The house sat there in the cold with its heater shivering and sputtering. A house on the banks of a large lake in the Winter is bound to be cold and forbearing. The backyard had an iron wicket gate that opened onto a wooden pier jutting into the lake. There, on the pier, were some wooden chairs, and a rickety swing. Out on the waters, a hundred mallards quaked and quacked, finding their voices. It was in this setting that the woman sat sipping tea contemplating life. Her thoughts were flitting, meditatively, she thought. One minute she sat thinking of mallards, the next, the temperature of the water. Even the sun’s rays were cold, but bright. The Dal Lake is supposed to be as beautiful. Could Jahannara and Shah Jahan and all those Moghul emperors have enjoyed the beauty of the lake, with a thousand servants to do their bidding and an army waiting at close quarters? Could they have felt inconspicuous when presented with nature’s beauty?
Maybe the true test of one’s ego is how we react to Nature.
The woman looked around her once more, and noticed a furious scurrying in the house. The house had an attache. One had to step outside and scurry a few steps to make it to the attache. The woman saw a young boy running across with a large pile of bed linen. One of the sheets were scraping along on the floor behind him. The woman’s instinct was to let the boy know, but that would mean screaming and shattering the pervading peace of the surroundings. What if the sheets are a bit filthy, she thought uncharitably. If she had stepped out for a few minutes to contemplate life, why not use the opportunity to do just that?
A few seconds later, a young girl emerged dragging a larger pile of bed linen behind her and ran across the same patch. The woman had seen enough of human scurryings and went back to observing the docked boats and the many forms of life the lake housed. While this beautiful Earth struggles with a myriad different things, what do different lifeforms struggle with?
It was a few minutes before she glanced back at the house. What greeted her was the boy scurrying from the attache to the main house with a huger pile of linen dragging behind him. A few minutes later, a young girl came dragging bedspreads, comforters and pillow cases behind her. Why was all the bedding being shifted from A to B and then again from B to A? Behind the young girl, trooped a large pretty dog vigorously wagging his tail. Had she seen the dog close-up, she could have detected the sense of purpose that he too was helping in the linen shifting. She had often seen this to be the case with dogs close to children. Their work seems important and by association so are they.
Was that how we viewed ourselves? And just like that, her mind started thinking of mankind and its search for meaningful work. How would one feel if their work was not impactful in any direct way? What if the continuous evolving nature of the world leaves people behind, or merely slows them down? A recent book she’d read, The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro, took up this very question and analyzed it from the viewpoint of a butler. A butler, whose career had been in the service industry, serving his Lord that he trusted implicitly. When during the course of his lifetime, butlers were no longer needed, what happens to him? A moving question that everyone needs to think about.
In what ways do we define our work and how do we derive importance from our work? Is being completely attached a good thing, any more than being partially detached is? The ability to question ourselves and reflect, coupled with strong doses of work is what keeps mankind evolving. It is also what makes us stand up for who we are, in small ways and big. Every little moral stream presents us with the choice of steering clear, dipping our toes, swimming in, jumping across or flying across.
Such were the questions buzzing in her butterfly brain as she went back towards the house. Maybe there was work to do with moving the beds out.
P.S: The woman grieved with the rest of the world a few days later when the team at Charlie Hebdo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo) was targeted and killed.
Like someone said on the Internet, “The world has become so serious that humor is a risky profession.”