I had a talk with two contrasting characters today. The first one was a lady in her mid to late eighties. She popped in to my room at the free clinic and with an apology to start with she said that she was feeling feverish and wanted something for it and she couldn’t wait to see the general medicine specialist (who was the one supposed to see ordinary fevers) as the queues were long there while mine were comparatively shorter (fewer patients) that day. Even though I wasn’t supposed to be seeing the general physicians cases for him (too many ego problems might evolve from even such a harmless act), I thought of making an exception this one time- after all a mild fever was well within my treatment skills and so I wrote the necessary prescription for her, handed it to her and gestured to the next patient in line to come forward and take her seat.
But strangely she looked to be in no hurry to get up and leave to the pharmacy. As i watched and waited for her to leave she hemmed and hawed and made a strange request “Can you prescribe some vitamin tablets too for me doc?” she asked. That surprised me for I don’t usually allow my patients to dictate their treatments to me, for I am after all finally responsible if anything untoward happens. When I looked over at her in a puzzled sort of way she explained that she was a spinster, had lived with and slaved for her sisters family all her life but recently her sister (much younger) had died and her nephews and nieces had considered their elderly aunt an extra burden and thrown her out of the house. She had tried to survive by doing odd jobs at a few houses and sleeping before a Vishnu temple in Triplicane but one night as she slept with a small bundle containing nothing but a couple of changes of dress under her head, even that had been stolen deftly in the night without waking her up and come morning she was left destitute in front of the temple with nothing on her.
After struggling with her pride for a few days she had turned to begging at the temple entrance for survival. But she still harbored hopes of getting some small job or the other to survive on so she could stop begging for alms. And she reasoned that to work she needed strength and to get strength she needed vitamins. I could have given her a long lecture about how just taking vitamin supplements in the absence of proper food would not be of much use but I desisted because it was no use- such advice would be wasted on people who believed vitamins were magic pills. Hence I did the only other thing I could think of at that time- took some money out of my pocket and gave it to her (despite the disapproving looks of all my staff) and told her to go have a hearty meal. And oh, i did give her a bunch of vitamin supplements as she desired.
The other person I talked to later that day was a girl in her mid twenties and who had gone through a relationship crisis and was spouting suicidal stuff. This was her second relationship and second break up in the short time- a very few months I had know her- so I couldn’t decide who really was in fault. Anyway after I gave her the standard lines i use for relationship advice- about how everyone gets their hearts broken kissing a few frogs before finding their true prince I switched off the chat window and sat there thinking over the contrast between the two characters- the old and young ladies – I had talked to that day.
The old lady had unknowingly showed the way to survive life- by trying to think her way out of her troubles while the young one was merely content to wallow in her misery. The old lady had lived a long and lonely life and she had been betrayed by all her relatives at the very end of it but still she wanted to make sure she had strength enough to work and stand on her own two feet. But like a warrior she was willing to keep on fighting till the very end. Contrast that with the young woman who had everything to go on but was ready to give up her prestigious job at a big firm because an in-office romance had gone bad and she couldn’t face her colleague’s gossips. I felt exasperated at the young woman, so much so that I wanted to give her a crack on the head and tell her to wake up and see the reality of life.
As the first lady showed us- life, all life is precious. It’s not handed over to us in a platter- even though we behave as if it was. Life is a struggle for every creature on earth but it’s only we humans who make too much of this struggle. In doing so we forget that life is also a joy, bliss of great intensity. Worries are forever with us; we are born with them and die with them. But that is no reason to forget to live life while we take a breath. Merely worrying on things we cannot change is going to get us nowhere and suddenly we would find ourselves old and feeble and not able to do anything about it even if we so desire to.
The trick is in finding the balance- to try to push our impossible worries away to a dark corner of our minds to deal with later and to continue to live daily life with awareness and joy. I know that many of you reading this will be thinking- go on, we don’t believe you, it’s easier said than done- but do, do believe me, i never preach what I haven’t practiced first. So rest assured it’s eminently do-able. Worrying changes nothing except hastening us to an early grave and to an eternity filled with regrets for things not done. Isn’t it far better to disregard it all and embrace life? To live life as fully as if we had no worries at all? The human mind is a fascinating creature- it feeds on what you tell it. So long as you keep thinking that your life is all joy- you can end up having a blissful life even if the end of the world is near. The choice as always – is yours. Make it with wisdom.