Of Parables and Eyes

What is a parable? It is a simple story containing a moral or a spiritual lesson.

Well, the last few days have culminated in a parable for me. With an unending spate of visitors, the stress of work, the background of friendships going awry, I have been stretched beyond limits. Trying to find a bit of calm in this storm has proven elusive at times, and downright impossible at others.

Parables are associated with the Bible, and rightly so. Yet the Hindu holy book, the Bhagvad Gita has its own set of lessons to impart. One that has stayed with me through the years is the one involving Dronacharya, the royal guru to the warring cousins the Kauravas and the Pandavas. In one particular archery lesson, he hung a wooden bird on a tree branch and asked his students to take aim. Before firing their arrows he asked each one to describe what he saw. One by one they described the forest, the trees, the landscape, the wooden bird. Then the mighty guru asked Arjuna, his favourite student, what he saw. Arjuna merely said, “Guruji, all I see is the eye of the bird”. He went on to become one of History’s greatest archers.

My daughter’s eye operation was scheduled to be at 7:30 am on Thursday. I was meant to arrive from work the night before. Worry had coiled itself into a knot in my stomach. I was apprehensive about the general anaesthesia, and concerned about the operation itself, which involved removing a bit of skin off the conjunctiva and a few stitches. Nothing major, the surgeon had reassured us. Yet, it was her eye! The misgivings would not be quelled.

As bad luck would have it, my flight cancelled, and I was stranded nearly 4000 miles away, with no recourse, except to get home 24 hours later than anticipated.

Helplessness and frustration joined worry and I was a ball of nervous tension by the time I landed. I had missed the operation. I had missed the chance to hold my daughter’s hand as she was put under. I had missed the chance of being there when she came around. I felt like a failure even though none of it was of my doing.

I sped home, desperate to see my little girl. Through it all, the fatigue, the annoyances, the snubs of some and the ingratitude of others danced around demonically in my half crazed mind.

I parked the car, said a quick hello to the neighbours and rushed inside.

She was curled up on her side, her mouth slack in sleep. An eye patch covered her left eye. Suddenly, all that background noise quietened to a hum. I was there. She was well. The operation had been a success. I cradled her in my arms, and kissed her gently. My parable unfolded itself. All that was of true value was right here, in my little home. My husband, my children, their welfare. This was my ‘eye’. My focus.

Nothing else mattered.

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The importance of unplugging

A recent holiday I took felt like a real holiday. We’d left all gadgets behind- smart phones, computers, and all other pain in the rear devices that keep you connected with the world at large, at all times. Aside of a tablet for our girls to watch their films on, we were completely disconnected from the daily happenings of our extended circle of family and friends. Guess what? Didn’t miss it one bit. This was one of the best holidays we’d had in a long,long time. We explored, we walked, we talked, we ‘connected’ with one another in a way that had become impossible with the invasion of these devices. We absorbed all that was around us, without the need to narrate a blow by blow account of it online. We actually took in the beauty and magnificence of Nature without being compelled to Instagram it alongside.

Why has our online living overtaken the real world living? Why do we feel it necessary to record all events for posterity without being ‘in’ the moment at all? Is it because we want to show the world how exciting our lives are, how much more we have travelled, how many more experiences we have had? To induce a bit of the green eyed monster? Yet, ironically, bypassing those very experiences while chronicling them?

As a family, our rule is that one meal of the day is together, at the table, gadget less. I hope that the conversations we have, the laughs we share are the memories that the girls take with them as they grow up, go to University, get jobs, move away, get married etc.

In the meantime, I am trying to enforce a gadget watershed hour too. Come 9pm, switch off, unplug, and enjoy a nice glass of wine, a bath, a book maybe? Our hours on this planet are limited. Let’s not spend them tied to a virtual master.

Make do and mend vs Conspicuous consumption

Another glaring difference between the generations of yore and present, is how disposable society has now become. Where my grandmother’s and to an extent, even my parents’ generation, believed in recycling, re using, mending and making do, we rarely do any of the above. It is so much easier to throw out an item, and buy a new one than it is to make the time and take the effort to actually repairing it and prolonging its life.

We can blame it on our hectic lifestyles, the paucity and expense of good workmen, the ubiquity of cheap, affordable white goods,clothes,food etc. Or, we can simply realise, that this is a lifestyle choice determined by economic circumstances.

Yet, this easily disposable/replaceable incantation seems to have infiltrated the longevity of our relationships too. Friendship not working. Never mind. There’s always another gaggle or two to fall back upon. Marriage falling apart. Who cares? Divorce, and find another partner. Not getting along with a brother or a sister? Forget them. Move on. Plenty of sibling substitutes out there. Whatever happened to good,old fashioned working on something? Doing the hard graft, unfortunately, is just that : Hard Work! Much much easier to replace than to rectify.

I am no advocate for hoarding useless, unnecessary stuff. Nor do I believe in holding on to relationships that are past their sell by dates. However, some things, just like some people, are too precious to let go at the first sign of damage. There is much pleasure to be had in restituting that which seemed beyond repair. In an age where everything is replaceable,investing time and effort into something gives it more value than any amount of money can buy.

marriage couple