I am one lucky child!!! Because the parents, who gave me life, were larger than life! I am the daughter of a two individuals who were determined to never lead an ordinary life and the Tsunami of experiences, out of the box thought processes and abundant opportunities that came with them were a part of my daily reality. Not only did they give me the gift of life, they taught me to respect it, nurture it, explore it, and embrace it and to live it to its fullest.
My childhood was a surfeit of unforgettable experiences. I learnt my ABC’s on the sands of Juhu beach, swung from banyan trees on the highway, my home was a sanctuary for writers, thinkers, philosophers, artists and I used to spend afternoons and evenings listening in on their conversations.
My parents introduced my brother, Siddharth and me to gourmet foods, holidays around the globe, spa treatments, clothes, music and the performing arts and a deluge of books by the brightest literary minds. They wanted us to have and be exposed to the best. Conversely, they also sent us to a military boarding school, (The Lawrence School, Sanawar) taught us to rough it out in tents with campfires, to bathe in rivers, exposed us to poverty, villages, and suffering and taught us to share. Personally, I learnt from them how to be “bigger” than myself, to think “out of the box”, be resilient, see humour in every situation and have the ability to laugh at myself.
Perhaps many have raised eyebrows at their unconventional thought processes but they taught us to constantly question and not be herded by societal conventions based on “fear” and “acceptability”. Ditto for personal relationships! I was taught that not all relationships are forever and that a person doesn’t become bad and enemy number 1 just because a relationship has ended. That hurt and pain are normal, but transient. It’s our choice to hold on to it or let go and free ourselves to experience happiness elsewhere. That negative societal tags “step mom”, “ex boyfriend”, “ex-wife”, “divorcee”, “mistress” did no justice to the human being or the relationship. They taught me to value the “individual” for the wonderful people they were and give respect to all relationships by being non-judgemental.
Through their actions, they taught me to live fully, to love deeply, the art of letting go, well, of things not meant for me and to always see the bigger picture.
It is often said that you can’t stop the rain from falling but you can put an umbrella over your head, or alternatively, learn to dance in the rain. This to me was one of mothers’ most valuable teachings and I hope to pass on the power of that thought process to my children too. It’s a valuable shock absorber for your car as you manoeuvre the bumpy road of life!!!
Most people bemoan their lot in life and blame it on fate. Sage Vashist in one of his precepts to Lord Rama said, “The concept of fate was concocted to give people of dim intellect momentary relief during periods of grief”. My parents taught me that the quality of my life was not determined by what happened to me, but my reaction to it. That though certain circumstances may be out of my control, it was for me to soak up the joy and learn from the hurt. Life is not just one big high. It comes with the lows and that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. She taught me that it’s ok to fail. One doesn’t succeed at everything, but what’s unacceptable is not trying and giving it one’s best.
As a woman I learnt from my mother to revel in my femininity. It’s my strength. That I shouldn’t ape, emulate or want to be a better man, when I can be a complete woman without any effort! Women have incredible power and ability to perform, multitask, nurture and love simultaneously. That romance and chivalry by a man is a desirable quality in the yin yang of relationships and that while it’s great to be a liberated woman, all the over the top ‘burn the bra’ women libbers got were sagging breasts. So don’t cut off the nose to spite the face!!!
Professionally, I’ve learnt from both of them that it’s crucial to be in love with whatever you do, to be practical, disciplined, professional, and punctual but that passion is the key ingredient to success. And that personal success and happiness outweighs professional achievements in the end.
I miss my brother Siddharth deeply. We were inseparable as kids. Same school, same friends, same room. We travelled together, fought, laughed and loved each other madly. His being diagnosed with schizophrenia and his suicide in 1997 left my life changed forever. He was a, sensitive, caring, gentle and witty person. He was amazingly bright too, and had graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with Honours. The void of his death and subsequently my mother’s death in 1998 is something I can never fill.