Our mode of transport to go to school and back was rickshaw. It seemed that there would be almost a hundred of us kids stuffed into one tiny rickshaw. Our rickshaw driver 'uncle' was an enterprising man. He had installed a wooden platform in front of the main seat, on which an extra 4 kids could sit. 4 kids on the main seat, 3 to 4 on the wooden platform, and another 2 in the 'dikki' space behind the seat. And then there were days when one of us would even sit in the driver seat along with him!
Dangerous stuff. You will never see something like that happening today. And of course, that's a good thing. But it makes me think that we are getting safer and smarter with passing generations, but what are we losing along the way?
We had our own little rickshaw 'community'. Our rickshaw 'uncle' even took us to a movie once a year. The first-ever 3D movie I saw was 'Chhota Chetan'. We went as a gang. Some of my rickshaw friends are still friends even now. The rickshaw was our little shared space. The mood was usually sombre in the mornings while going to school, and quite rambunctious in the evenings as we were being dropped back to our homes.
Today. in the age of social networks, marketing and business moguls are talking about the importance of community. But communities have always existed. Communities are good for business but communities are not about business. Communities are about people coming together around a common need or cause.
"True communities are groups of people who keep coming together over what they care about. The most vibrant ones offer members a chance to act on their passions with one another, to contribute to what is being made."
We live in the age of digital communities. Join a community that interesting. Participate. Connect. It is a lot of fun.
My sister and I used to return home from school around 4 in the evening. There was always someone at home to receive us, feed us and ask us about our day. I didn't realise the value of that until one day we got locked out of our house. There was no one to welcome. Pyaare Lal, who used to work with our family and take care of us kids, had gone off to run errands and was obviously running late. My mother who was usually in her home studio and would come in as soon as we reached home, was away.
We rang and rang the doorbell with the urgency of rats scampering into their little holes. With each ring, our hopes fell and the tiredness in our bodies felt more painful. It felt like we were in one of those kung fu video games. Blow by blow, ring by ring, the energy drained away from our hearts. Finally, we gave up.
There was no one home and we couldn't even get inside. We had never experienced that feeling before. Being alone and stranded out of our one home.
We thought we'd be all mature and wait it out patiently. But very soon our patience wore out. This was before cell phones had happened. By now we were worried. Almost 45 minutes had passed. Where was everyone?
Suddenly an idea struck! We didn't need to helplessly wait around. We discussed it and my sister went about looking for a stick. She's always up for a little adventure. Our chemistry was good. I went around to the back of the house and opened the kitchen window. I climbed on a wall to get better access and tried poking my head into the grills to look inside the kitchen. I could side the kitchen door was latched from inside but there was no lock. Aha! We knew exactly what had to be done.
But would it work? No way to know without giving it a shot!
My sister had found a 10 - 12 foot long bamboo stick. I praised her on resourcefulness and took the stick in my hands. It was an intricate operation. I had to balance myself on the wall to avoid falling off, I had to poke my hands and head inside the grill of the window, and I had to reach the latch and attempt to push it open with the bamboo.
Phase 1 was to be able to hold the stick at exactly the right place so that I could just about reach the knob on the latch. Phase 2 was about holding the stick steady enough so the tip would align exactly with the knob.
I felt like I was docking a spaceship into the NASA space station orbiting the earth at 3,000 km per second. My sister kept cheering me on and her twitching facial expression made the whole thing feel even more critical and important. I had to hold my hand steady for long periods to get it to align. We kept at it for almost 10 - 12 minutes.
Suddenly I heard a click. The mission had succeeded. The kitchen door opened and we could go it!
Exactly at that moment, my mother also arrived. She was worried and apologetic, but we were victorious and elated.
She was expecting us to be all teary-eyed and afraid. She almost was. But all our disappointment and anxiety about being locked out of the house had turned into celebration and joy.
That precise moment when the latch clicked open is as clear in my memory as when it happened. I relive that moment many times over.
That 'click' reminds me that:
1 Failure and frustration can be turned around into victory and celebration.
2 No matter how tough the situation, humans can be 'RESOURCEFUL'.
3 Don't allow yourself to feel helpless, ever.
4 See challenges with a touch of playfulness.
5 Allow yourself to be 'sparked' by possibilities. Don't be rigid.
I'm sure you have had some such 'clicks' in your journey - times when you turned a seemingly dead-end situation into an opportunity and a gift. Think of one such click in your life now. Hold on to it tightly. Let it instruct you the next time you feel stuck or frustrated.
"Mood follows action. The way to change your mental and physical state is to take the action first, not wait for your emotional state to change first."
Be playful. Playfulness leads to action, resourcefulness, creativity and solutions. More importantly, it makes life FUN and worth living.
Which aspect of your life do you think you need to be a touch more playful?
A community that I'm a part of is THE GREEN ROOM. It's a free and open community that anyone can join. We meet once a month on a Thursday from 8pm to 9:30 on a ZOOM call. We invite a guest to share their story, and each one breaks out into zoom rooms to share their own story around a common calling question.
Here is the link if you'd like to explore and register:
Once again, thank you for reading this letter. You give me a reason to write, and through it, to transform myself.
Sending me a one-liner with whatever is running in your mind right now!
With love and 'masti'
Eat. Play. Love.