That poor old man in torn clothes fighting others in queue to step inside the precincts of 'Nirmal Hriday' (a charitable institution) has left an indelible mark on my psyche. His wrinkled face with hunger writ large on it and his deep sunken eyes groping unsuccessfully to get inside to have clothes and food being distributed has become difficult for me to shove off.
This pathetic figure's struggle for his basic survival compelled me to leave the plush cushioned seat of my car. And as I approached him, he came towards me with folded hands anticipating some solace. Words were simply needless. His eyes swelling with tears portraying his misery were enough to ruffle anyone's conscience. And to pacify these pangs of mine I too did my bit of charity.
However on my way back I was forced to think how in our daily lives we take so many things for granted and never realize their importance. At that moment the food, the house, the cars and other material possessions seemed no less than a luxury to me. But in the mad rush for more and more, we tend to forget how privileged we are to have them. Our grudges with the present and our soaring ambitions never let us be satisfied with whatever we have. This never ending urge for more never lets us to be thankful for what we already have.
This trail of thought made me recall the lines from one hymn sung during school days
'Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings and see what Lord has done.....'
And yes eating good food, having loving parents and caring family, a warm home etc. are no less than a blessing.
The sight of that old man had become a spark to ignite this introspection of my internal being and be cathartic enough to let my soul be purged off even though momentarily for which I had become indebted to him.
This incident truthfully brought forth the realization that we need to be thankful for whatever we have; this realization that gets clouded often. The thought process had become too taxing by now but then weighty issues are that way only!
‘Ageing gracefully’ - Oh my God! How can this be possible? As I am ageing, I have started doubting the sentiments behind this adage. The mirror doesn’t allow my soul to adhere to this thought. The wrinkling face and hands, the greying hair and the sagging skin are a few malicious symptoms of ageing which when reflected by the mirror make me shudder at the image presented. Oh! That was a jolt to my mind which at no cost is ready to come to terms with this ghastly image. All because of this so-called ageing. And then, just imagine it being graceful. It seems as if my grit is being checked. And then the continuous conflict between the joyous youthful fabrications of my mind and the incongruous reality. People around me contribute generously towards this lofty cause. They have bestowed me with the noble title that of ‘aunty’. Neither do vendors and maids shy away from showing their respect. Children and the newly-weds come and touch my feet missing the effect of their sweet gesture upon me. It seems as if the whole world is conspiring against me and wants me to awaken out of my youthful peaceful slumber.
Lo and behold! Finally the effort of all pays and I gradually let the feeling of getting old sink in though it i" a compulsive acceptance .
However this half acceptance makes me probe ways or find a magic wand to counter this ageing process and I land up at a beauty salon to have facials, dyeing and colouring of hair, manicure, pedicure, Botox and surgery being the extension for many. I, too, don’t leave any stone unturned to retain my eroding youthfulness which is being eroded everyday by the ravaging time. I let my budget go topsy-turvy and change my priorities. After all what is the moolah for? What more discretionary use of the hard earned money of my husband can be? So what if beauty is skin deep? I have to possess a flawless face. The flaws of character can be borne but not of the sin. With great determination taking up all cudgels, I armour myself to combat this ageing. Poor ‘Grace’ has no role in my mission.Woman’s vanity would be at stake if I accept to age gracefully. Won’t the cosmetic industry suffer if all the Aunties start ageing gracefully? A grave issue indeed! Even in my 50’s I am unconvinced about growing old. Joints ache! That is because of lack of exercise. Eyesight has weakened! Oh! That’s simply lack of nutrition. I have explanations for all the maladies except for this ‘graceful ageing’.
However deep inside me I, too, am waiting for the day when I would totally surrender to this idea with full belief that there is no escape now and to be prepared for the hierarchical climb in my being termed as 'Mataji'. May God bless me with sadbhudi to accept that!
The first time when I gorged on noodles" the uneasiness to eat with a fork and the embarrassment faced when those long strings hung out of the mouth and it took a while to take them in is etched so clearly in the mind till now.Then the first time on a sea beach where the soul was soaked in the vastness and infinity of the universe looking at the unending expanse of the water.And then the first time when for fun&s sake a cigarette was tried and the way the eyes started watering with that incessant coughing. But then this didn’t lessen the e!exhilaration and the thrill of foraying into the forbidden realms.(ow could those puffs and the efforts to make rings be dangerous to health) The teen brain didn’t have the answer at that time. How can that feeling of having butterflies in the stomach be forgotten upon the first stage appearance for a play at school entire auditorium seemed to be engulfed in blackness. The fear to forget the lines and fumbling was there throughout the play.However as life progressed the FIRSTS too changed. The first where the dear ones in fact parents had to be hospitalized simply knocked out the senses. The emotional trauma faced was aggravated by the fact that till now we were looking up to our parents for all the answers to our problems in life and now all of a sudden we were in such a grim situation where we had to take crucial decisions on our own. Our secure, cool, protected world was shattered and we realized the bitterness of life. This at first was too agonizing and with it dawned the realization that life has its downs too. Maybe this was life’s way of teaching us to grow.
The FIRSTS of everyone vary yet delving deep in them makes us realize that if life is not a bed of roses it is not a crown of thorns either. It is just a blend of sweet joys, responsibilities, grief and happiness all amalgamated into one making it a worthwhile journey.
The heart starts singing as I flip through my autograph book which indeed is a treasure of fond memories of my school days. Past starts unfolding itself as I go through each name along with its beautiful autograph written on the farewell day in class XII. Words are too big laden with worldly wisdom and make me wonder how much sanity I still retain after undergoing varied experiences and coming across such different facets of human nature. Let those "quotations and maxims surpass me and my whole focus is in the name of my ac"acquaintances and friends and teachers whose names are imbibed there on the paper as well as my heart forever. I am just transported in the mesmerizing world of my teens which were spent secured in the four walls of school. How I longed to be there. We were so familiar with all the nooks and corners of our school. And then finally came the farewell day and the farewell party. It seemed as if were let lose into the wilderness of the world from the sanctity of this protected world. !our eyes were full of tears at the candle light ceremony and heart ached at the thought of leaving those sacred premises. The innocent childish heart takes its time to accept the bitter parting. The parting from the teachers & friends & school routine & the 'Christmas party & the party before summer vacations and what not. It was so difficult to accept all this. It seemed as if my own small world was crumbling. Let reality had to be accepted as life has to move on. Today after so many years the ache is still there though the autographs of friends and teachers bring cheer to the heart and make alive those sweet and beautiful memories of my golden innocent school days. I still wonder how much toll has experience taken on the innocence of those childish days or is it just the obsession with the past which becomes gold with the passing time.
To see one’s thoughts & sentiments and emotions in print puts one on cloud nine. one's ego is inflated and the pride knows no bounds. How does one justify the feeling of having achieved laurels in one’s own eyes, Is it the extension of narcissism or the hunger lurking deep inside us for appreciation by fellow human beings or mere pangs of feeling superior to others. However the urge to be recognized and be famous is certainly gratified by venting our thoughts this way. Conforming to one reason or perhaps all I too am joining this league of would be famous authors in the belief that churnings of my mind might appeal to others also apart from me.