Not Minding My Own Business

 

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The train entered Ghatkopar station. It was the first class ladies compartment of the 9.30 Thane local. I had my nose buried in Robin Sharma’s latest book. I felt, rather than saw, a girl take the seat opposite me.

Suddenly I heard a joyful, “Oh it’s you!” and felt someone tap my hand to get my attention.

Startled, I looked up to see the girl smiling broadly at me.

“Yes?” I asked puzzled. Did I know her? She certainly acted as if she knew me.

Seeing my bafflement she said, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“No, I’m sorry.” I answered, all the while scanning my memory for a trigger.

“But I will never forget you,” she said to my astonishment. “You changed my life.”

“I?” I asked in surprise, “and how did I do that?”

“It was about 2 years ago. I was the only one seated in the compartment and you entered,” she said, “I was sitting there alone and crying and instead of minding your own business, you spoke to me.”

“Oh yes. I remember now,” I said as I recalled that day.

When I entered the compartment that day two years ago, there was only one other occupant, a young girl who was sitting at the window, looking utterly miserable with tears flowing down her cheeks.

I glanced curiously at her and wondered, “Should I ask her what is wrong? Or should I just leave her alone?”

The voice of caution urged me to leave her alone, but she looked so miserable, that I decided to talk to her, and in any case, when had I ever listened to the voice of caution?

“What’s the matter?” I asked gently.

“Nothing,” she replied, wiping her tears and trying to smile.

“Then why are you crying? Sometimes talking to a stranger helps.” I smiled at her.

“No ma’am. It’s nothing. Just some problems with my colleagues at work.”

“And what did they do?” I asked.

“They just keep putting me down and making fun of everything I do. I just hate this job! I dread going in to work each morning.”

“Is this your first job?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

From the way she spoke, I gathered she couldn’t be more than 21 or 22, just fresh out of college. “Poor child!” I thought, “She’s got such a long way to go.”

“I can see how horrible you must be feeling,” I told her, “but tell me can you change their behaviour?”

“No ma’am,” she said, “how can I?”

“Then can you change how you feel about what they do?”

Startled, she looked up, “What ma’am?”

“Change how you react to them. Ask yourself why they are treating you so badly. I have generally found that people indulge in this kind of behaviour only when they are threatened by someone. Tell me, are you good at your job?”

“I think so ma’am,” she replied hesitantly.

“What does your boss say?”

“He always praises me.”

“See, that’s it. That’s why they are making fun of you.”

“But what can I do ma’am?”

“Well, the choice is yours. Either you lower your standard at work and wait for your colleagues to accept you or you can excel at whatever you do and climb so high that their hurtful actions and words can’t reach you. As Buddha once said, ‘If you don’t take what someone gives you, it remains with them.’ So if you don’t accept their hurtful comments and actions that pull you down, it remains with them and it can’t hurt you. And if you are doing your best and if you are doing the right thing, you are never alone. God is always on your side.”

“Now wipe those tears and give me a smile.” I ordered.

At that she smiled more confidently and said, “Thank you, I feel so much better now.”

“Good”, I said as I prepared to alight at my station, “Now go and make it a great day”

*                              *                              *                            *                          *

And now two years later, she was sitting in front of me again. But what a difference! She was so confident, so full of life!

I realised that she was still speaking to me, “That day you really made me realise that I didn’t have to allow other people to control how I feel. It is all up to me. I started concentrating on what I could do rather than on what people said I couldn’t do.”

“Now I am working at a much bigger and better firm, in a higher position and I’m earning much more too,” she smiled. “And I have to thank you for it. I am so glad you spoke to me that day.”

Then she got up and gave me an impulsive hug and walked to the door to get off at the next station.

As I waved at her through the window, I too was glad that I hadn’t minded my own business that day.

P.S. Corinne Rodrigues’ post, ‘The power of Kindness‘ on her site, Everyday Gyaan, reminded me of this incident that happened a couple of years ago when I was still part of the corporate world.

And You Fly!

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When we talk of letting our kids fly, I never realised it would be so literal. Here we are at the airport, each fighting a million emotions.

You seem so calm as you look at the doors to the terminus and say, “So guys, I guess this is it!” And then you let out your breath in a whoosh which belies both your excitement and nervousness.

You give me a toothy grin as we hug. You cling on just that little bit longer, rest your head on my shoulder and whisper, “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll be all right.”

How many times over the years, have I heard these words. How many times over the years have I had to still the fears of my heart and say, “I know” and then let you go on to do whatever next you had to in the process of growing up.

But today is different. You are no longer going to be with us, where we can keep an eye on you as you try your wings, to catch you if you fall. No, today you are flying, all on your own. Away from the nest, to create a life of your own.

You hug dad. He holds you close, reluctant to let his baby girl go so far away. Your eyes mist over as you say, “Come on papa! It’s not like I’m going out of India. I’m just going to Hyderabad.” He kisses your forehead and jokes about how he can now expect some authentic Hyderabadi biryani.

Natasha, your twin, has no qualms about letting her tears flow. It is the first time the two of you have ever been separated. I wonder how you will cope with that.

