I’m a very tit-for-tat person. Everything received must be paid back in twofolds. Heaven forbid if someone does anything nice for me, it will be an agonizing time for me and the people around me as I try to analyze and calculate exactly whyyy they had done that and how I could pay them back. I know I know…but its the way I am and I did promise to keep it real on this blog!
So imagine the state of my brain when a family acquaintance from London messaged me for my address in Istanbul so that she could post out some Indian spices for me. All because she had read on my facebook status(!) that I was missing my curries! Ridiculous. Who does that for someone they have probably met 3 times max in their whole lives? I emailed her my address and did what I do every time I’m in a dilemma. I called my mother. I asked her if I should ask this person to reimburse her for the spices and postage etc. to which my mother made some ho-hum sounds and we moved onto something else and that remained unsolved. In the meantime, I received a wonderful parcel of small packets of Indian spices. A whiff of the spices got my eyes all misty. When you are an Indian, the smell of spices is automatically and intricately woven to all your best memories. So I called this wonderful wonderful person to let her know I’ve received them and to thank her…just as we were ending the conversation, she goes, “By the way, If I wanted money for the spices, I would have let you know before I even asked for your address. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy them and if you are ever in this side of the world – just buy me a drink!” I swear I’ve never felt so low..so ashamed of myself. What the fuck was wrong with me? What’s so hard in accepting something and just being thankful for it? And thus began a difficult build-up to my birthday. (also a mental note: Mum’s getting old. Screen what you say to her. Otherwise she will call another member of the acquaintance’s family and ask them if I needed to pay their sister for the spices? So as we do, they called the acquaintance up and relied my question via my mother of which’s reply I got on the phone by them direct. Coconut wireless at work >Istanbul>Fiji>New Zealand>London>Istanbul!)
I celebrated my birthday last week. Well not celebrate celebrate it but I don’t like using any other verbs to describe birthdays. It is after all a once a year chance to celebrate you for just being here on this planet. It wasn’t a spectacular day or anything. I taught for 10 hours and most of the day just passed away withoutt much chance to ponder on the arrival of this ghastly age. This wasn’t the first time I was away from my family on my birthday. I’m normal like that. So I wasn’t depressed or missing them terribly or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to death but they always get it wrong with me on my birthdays. Its either they are 2 years ahead or 5 years behind with occasions and the gifts and everything else! Oh don’t worry about their feelings incase they might read this. I’m not one to hide my disappointments so if I get presents that are just…bad, I would usually say..”and what the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” Yes, I am also insensitive like that. I firmly believe you shouldn’t lie so that you don’t hurt the person. They’ll be doubly hurt when they find out you that lied in the 1st place! So while the birthday day was uneventful. The time leading up to it certainly wasn’t.
Gratitude (n.) when you are truly thankful for something. Perhaps because of the arrogant prick I had turned into, I cannot recall many occasions in past couple of years when I had been truly grateful for something. But I remember this one time, I was in Sydney for a couple of days for some work and had hired a rental to do all the running around. I was driving in the CBD and took the wrong exit and ended up driving on the Sydney Harbour Bridge towards Milson’s Point. Of course I had seen the bridge hundreds of time before, I had rode on the train that crosses it..hell I have actually even climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge for my 21st birthday and all that was.. just it. Nothing special. But that afternoon as I had taken the wrong turn and was driving across the bridge; it was late afternoon, the sun was doing amazing things on the water and the steel, a good song was playing on the radio and I sat there mesmerized and I clearly remember saying “Now would you look at the blessing in that.” To many Sydney-siders its probably nothing special to drive on the Harbour bridge but I come from a small country with small towns and crumbling bridges. To drive on the Sydney Harbour bridge is by all means an ordinary thing but for someone like me, that afternoon it was like a chance. How many people I know do that? I remember filled with utter gratitude that afternoon for all those things, the fact I could drive, the fact I could drive in Sydney CBD (a lot of people can’t. Sorry but true. They can’t), the fact that despite the stressful life I had I could see the sun setting on the water of Sydney, the fact that I was sitting in that moment and I was filled with this warm radiating feeling. That was gratitude.
It has taken me a long while to put a name to that feeling. Its probably going to take me longer to understand it but I’m trying. You know those sayings, quotes etc. “look at the glass half full..” “Appreciate what you got…” usually they sound so good but when shit’s hitting the fan…they’re the last things you want to hear! But they are TRUE and no amount of advice and daily prachars are going to make you more grateful for something till you are. It is only when you are truly grateful for what you have, you will discover that you no longer need to want anything else. Your bucket lists, wish lists, things you think you can be more happy with become irrelevant. And the very moment you are truly content and reveling in thankfulness, the Universe gives you back in ten-folds. And you don’t even need to ask.
A week before my birthday, I kept waking up with my heart in palpitations at night. It was probably the coming of age but it was like there was this ugly thing sitting at the end of my bed asking me – who in their right mind throws a career of 12 years they worked building up? People your age are married and they have children, you are alone. Where will you go after all this madness of what you’ve started settled down?? I am telling you this ugly thing is very strong so it wasn’t that I could just kick it off my bed and go back to sleep. So I had been having a lot of sleepless nights. One morning I was in my yoga class and that class usually ends up with mediation. As I settled down in mediation…I heard words of a Devi Prayer. The instructor usually plays some music but this morning it was Hindu hymn sung by a wonderful western devotee practicing Hinduism. I vaguely knew this mantra. And would you look at the blessing in that? I was doing yoga in middle of Istanbul, listening to a prayer in my own language in a room of full women who had their own share of battle scars. And at that very moment, I felt nothing but sheer gratitude to the Universe for being right there and nowhere else.
And would you look at the blessing in that? I was doing yoga in middle of Istanbul, listening to a prayer in my own language in a room of full women who had their own share of battle scars. And at that very moment, I felt nothing but sheer gratitude to the Universe for being right there and nowhere else.
So this year on my birthday, I wasn’t really sad or depressed about the number of years or the fact that I had no one to give me presents or that some people who I thought were friends didn’t wish me happy birthday. This year I was quietly thankful.
I was thankful that a small-town Indo-Fijian girl was living and working on the other side of the world from home in one of the world’s most famous cities.
I was thankful that I had a family who despite the number of times I had hurt with my direct don’t-think-before-open-my-mouth words still accepted me for who I was and loved me unconditionally.
I was thankful for a small group of people on my social media network (most whom I have never met) and who don’t really know how big a support they have been just by being themselves. (no shit)
I was thankful for my now new friend in London who is the kind of person who would reach out just to let you know that you are not alone in this side of the world. (And there I was worried all about the bloody price of spices!)
I was thankful for my new yoga classes and teachers. I was always a on and off yoga person. If someone would have told me that I would practicing yoga in Istanbul a year ago, I would have probably just given them a look. Are-you-like-a-retard look.
I was thankful for my new room-mate whose taught me the word – Hypochondriac!
I was thankful for all the hard times and challenges life threw at me because if it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be here.
And I am slowly discovering that all that you want will be taken care of when and how the Universe sees it fit. Till then you must carry on with gratitude in your heart and give your thanks at every opportunity you have. When I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (one of my favorite books of all time) – I loved this quote but I wasn’t really at a place to fully understand it then. I do now…
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” – Elizabeth Gilbert