The past one year has been perhaps one of my most prolific years on this planet. It has also been my first time in a space, at great physical distance from home.
I could not have felt closer.
However, this time has not been as simple as it appears. I have had moments of complex introspection, have asked newer questions, and reflected on past concerns.
In the process though, I have been fortunate enough to meet beautiful people and to be able to share these thoughts with them, to listen to their perceptions, to admire honest feedback and to nurture collective dreams of better selves.
One of my friends in my new city, who has witnessed my journey here, met me a few weeks ago. Over lunch, as I endlessly narrated my stories, she shared that she is happy for me-she is seeing me change. I wondered what was the change. She said, “earlier it was always about others, and what you would do for them, now its all about you! You come first!”
This feedback has been most worrisome, if not jarring.
I have been unable to stop thinking about it.
Where my friend is celebrating my embracing of individuality and self-love, my conditioning makes me look at it as self-centered existence, and if I be paranoid, as sheer selfishness.
I feel both of us have binary perceptions of a condition that is perhaps somewhere in between.
While walking to work, while cooking, while standing by the river, I have been engaging with this thought about what kind of a person I wish to be. Do I want to continue thinking about my own self, regardless of what others go through? Is this the self I would admire? Or do I want to go back to an existence, where I almost ignored myself?
Maybe , stay in between.
But this does make me want to reflect upon individuality, or perhaps freedom. What is freedom? I realize, in my naive contemplation, that many a times we borrow an image of freedom or individuality from another completely different context, and try to apply it in ours. If it does not fit in, we try and change our context, or move to the other context and adopt it. I have no judgement over this, I do not know if this is the appropriate step or not.
I acknowledge that freedom is perceived and expressed differently by different people, and in my situation, I do not assume that thinking solely about my isolated future is a form of individuality or freedom.
My freedom would be to continue to value my core beliefs and work on my dreams, while ensuring the happiness of my loved ones. My freedom would be to not be fearful when advocating for art and culture in my context. My freedom would be to say a no to a man or woman who I believe does not deserve me, irrespective of what my context proclaims, and to unabashedly love the one with whom I share mutual respect. My freedom would be to feel and give love, to provide and enjoy a spiritual security, without losing myself in it. My freedom would be to voice my opinion where there is injustice in the garb of tradition or values. My freedom would be to not be rude or angry , to not let the pace and stress of spectacular society get to my calm. My freedom would be to deny greed in a world that dazzles, to save when I am told to spend, to sleep when tired and to wake up early to hear the birds sing.
I am far from being free.
My freedom is what my innermost being wants, my freedom is to be that individual, my freedom is to be that individual at a place I call home.
I am yet to be free, but I am in the process, perhaps a lifelong process.
I also attempted at reflecting on why I seem to have only thought about my well-being in the past few months. Because I am unable to feel a sense of security that comes when you are surrounded by people you love and those who love you back. Because I am in an alien environment where I worry about my sleep so that I have enough energy to cook my food, to clean my room, to walk long distances to my work and ensure I make the best utilization of my time, alone. This makes me compromise on spending as much time with others as I would have otherwise. This allows me an excuse to not think of others’ needs above mine. This lets me think of “me first”.
Let me be honest, for as long as I can recall, I have advocated being alone. I have celebrated and honestly cherished every moment spent on my own in that world which I am much acquainted with. For the first time in my life, in my new environment, I realized what is loneliness, and how painful it is. Don’t take me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed my year and new bonds, and am thrilled at the prospect of another eventful year. But even though I still cherish my moments of reflection and quietude, I deeply crave for familiar smiles, sounds, wagging tails of street dogs, ants by the window on a rainy evening, the soft sound of my father’s humming, the joy in my mother’s laughter. I miss the touch of my niece’s fingers, I miss hugging my brother. I miss my neighbor who yearned for a conversation , I miss my friends who met me at odd hours. I miss being alone when I was surrounded by those my own.
I don’t want to worry about my mere existence, I want to be occupied in thoughts and exchange with all these beings who form my community, who enrich my life with meaning and purpose. Like stories untold, their lives unfold and add color to mine, together we create narratives of a lifetime.
As if the universe heard my queries, the other day I received a message, that an elderly mentor of mine, has been thinking of me. Dear Bhagwan Das Ji, I have been thinking of you too, of the depth in your eyes that speak so much when we often sit in silence.
I would be back soon, for you do give me a reason to channelize my energy and life towards a constructive outcome. I would be back soon, because you and all my nodes back home, cause me to write from my heart and soothe my soul. Your words and actions cause me to weep and smile, to laugh and fight. And in experiencing these plethora of emotions, you all make me alive.
I will be back soon, and be with us.