05 October, 2010

The Spoon

(Image courtesy : charlestonsamplers.com via Google)

“Sometimes we struggle through a tasteless cup of coffee till the last sip, then we find sugar lying at the bottom… THAT’s LIFE…. Sweetened.. but not Stirred well.”

said this quote from my cousin, J.  She also said in her email that this quote had been shared by a friend.

This was indeed a very pithy quote, one so apt that I did forward the quote to many of my friends too.  Before doing so, I just had one thing to add to this quote.

“Life is indeed Sweetened …. but not Stirred well …… but we’ve got to admit one thing ….. The One Above does give us the spoon.”

J wrote back asking what exactly I’d had in mind when I put forth that perspective in saying that The One Above does give us the spoon.  

Life, as I’ve said before, is indeed a great teacher.  Unknown to us, it teaches us a lot of things in a rather sublime manner.  We may not realize it immediately but it seeps into our consciousness over a period of time, rather unobtrusively.  

When I said “The One Above does give us the spoon”, what I meant by “the spoon” was nothing else but our attitude to any given situation.  Life, in its own inimitable way, presents or lays before us, countless situations - some good, some not so good and some downright terrible.  Each and every one of us has been through, is going through and will encounter these crossroads through the span of our life.  That is a given.  So then, what is it that makes a difference to these situations ?  End of the day, what will be, will be.  The Que Sera Sera principle does hold good.  But what can make the journey towards a destination different is simple – Our Attitude.

I’ve never written about this before, nor have I spoken in depth about this to anyone.  Two years back, around July/August 2008, my father was diagnosed with ALS – a degenerative nerve disorder which has no cure and which progressively affects the motor neurons in the body.  We went over to India in December 2008 and that was when I truly understood the difference between physical and mental agony.  Physical pain has some means of release.  Mental agony, seemingly, has none.

Through my childhood and my growing years, I’d always seen my father active and on the move – with something or the other.  Either he would be taking care of work that was his own or he would be on the move, helping others with something.  I could not, for the life of me, remember even one instance wherein my father had been sitting around idle, doing nothing.  He simply was like that.  He could not sit idle.  Imagine a person like that losing control of his arm movements.  Imagine a person like that having his speech affected.  Imagine a person like that needing help, being dependent on someone else for something even as basic as feeding himself.  I could not even begin to imagine what it must have been doing to him.  Simply put, I could not bear to watch him going through that ordeal, as the nerves in his body degenerated bit by bit.  He said as much one day when there was no one else at home.  His speech was slurred but I still remember that look in his eyes when he asked me “What sort of a life is this ?  I’ve had enough. I don’t want to live like this anymore.”  That was when I realized that though he was physically in our midst, mentally – he had checked out a long time back.

As is the fallibility of human nature, one evening, after having finished my prayers, I could not check myself and I do remember asking God that question he must have heard countless number of times from countless number of people.

“Why ?” “What has my father done to deserve something like this ?”

I waited for that flash of inspiration, for that subliminal instinct to give me an answer of some sort, to guide my thought processes in some way.  I waited.  Nothing happened.  I mulled over this for a few days, waiting for some sign of an answer but there was nothing.

In the meanwhile, we came back to Hong Kong and upon reaching home, we called home in Bombay to let our mothers know that we had reached HK safe and sound.  That was when we were given to understand that my father’s condition had deteriorated overnight and that he was critical and had to be hospitalized.  We flew back to Bombay in a space of five days.

If I had found it difficult watching him cope with his failing body at home, it was excruciatingly painful to watch him in the hospital – hooked to a respirator and countless other tubes running in and out of his body.  Over a week, just as he seemed to be improving ever so slightly, one night, his body simply gave up and crashed.  

I remember Vic calling from the hospital at around 3.30 in the morning.  The next few days passed in a daze.  But through it all, through all that fog, there seemed to be a calm, there seemed to be a clarity.  We knew that we had lost a physical presence.  I knew that physically, I would never be able to see my father in that body again.  But a tiny voice in our heads and hearts gave us solace by asking us to look at the situation from my father’s point of view rather than from our point of view.  We knew that wherever he was right then, he was in a much happier place that he would have been, in that physical shell which had held him captive for over six months.  He was in a much happier place than he would have been, within a body that refused to listen to his mind.  

