eyes and start washing the dishes along with her. Do I share her pain? I don’t know. I try to live it with her. When she leaves, a moisturizing cream, a shawl, a sweater, a pair of socks doesn’t make my wardrobe empty. I have learned to give because YOU WHISPER IN MY EAR. Thank you.
It requires a conscious choice to overlook the luxury of driving a car and be part of the metro or carpool. You choose to not add to the woes of the city. It’s a choice I make to pray for the girl who got raped, the parents of the child who got murdered, or the pregnant wife whose husband died in a road accident and not for once think about ‘my life’ in that prayer. I cannot do anything to change their fate, but if I see a child in need, a family in distress, or the wife seeking a job, means of livelihood, I reach out, I take the step. You whisper in my ears.
The boy who sells rose flowers in bedraggled clothes, the girl with hungry eyes who knocks at my car window to buy that one Christmas cap makes me resolve that Christmas is about giving and not buying more for the self. If my child gets a toy, so would another one standing in rags on the pavement.
To donate toys that are broken, clothes that are worn out is not a GIVING. Nobody coerces you to buy new clothes and donate but donating gently used clothes shouldn’t feel like a LOSS either.
The gardener who mows the grass in our apartment community, the postman who delivers my mail, the old man sitting on the pew of the church staring blankly, the old woman trying to cross the street in her wheelchair or the maidservant daughter who accompanies her mother to my house, I do not let you die. A helping hand here, a smile and greet there, a glass of water to him, an hour of teaching to her, a cloth bag for grocery and picking my litter ... my life goes on.
Is it some way to salve my guilt? No.
I am not guilty. I am GRATEFUL and this emanates from there.
Is it BIG? Can it bring BIG change?
While I cannot get a planet named after me, I cannot be the next Mother Teresa, I cannot be the Dalai Lama, I know what I can be……………………I can be ME. It’s a conscious choice to ensure that whoever and I mean WHOEVER crosses my path, their life is better because of my smile, my prayer, my words, my hope, my behavior, my actions, my efforts, my money….my GIVING. It may not change the world, but it could mean the world to someone who isn’t as blessed as I am.
I have understood in life that it is easier to manage the inflation rate and GDP growth but awaken the moral consciousness of a society is an uphill battle. I am sure I cannot change the country and its people and their mindset and magically fix what is broken. I can only change myself, my thoughts, the family that I am a part of and ensure that we are not the evil fly in the Pandora’s Box. We will not employ a servant and promote child labor; we will not employ a 15-year-old girl child to replace her mother or put a price tag on our son when he reaches a marriageable age.
But your legacy needs to continue...my son has been a kind soul…till now. :) He is 5 year old, and I hope his heart remains that of a five-year-old all throughout. You see, his heart somehow understands what you whisper in my ears and I convey to him. We choose to have our birthday parties a close-knit affair, family, relatives, close friends, and people who care about you and people we care for. I do have the money to Chuck-e-Cheese his birthday, but you whisper, and I stop gladly. The Chuck-e-Cheese is spent on poor, underprivileged children in an obscure village of Uttar Pradesh. For one day, they know what a birthday treat is. Gratitude is a language that is not taught. It is a prayer that is lived every passing moment. There is much that goes behind the fervid chants and mantras. He has to decode it himself. I can only set the stage for him. He is the director of his life story. In the world of 'Instant,' he has to learn the language of 'Patience,' in the world of Artificial Intelligence, he has to unfold Human Compassion, in the world infested with 'Not Have,' he has to find his 'HAVE. '
Thank you for choosing my heart to dwell in. I am at peace because you reside there.