Of Moh and Maya

Flashback: From a long time ago… 

2:30 AM – It was a random morning. I had unexpectedly scored exceptionally well on a test that I thought I would have to take again. I had sneezed 20 times already and the day had not even started. Everything was weird about the situation – the place, my unexpected trip to Mumbai, the time, the weather (very cold; something that I never get to experience). I was abnormally laid back about my early morning flight. I hadn’t even packed yet. Today, I wanted life to take its course.

4:00 AM – We left for the airport. We were obviously running late. My family always takes the pain to drop me off at the airport and waits till I check in, be it any time of the day. Yes, I have been that lucky! Our ride to the airport was supposed to cover all the serious topics on the agenda for this trip. The family meeting began. Thoughts were aligned. Priorities were refined. We reached a consensus. Everything was resolved. Everyone was happy. It is unusual for your priorities to align with those of your parents. None of us compromise on anything. And it was never about ego. Ego does not really exist in my family (Touchwood).

The last month had been terrible for me personally. Life had forced me to take a series of desperate decisions. Desperate times desperate measures. I detested evenings. My parents were worried. My decisions were questioned. I stood alone. All I wanted was to realize my dreams. Every little disagreement killed me a little. I could not settle.

5:00 AM – I checked in and swiftly moved around the airport. Mumbai airport always feels like home. It is as if I belong there. My brain feels and thinks brilliantly every time I am at an airport. I should have taken all my exams at the airport. Who knows I would have aced every one of them!  Mumbai airport is also shopping paradise for me. I checked in at Foursquare, tweeted on twitter and hopped on to the bus that led us the plane. Early morning flights are lovely (read: complimentary breakfast).

6:00 AM: I found my seat, and made a small talk to the Saudi based south Indian seated beside me. I was so engrossed in the movie that I did not realize the plane taking off. I did not realize the turbulence maybe because a- I had grown used to flights or b- the movie was awesome.

And it struck me…how much I was used to the pleasures of my life. Frequent flying, chauffeur driven cars, eating at the best restaurants in the city, staying at the best places, buying the most expensive things impulsively – and not thinking about anything while doing any of these and more. I realized how material-driven life was/is. But how long can a Gucci bag make us happy? Desire is real. Everyone wears brands, every kid wants the best of the toys, every girl wants a diamond, every man wants a Roland…the list is endless. Personally, I am drowned. And I see no signs of recovering.

8:30 AM – While I tried to define ‘simple living’ in my mind the pilot spoke in his supremely sensuous voice. I had never paid attention to announcements but his voice too compelling. We landed. The sunny weather awaited me. I politely left thanking the flight attendant and hoping that my luggage had traveled back with me.

I wonder if material pleasure equals happiness! It certainly means a lot though. The pleasure is way over-rated. I am not really sure why the world has turned materialistic- peer pressure maybe. Everyone believes in ‘If you’ve got it…Flaunt it!’. It is a vicious cycle. ‘Simple living and high thinking’ said someone zillion years ago. I wonder if it holds true in this world and age. I wonder if we can denounce the pleasures and live a really simple life. Probably not.

Wiser on the run…

June 6, 2015.

10:00 AM: It was a sunny Seattle morning and was going to be my last one in Seattle for a while. I was on my way Portland- 3 months at the Nike headquarters. I was excited. I boarded the train. It was going to be a scenic ride.

I noticed her while still struggling with my carry-on luggage. She was pretty and old; her eyes spoke volumes about her suffering; her body language screamed fear, yet her elegance stood out. I know I am no psychologist, but she was an easy read. She looked at me and said ‘Hi’ with a broad yet faded smile. We started talking.

We spoke at length about how we make decisions in life, our relationships (failed and current) and her marriage and mine. She lived the life I fantasized (for a vacation) and I lived hers. She lived in a shell, having an alcoholic for a husband. And I always lived in mine. She never had kids and asked me about mine. I said ‘sure’! I didn’t know why I said that. I quickly calculated her age and mine and realized she was old enough to be my mother!

I had been soul-searching recently and she answered some of my ‘should I? should I not?’ questions. She asked me to wait. We take a lot of decisions to achieve (emotional, physical, financial or mental) stability in life and parking decisions may not be an option in a lot of situations. But she asked me to wait. And I found that to be a better idea than jumping guns. The conversation made me ponder about all the pressing concerns of mine.

What if I decide to stay single all my life? What if I decide to live by myself all my life and not care about what the world had to say about it? What if I gave up the job I disliked? What if I give up on relationships that have been hurting me?  What if I could just say no?

Every word of hers made me wiser. Her voice deepened as she spoke. She regretted her decisions in life and so did I. I am sure all of us have regrets. What is a life without regrets?

Time flew. We reached Portland. She was walking back into her unnerving life and her disappointment was evident. I was sad to let her go. We hoped our paths would cross again. It was a goodbye. How I wish I could keep her with me.

I felt privileged to have had such an impactful conversation with a stranger. It’s funny that we find answers at the most unexpected places. It’s almost as if every person you meet has a purpose. We actually learn something from every person in our life. Maybe ‘meant to be’ has more than one meaning. Maybe some paths are meant to be crossed and some journeys are meant to be taken. That’s how we grow.

Until next train ride…