That was when the penny dropped.  Pain, they say, hurts but it also has the tendency to heal.  The mental and physical agony which had washed over my father as he suffered and that very mental agony which we went through, helplessly watching him suffer, had, in effect, guided our attitudes in the right direction.  It helped us look at things from my father’s perspective, from his point of view.  It helped us change our attitude towards his passing away.  It helped us shed some of our selfishness away.  And with that change in attitude, came a sense of peace.  With that sense of peace, began the process of healing.

It was after my father passed away that I realized how fortifying just a few words can be.  Friends who called up, friends who visited – words and hugs proved to be a huge strength.  In Bombay too, cousins and friends who visited, the neighbors who had been such an immense source of strength and support – all of them were a blessing.  There is such immense power in reaching out and there is such an immeasurable sense of solace in it, too.

Memories used to wash over me, even a couple of months after my father passed away.  Initially, these were simply too painful to deal with and I did what humans instinctively do with pain – I tried to block these memories away.  Much to my dismay, I found that there was no respite.  The pain was still there and so were the memories.  Nothing I did could make the memories go away and right then, the memories brought nothing along with them but pain.  

Over a period of time, the memories did not stop washing up into my conscious memory.  I realized that the memories were just going to keep surfacing.  They were not going to stop.  I realized that I would have to change the way I looked at the memories.  In the process, what did change, was my attitude towards the memories.  Instead of looking at them as something that brought with them, immense pain, I began to let those memories wash over me, as a reminder of the good times during my childhood.  So many finer details began to emerge, little things which my conscious mind did not even remember but apparently, my unconscious mind did.  It is memories which eventually helped take the edge and rawness off the pain.  Even today, it is these memories that I hold close to my heart.

Even until about a decade back, I used to fret about being an only child.  It used to bother me – the fact that I had no one to call “my own” after my parents.  There used to be a lot of melodrama over this inside my own head.  Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve realized that this is no longer the case.  I have friends all over the globe who really care, some of them who are very close.  Like I’ve said before, I have a lovely family who mean the world to me and I’m fortunate to be at the receiving end of the abundant love, warmth and affection that they shower upon me.  I bask in that warmth day in and day out.  Over the past couple of years, we cousins have reconnected too – after having lost touch for the past couple of decades or so.  It was not just the kids who had a whale of a time when Shiva Chitappa and Vidya Chitthi visited in June.  We all had such a lovely time together.  In the light of such love, warmth and affection around, I’ve realized that I no more miss a biological sibling.  I choose to be a part of that unseen circle that is automatically created amongst people all over the globe, where love, affection, warmth and a deep sense of caring are all that are needed as links.  I choose not to fret, worry, despair and agonize over the fact that I do not have a biological sibling. 

Yet again, I realize, it is nothing but a change in attitude. But that change in attitude has helped me beyond measure.  That sense of peace that pervades with a change in attitude, is inestimable, is priceless.

Like I always say, it is His job to put a glass half filled with water in front of us.  Whether we interpret that glass as half full or half empty, is totally up to us.

Like Winston Churchill once said

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

7 voice(s) said so:

Kowsalya Subramanian said...

beautiful post. made a lot of sense to me

DC said...

reading through this post gave a lump in my throat... lovely lovely write up.

Anonymous said...

Such a strong and dignified post, Gauri. *Hugs*
I know what you mean about the only child syndrome - I used to worry about that too. But relationships do not preclude us from loneliness. And even though we have no 'blood' siblings to talk of, the Universe ensures that we have kindred souls, soul mates even in the form of friends and family - we never lack, we just recieve our bounty differently.

Thank you for the strong yet serene post.


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mnamma said...

Hugs Gauri.... I am in tears reading through your post. I am so touched that this group of friends in the blogsphere means so much in your life in this time.

dipali said...

So true, so true. Attitude is all.
I saw my father decline slowly over several months. Much as I miss him, I'm sure he was quite sick and tired of his worn, helpless old body. It is only now that I'm able to think of my mother's last days, with grief, yes, but trying to deal with my thoughts, and not suppressing them.
Having siblings comes with no guarantees either- my brother predeceased our parents by four years. Now it's just my sister and myself. We have our ups and downs, as all siblings do.
With your capacity for warmth, Gauri, you need never feel alone.
Hugs, my dear.

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