Buying fresh produce early in the morning could be the best way to start the day when you have some time on your hands. Continue reading Falling in love with food in Australia
Giving is good. If I could just live my life with two words, they would be “love” and “giving”. When all else fails, its love and what you have given to the world that keeps you going. When all else is going good, love and giving make you happier and sleep peacefully at night. At peace with yourself and the world around you. Don’t believe me? Think I am exaggerating goodness, keep reading and you might change your mind.
There is nothing more powerful than personal experience so here goes. I lost a few library books at a University where I served for 8 years with my heart and soul. I asked around for the books and everybody seemed clueless. Sadly I didn’t even get to read anything from some of the books that I borrowed because I didn’t find the material to be worth reading. As I have now left the University, I am going through a clearance process and the lost books acted as a liability – a hindrance standing in the way of me walking away with a big fat cheque.
I have accumulated too many books (if there is one such thing in an era that is largely digital) over the years for two reasons: the sight of books makes me content (having a library of sorts at home has been a dream from my teens); secondly buying books became a much needed sanity trip in a country where bombs blew off so often that many started avoiding local news. The former was done to save one from depression and the dreadful feeling of helplessness. As I looked at the heaps of books on the floor of my study now, I felt I had spent way too much money on books that I didn’t get time to read and nobody else benefitted from them either. What a waste, I thought. We all know how valuable a free text book is for a student. I had so many text books because of being in the academia that I felt a responsibility to share and donate.
So I resolved to attempt an Operation Cleanup and decided on giving away books. I kept a large pile of books as reference for my book that I am working on these days and I decided to give away and share a large part of the remaining collection with the world. What better place to give than the library of the very institution where I served for a significant portion of my life. I went from being committed to engaged to married to a mom of two – all while serving at the same institution. So I filled up 2 cartons with books and headed off to the University. While I was willing myself to feel good about the donation that I was going to make to the library of a 140+ year old University, I also felt pangs of pain in my stomach at the thought of spending another few hundred dollars on books, that too, the ones I had lost by trusting people to return them. It was my fault but how did I manage to goof up – again?!
The Library folks accepted the donation graciously but did not have the power to call for a compensation for the loss of books. I wrote to someone who had more power and voila! I received inarguably one of the sweetest emails I have in my inbox; recognising my contribution and good work, thanking me for my donation, and considering my donation to be a compensation for the lost books. Could I ask for more? I was not expecting my donation to do more good than what it was – a donation. Could I have imagined that my donation and commitment would pay off in such amazing ways if I had lived my life with a self-centered, everything-for-me ethos?
When you give your heart to your work and to those who deserve it, love finds a way of coming back to you in ways that can overwhelm you with joy. When you give, the world conspires to give more back to you. Unfortunately many think that selfishness, sometimes even at the cost of harming the welfare and happiness of others, is the way that leads to professional and personal success. I think people who live with the belief that they are entitled to more in every facet of their life and refuse to be thankful for what they get are entirely at a loss. It is important that your purpose in life is anchored in the right place. Your definition of ‘right’ makes all the difference here. But do give a little, give anything that you can. Someone living somewhere can benefit through an act of giving – from old clothes and other things you might not need to teaching someone a skill that you master and can help a person make some money. I am reminded of the famous quote by a Spanish philosopher from ages ago: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Heard this phrase too often “one day I will…” What stops us from living that one day (which seems so far away) today? One day I will live in a gorgeous little studio apartment overlooking a beach. One day I will find time to read that book which has been catching dust in my study. One day when I will have enough in my savings, I’ll take my family on a dream vacation. One day when I am old enough I will make my own decisions even if everyone hates me. One day I will write the article that I have written in my head a hundred times. One day I will be an entrepreneur and be my own boss. As dreamy as this notion of doing everything important or meaningful on this “one day” sounds, it makes a boring life. Why not make that one day today? Why are you not living the life you want to live? Why are you not the person you want to be? Why can you not find the right words to say to the person that means that world to you today?
