I was getting ready to share my next two books: 'Treasured Indian Comfort Foods' book and launch a Kickstarter for Roti 2 when I returned from LA, along with book PR for Not For You, 1 & 2.
But Life meticulously reminds us each day, that it chooses to remain unpredictable.
The rollercoaster of these last two weeks included 2 very different events: the ongoing physical and spiritual cleansing of our house post-burglary. And then, being in awe at the NBC Asian America coverage of ‘Not For You’ that gained more than 19K+ views.
I honestly don’t know people well enough to merit this viewership, and can count my innermost, closest confidants on one hand. Who are all these people, the ones I don’t know? And how much do I know the ones I thought I did?
I tell myself, “Everyone I know is busy”.
Followed by, “I know everyone is busy”.
People I have known for years have yet to connect with us, and others have emerged from the shadows of the past.
But what surprised me most was strangers extended more kind words than the ones I thought I knew. The same strangers who may be responsible for those 19K+ views.
Everyone is busy with a life that seems to have little room for direct human connections. How did we corner ourselves like this?
We remain grateful to be physically unharmed, to know kind people who will drive 30 minutes armed with materials, to board up a shattered door, and friends who will hug us long enough until we stop whimpering.
But my nights remain invaded by nightmares of the moments I walked in on the house. Some days I feel like I might wake up from this nightmare. But it was not a bad dream. It was a disruption of my sanctity – of my spirit, my sacred and personal spaces, of all that was comfortable. I was looking forward sharing with you the joys of comfort foods – the very things that are blatantly missing from my life in this moment.
As we gather and reassemble pieces of our disturbed life, and muddle through our weak attempts at normalcy, I was reminded of a short introspective essay I wrote nearly 30 years ago, in Hindi. I have shared it with only two people in all these years, but in the light of our personal, communal, and global affairs, I share it with you, the people I have never met, and then some that I have. An English translation follows.
“क्या यह जीवन सचमुच कुछ मूल्य रखता है हमारे लिए?
अगर हम अपनी आत्मा से प्रश्न पूछे, कि, “क्या मूल्य रखता है हमारा जीवन हमारे लिए?”, तो उत्तर में सिर्फ हमें अपने प्रश्नकि गूँज सुनाई पड़ेगी। जीवन का अर्थ क्या होता है?
उसका मूल्य क्या है?सिर्फ साँसोंसे मानव जीवित रह सकता है, जीता नहीं।
पर क्या सांस लेनेसे उसका जीवन पूर्ण हो सकता है? नहीं।
यह तो ऐसी बात हुई, की, एक पतंग को, बिना डोर के, हवा में छोड़ दो, और उसे कहो, “उड़ो, और ऊंचा उड़ो”।
क्या डोर के बिना ये पतंग हम आकाश की ऊंचाइयोंतक पहुंचा पाएंगे?नहीं। वो थोड़ी देर हवाके कुछ झोंकोसे कुछ लहरायेगी, थरथारएगी, फिर धरती पर ठप्प हो जाएगी।
हम अपने जीवनकी पतंग को ड़ोर के बिनाही आकाशमें क्यों देखना चाहते हैं, क्यों देखते हैं?! यह जानतेहुए भी, की, यह एक मीठा परन्तु खोखला आभास है. हम इस आभास को क्यों बार बार महसूस करते हैं? या करना चाहते हैं?
जीवन का मूल्य, इस पतंग की डोर है।
उसके बिना हम क्या हैं? शुन्य।
(हम) मनुष्य, दिन दिन, इस डोर को कुछ कम, थोड़ा और कम करते जा रहे हैं। बोहोत कम डोर बची है। और हम मूरख उस डोर को कम किये जा रहें है।
क्या बचेगा हमारे पास, उस डोर के बिना? एक रूखी आत्मा, जिसमे कभी मूल्य नाम की चीज़ हुआ करती थिस?
शायद कुछभी नहीं।
Does this life really have some value for us? If we ask this question from our soul, "How do we value our lives?"
(What if) In answer to the question, we only hear the echo of our question?
What is the meaning of life? What is its value?
Breathing allows us to only survive, not live.
Can mere breathing fulfil life? No. It is as though we try to fly a kite, raise it in the air without a string, and ask it to, "Fly, and fly high".
Will this kite without a string be able to reach the heights of the sky? No.
It will float for some time, tremble, and then will fall to the earth.
We want to see the kite of our life in the sky without the strings, or sometimes even see it?!
Though knowing that it is a sweet but hollow experience, why do we wish for this repeatedly? Why do we want to?
The value of life is the string to this kite, fragile.
What are we without it? Nothing.
(We) man, trim this string a little more, each day. There is very little left. And yet, we want to trim it some more.
But without it, what remains of us? Perhaps an empty (ruthless) soul, in which once lived such a thing as ‘value’?
(or) Maybe nothing.
c.1989, Bombay, India”
My husband, U, reminds me often that the only way to recover is to rebuild with hope.
We are determined to infuse this home again with hope and comfort because it will be what tides us, what will bind us, will honor what is meaningful in our life again.
We go back to the beginning to make our home a haven of simple comforts again: where the comfort of love, warm companionship and true friendship resounds loud, and where comfort food is cooked, shared, enjoyed and savored again.
And so, we start with U’s favorite phrase ‘is it worth it?’