I don’t know if this has happened to you, but, there are times in life when you’re so envious of something, that you’d trade anything to get it. This happened to me when I visited my co-fellows at Parivartan. The campus is beautiful! In the middle of a no-man’s land, lies this delightful green garden with perfectly trimmed lawns, large buildings with unstained paint and a magnificent cottage with a pool besides it. There is no attempt to even slightly conceal the opulence of the place. Unlike everyday, I did not have to look down to avoid placing my foot in human excrements, cow excrements, sewage water, rotting garbage or mud slurry. The beautifully paved yard was sparkly clean. Every turn of the head showed the splendidness of the campus. This splendour of the place amidst the dingy houses and narrow roads en route, reminded me of how Rahul spoke about his IRMA campus which was built to house Philosopher Kings. Parivartan is one such place, and how I wished to live here.
With every building Anjali walked me into, I wished PRAYOG (my host organization) had a place like that. How good would it be if I could work under a fan with my colleagues, wouldn’t have to walk for a total of 60minutes, travel in overcrowded jeeps or on top of them for about 100 minutes, cycle for another 8km – everyday! Needless to say, I was envious of Anjali and Shubhi with every passing minute. They did not have to go through the daily grind that I had to. That means – no cooking, no traveling, no haggling with vendors, no cleaning toilets, no buying vegetables and seeing them rot away when I couldn’t cook them after a long and tiring day. Life did not seem fair. The fellowship team did not seem to make justice. Then I went to sleep.
My friend in college had once told me – “We only tend to see the things that we don’t have in others, and completely ignore the things we do and they don’t”. I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night, when dorm was filled with croaking frogs, buzzing mosquitoes, grasshoppers trying to enter my ears, ants inside my shorts and foxes outside simpering like a Nicki Minaj laugh. Adding to the misery were the infamous power cuts of Parivartan. How I now wished to go back to Gopalganj and sleep in my cozy little apartment which had a 24*7 power supply (thanks to my mentor!), and no bugs to ferret out of my body cavities. To hell with the delightful green gardens, perfectly trimmed lawns, large buildings with unstained paint, the magnificent cottage (which is inaccessible BTW) and what not! If I can only trade all that for a perfect night’s sleep everyday, I would, within the blink of an eye. I would have been satisfied with nothing but a good night’s sleep. Life would be instantly fair to me if I only went back to Gopalganj, and would start loving the fellowship team again for being just to me.
Although my problems could be solved simply by using a mosquito net, this exercise of contemplation for blog writing helped me realise how quickly I changed sides. I longed to go back to Gopalganj and started realising the opportunities that I would miss by trading places. The opportunity to be forced to – learn cooking, learn the invaluable skill of bargaining, manage my expenses and to navigate independently the many difficulties in an unknown land. All this, in addition to the opportunities I haven’t taken time out to appreciate yet.
It is rarely that we stop in our tracks to look around us to appreciate ourselves for what we are, and for the things we have. Many a times we long for things that we don’t possess, hoping that their possession could bring us happiness. Our fantasies of our wants can drive us crazy in our minds and fill us with a with this feeling of a vacuum of having nothing and wanting everything. Quoting Jagger,
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try, and I try…
I can’t get no…
When I’m driving in my car
And the man comes on the radio
Telling me more and more
Supposed to fire my imagination…
We could be filled with an incessant need of want, if let. This need of wanting more, needing more, not having enough, being incomplete is a very bitter feeling. In the modern world – “man is the master of his own destiny” prevails. According to this, if you are not earning enough, having enough, loved enough – it is because you are not capable of doing so. This thought is in grave contrast to the olden times when a ‘lack’ was because one was “unfortunate”. In the world where everyone is sold the over-ambitious idea that being rich, pretty, healthy and smart is in his own hands, adherence to this idea could suck the existing joy of life.
It was Christopher Hitchens who told me that it is more important to be satisfied in life; even more important than to be happy, successful or loved. Viktor Frankl said ‘even if everything you have is taken away from you, you will still retain the freedom to choose how you would react in the situation’ – a very stoic idea which teaches us how to be satisfied with what we’ll still retain even when we lose everything. Between the stimulus and the response, there is choice. We can choose to be happy or unhappy in the moment. We can choose to be pissed off or to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. We can choose to take offence or simply not. For me, the feeling of irritation of being awakened changed and I instead started laughing at myself at the ridiculousness of killing those sheer number of insects. One could be satisfied if one chooses to. When satisfied, the feeling of satisfaction helps us to be grounded, fills us with appreciation and gratitude for what we have, helps us to take a stock of all the remaining beauties around us, and then continue with the unperturbed vigour. Perhaps till we die.
*Alston here has tried to delve into the idea of ‘Satisfaction’. This post only highlights his thoughts when a bitter feeling sets in, when we are not satisfied. He’s also on the waiting for comments and your takes on the idea.
Images 1 through 5 – Anjali Nabiyal
Image 6 – YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poXvMBhjSWk)