Life is worth living when you are closer to that one day or when you are actually living and loving that day. Make the distance to that one day shorter. One doesn’t have to be rich, stable, and old to be living in that perfect place that you would like to call home. Many things worth doing are more fun when we are young – romance, love, money, vacations, a place you call home, kids, spirituality, giving, work, fitness – so why wait for that one day when you should be living life to the fullest today. So read that book, smile some more, do a little something that brings you realistically closer to that one perfect day dream. Its easy to throw the burden around and make the challenge appear bigger than it really is … “If I didn’t have my parents to take care of”, “If I had some more money,” “If I wasn’t so scared”, “If my spouse supported me more”, “If my boss wasn’t a maniac”, “If my kids didn’t drive me up the wall”, “If I was born in America”, “If I had more guts”, the list goes on.
Most of the time the only person standing between you and your one day dream is your own self, your inner demons and boogiemen. There is something so innately empowering about living your dream life without complains, unnecessary drama, and a perfect plan for the future that makes your life so miserable today. Some of us are diehard masochists who enjoy a bit of misery. Gosh I don’t deserve to be living the dream. How dare I? What will people think? After all I am so inspired by all those heroes in history who shined like diamonds after hard times. I deserve to live through those miserable years too. Well maybe you can live a happier life today. Maybe tragedy just sounds glamorous and something worth writing a book about but it makes getting out of the bed every morning difficult for you. Living a happy life today requires giving up a few wrong romantic notions that we might have. Maybe you will never be that rich, or that thin, or that famous, or maybe you will be. Living a happy and meaningful life will help you in achieving your goals faster and more effectively and the journey to shangrilla just might be less painful too.
Interpret death however you want but at a certain level the event of death unites us. We bury our differences, hatred, distances to reach out and be there for the one who has died by being there in person, supporting the family who just lost someone dear, or a message that might cheer someone up however little but sometimes that matters so much. Death comes as a strong reminder that as humans we might have many different aspirations and unique journeys but in the end we have a common destination. Death reminds us the importance of people who are living and they love or support us no matter how we mess things up, or dislike us so that we can make much needed amends, and most importantly (for the believers) it reminds us of God. It makes you question your strategies and plans. How rich are our relationships with the creator and those we consider friends and family, how much have we done for humanity, how much money did we make and what did we do with it. If one has children, how would they remember us when we are gone. One might be tempted to write a will that might change a thousand times, over the years, but what if one never sees those many years that one anticipated to live. Its said that “the good ones die early”. I think it’s not merely that they are good so they die early. The reality is that because they were so good to you and appeared so amazing in the stories narrated about them that we miss them endlessly. Isn’t it amazing how we tend to look back and hunt for any negative events that happened or words that were exchanged that we cannot remember them in their harsh reality. Everything is clouded with mostly positive emotions painting our memory of the departed.
So many questions arise endlessly in our heads that wouldn’t be muted no matter how hard we try. What if we could spend more time with them? What if I could hug them again? What if I could wake them up from their eternally peaceful sleep and say a few words of kindness of love that would make them happy? What if I could have stopped it? What if I could have stopped time, all important meetings and generic things to do, and spent a moment just looking at them smile as they talked to me about something completely ordinary? Alas we cannot turn back time. So what do we do? We learn to love harder, work harder, make sure that people who matter know our sentiments exactly. While doing so we prepare ourselves for the final destination where we will stand alone and at that time we are not scared of what awaits us. Because time flies by and before we know it we are already in that unknown dimension.
A senior colleague observed that young couples in Pakistan who marry out of love seem to fall out of this love too quickly these days. Compared to this 20 or so years ago, even arranged marriages and yes love marriages were very successful. I have a similar observation. I just wonder what are the possible reasons for this. Possible reasons can be issues pertaining to the dismal state of economy, money, work life balance, inlaws… then I wonder if its just a Pakistani phenomenon. Since it is an issue very close to heart, please share your views and comments. I have been wanting to write an article on this for a while now.