As it turns out, the concept of working-from-home comes with its own set of privileges and downsides. The lesser known truth remains that most of these basic privileges that seem to convince naïve minds of their potentially pleasing nature are in fact seldom exploited, highly assumed and vastly overrated rather than being frequently enjoyed. On the contrary, it is these privileges that most often become the greatest challenges and distractions for a person, the minute the others step out. As for the most conventional downsides, however long or unpleasant the list may be, they remain strangely unnoticed and even unacknowledged by others and by us too.
One such downside is the visit to the supermarket to buy household supplies. And trust me, these include the most uninspiring things like the toilet brush, dental floss, mothballs or bread and eggs! But sometimes, even the most mundane places can surprise you with a brilliant story idea. In my case it was a topic for my blog post.
As I waited in the taxi queue after concluding my purchases, I noticed a young Chinese couple waiting for their turn before me. The young gentleman was in charge of a pram, which carried an adorable toothless infant. I wouldn’t be wrong here to assume that it was their daughter. If there was one thing this tiny tot had learnt in these few months it was to stare at her father with the eyes of a devoted fan, as if the rest of us remained invisible to her.
Craning my neck over her daddy’s shoulder with unpractised artfulness I tried my best to grab the little one’s attention. But nothing seemed to distract her from looking at her daddy in complete awe. Occasionally she even wobbled her toes and arms as she chuckled to win some attention from the young man in return. It was so endearing that it distracted me from all the weight that I was carrying.
Her father seemed to know exactly when he should look at her and smile back, which he did quite frequently. He just knew when he should gently move the pram to and fro, or airlift the little frame into his arms and kiss her and sway her in his arms as they all waited for a cab. The mother like the proud concubine of that happy household watched quietly the two most important people in her life interact. At regular intervals she stroked her little one’s soft head, and her eyes remained focused on her companion as she spoke with him.
It was an effortless exchange of love, compassion, faith and complete surrender between a parent and an infant. What made those two grownups so capable of loving and nurturing a complete dependent? Where had the young infant learnt to trust another person so blindly and surrender to them so completely? There surely had to be a force within life and nature that inspired us to show such greatness with such humility. It had to be more than mere ‘attachment’ and petty ‘bondage’.
There are a zillion moments like these that one lives through during a lifetime. It is in fact these seemingly unassuming instants that fill me with gratitude for having got the chance to see life so closely as there was no way I could have fathomed the meaning of life or love in any other language. It is through the myriad emotions and diverse experiences that life puts me through that I learn to discover myself, even as I retain my ability to question it too, from time to time. And so I fail to understand the reason why many of us aspire to free ourselves from the circle of life and death.
My glance returned to the infant now, who seemed taken care of, loved and made comfortable.
“What a lucky baby you are to have got such caring parents. How else would you have learnt the meaning of love?” I thought to myself.
I was reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words on children –
‘Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.’
It was difficult to imagine that the little infant could have a ‘background’ and history so profound, detailed and independent of his parents or even his present life. Perhaps if I could look more closely, beyond the deceptive young age of his exterior, I’d perhaps meet the soul of a wise philosopher or a stoic warrior or even a caring parent or lover. And yet, it had returned as an innocent and dependent child to be nurtured with love and care once again.
And thus as I continued to reflect on the circle of life and death, I once again struggled to fathom why we feel the need to be in a state of suspension where we don’t matter and where nothing matters to us anymore, where we are unable to appreciate the morning mist or enjoy the intoxicating rains or the comforting embrace of a five-year-old. Only in our human form do we learn to love and laugh, to lose and submit, and also to forgive and forget. Are these not great learning and experiences worth defending or returning to?
It is as a member of the human race that I am able to create another life. It is as a human being that I am able to nurture it selflessly only to let go of it eventually. It is only in my imperfect mortal state that I appreciate the strengths and vulnerabilities of others and myself and get the closest glimpse of life and its mystifying inexplicable ways! And in my material self alone do I retain the ability to visualize a much greater governing force and bow down to it. I become a philosopher, a poet, a parent, an ascetic, but only until I am within the circle of life and death. Then why must I treat this circle with fear and disdain, and mindlessly reduce its meaning to a handful of fancy words like ‘attachment’ and ‘bondage’. Our journey surely means more than that!
Judge me, if you must, but I deny and disown my right to obtain spiritual liberation by escaping the world. Instead I choose to be a part of it each time so I may return once again to feel the bond of love and kindness through every string of attachment and every reminding wound caused by loss. It is after all not so much about the beauty and the beast as it is often about the beauty within the beast called life that is of any consequence.
© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013