Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Sunday, 4 May 2014

My Bucket List

"Am ticking one off my bucket list. What does yours have?" I was asked this innocent question recently by a dear friend.
A friend, going to visit a place he'd long planned to see, and that's when he asked this of me.

The question got me thinking and I thought the ideas churning in my head deserved to be written down, more to sort them out for myself.

As I've grown older almost every discussion about ageing - specially while marking birthdays -  has centred around melancholy. Amazingly enough, irrespective of whether the person is in his/her 20s or 30s or older, the feeling is the same: a sense of being over-the-hill (at 20 ! and I'm in my 40s!) and at once running out of time to do the things one wishes to, at one's own pace.

Not having enough time to read or pursue other hobbies is one common refrain. Of course, we all have limited time and more importantly, for most of us who are not Ambanis, also limited resources.

Those of us who are wage slaves, well know that we have given up our claim to large chunks of our waking hours, our precious time, entire portions of our lives. We've bargained it away in return for printed paper -nothing more than a promise to pay you- money as we call it. This, in turn we exchange for a whole lot of "things".

So how goes the bargain of time for money and money for things work out : a relentless pursuit that seemingly leads nowhere? Increasingly I see, being added to the things, are experiences, yet almost all linked to the notes.Time in exchange for money which is, in turn, exchanged for experiences.

 And how does one achieve the maximum from that which one has?
Alas, that is a question I have no answer to and leave to the author of the next self help book. I'm going to talk of something else entirely.

All of these discussions kept taking me back to a favorite word of my mother's : contentment. One day last June chatting with another friend, we zeroed in on this word. How lovely it sounds and what it means to us, how much it meant to my parents generation and how little to those in today's world.

My mother would often exhort us to be happy with what we have. In the days of license raj and shortages and rationing of food (I already warned you I'm old  :-/ ) it made sense to us. We siblings would share everything offered to us. Our parents would buy a roll of cloth and my dad's and brothers' shirts as well as my frock would be made out of it. We saw nothing amiss in that. My dad with his craze to have a car of his own, did buy one, on his meagre salary but we had to scrape for months on end so he could repay the loan he took out for it.

Fast forward to the nineties, opening up markets, globalization and here we were with multiple models of not just cars but a surfiet of goodies cramming up the fast sprouting malls.It was all we could do to keep up with the pace of rapid commercialization.

Yet, in the India of today, the new generation just stepping into their youth has known no other world, save that of get-ahead-in-life, denoted in the past by the basic "roti-kapda-makaan" now replaced by so much more. To today's youth owning a laptop or a car are really no more luxuries, but almost essentials. Every middle class Indian aspires to these.

And more power to them, I say. Why not? Aspirations are great, dreams are what propel us forward. As long as we fulfil our dreams without trampling on the rights of others and subverting our own integrity,there should be no quarrel with anyone.

But I keep going back to the video of the man who wore a sanitary napkin, Arunachalam Murugunantham. Hew speaks so eloquently of what it means to have enough and to be satisfied with it. If you have a home in a city and then one more in another city, you may have one in each continent, the question  remains how much time are you going to spend in each? Where do you stop hankering for the next "it" thing? The latest, the most "happening" item of luxury which proclaims that you have "arrived"- but where exactly are you headed?

So here comes in that favorite word of mine. Contentment. To be happy in what one has. It does not mean ceasing to want or move ahead in life. Let's just say, to me moving ahead means decluttering my life of unnecessary objects, unnecessary wants and surround myself with only the essentials. Spend more time with people I love, those who matter to me.

All those trips which are meant to give us new "experiences", yes, I want those, too. But the ones I know I cherish the most will not be a view of a sunset from an exotic hill top or the skyscrapers of a glitzy city. For me those moments are the ones shared with my family, my son, listening to his plans for the future or sitting chatting with my mom, over a cup of tea, listening to her tales of times gone by.
So, increasingly, that's my bucket list. What's yours?

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