It’s time for you to enter those monstrous doors. My worries spill over. This is the first time you are flying. How will you manage? Where will you stay in Hyderabad? What about your food? Should I have gone with you to help you settle?

You enter the terminus and turn around and give us a cheeky wink. We laugh through our tears. I feel Dad’s hand on my shoulder and I lean back into him. We stand there as one, giving each other strength as our baby walks away towards her new life, her new job at Google.

Note: This was six years ago when Nakita left the nest. I must say I am so proud of the way she has managed and continues to manage her life. You would think that knowing this would prepare me for the time when Natasha prepares to fly. But though my head tells me that she will be okay, my heart wants to cling and pretend that she needs me, when the truth is that it is I who need my kids and want to hold on to them. So once again, I will smile through my tears and say, “Go on, my baby, fly!”

Note: This is part 3/4 of the Letting you Fly Series.

To read more

Part 1: Letting You Fly

Part 2: Your first day at school

Part 4: To be Announced

 

Your first day at school

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I remember that first cry of yours – an angry squeal, as if to ask, “Why are you taking me away from my mother?” How tiny you were then! You seemed so fragile! You were so beautiful! I remember how proud your father and I were of you, our own little twin daughters! You were a miracle of life! We could hardly believe that two such perfect babies belonged to us!

Slowly you grew. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. From helpless babes you grew to an awareness of things and people around you. I remember the endless nights when the two of you took turns to sleep and I would wonder if you would ever sleep at the same time.

I enjoyed holding your soft warm bodies, cuddling you close to my heart. How I loved those first delighted smiles and coos, crawls and stumbles!

Slowly you grew, learnt to crawl and walk and with each new month, you learnt new skills; and with each new thing you learnt, you grew a little independent of me. You no longer needed me to hold your hand as you ran around the house. You no longer needed me to play beside you. You could now eat by yourselves and make yourselves understood, yet I did not feel sad, because I was still the centre of your world. When ever anything frightened you or seemed threatening, you immediately rushed to seek shelter in my arms. You still willingly believed everything I told you. “Mummy can never be wrong,” was your firm belief.

You made me feel so needed! You showed me the meaning of life! You showed me all the silver linings behind the clouds and all the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Today you are going to school for the first time! How sweetly serious you look in your smart uniforms, with your school bags and shoes! As I look at you, my heart contracts with mixed feelings – of pride and sadness. Pride because you are going to learn to take part in social life and sadness because from now on I will no longer be the centre of your world. That little world of ours must, of necessity, be destroyed in order that you learn to live in the bigger, wider world beyond. Now no longer will my word be law. Now I will hear statements like, “But Mummy, teacher says….” Some unknown person is going to take over the task of molding your little minds.

And you so sweetly say, “Don’t worry, Mummy. We won’t cry for you. We will go to school by ourselves.” Oh, how those words hurt! I feel like sitting down and crying my heart out. But no, I must smile and be cheerful as I explain to you what a great adventure going to school is.

Your grandmother looks on and smiles a little nostalgically. She pats my shoulder and says, “The greatest pain of a mother is to see her children grow. As the year keep coming, the distance keeps growing and the pain keeps increasing. But so does the pride and satisfaction. I guess where there is love there is always pain and if there is no pain in letting go there is no love.”

This was written 24 years ago, when my twins went to school for the first time. But I guess the feelings would still hold true for mothers today.

Note: This is part 2/4 of the Letting you Fly Series.

To read more

Part 1: Letting You Fly

Part 3: And You Fly!

Part 4: To be Announced

Letting You Fly

 

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We reached the garden. You saw the gigantic metal giraffe painted in red and yellow and green. Colours designed to attract every little soul who entered the garden. Without warning you left my hand and ran to the giraffe. Before I realised it your feet were on the first rungs of the bars that made it up. And you started climbing. I don’t really know how tall that thing was. But to my fear numbed brain it seemed at least 10 feet high. And there you were a tiny little thing, just past your second birthday, trying to climb up as fast as you could.

I opened my mouth to shout and call you back down, when I caught your father’s eye and he just shook his head to stop me. I understood what he meant. We had made a pact that we would never stop you from exploring, from learning by doing. We had promised ourselves that we would give you the freedom to grow, to fly, to touch the sky. And now that it seemed that you were actually trying to reach for the sky, I could only stand there paralysed with fear, watching you as you climbed higher and higher. And as you reached higher all that I could think of was that it was a longer way to fall. I had visions of broken bones and worse.

Dad in the meantime positioned himself beneath the monster, encouraging you and telling you where to place your feet. His presence there gave you the confidence to go right to the very top, secure in the knowledge that Daddy was there to catch you if you fell.  You finally reached the top and squealed with delighted laughter. I could not help but laugh with you, as tears streamed down my face.

You climbed back down with Dad guiding you and the minute you reached the ground, I swooped you up into a hug that hid all my anxiety. And then so sweetly and innocently you asked me, “Mamma, why are you crying?” I answered you with what I now realise was the truth, “Because I am so proud of you.”

Note: This is part 1/4 of the Letting you Fly Series.

To read more

Part 2: Your first day at school

Part 3: And You Fly!

Part 4: To be Announced