I had a dental surgery this morning where they implanted titanium screws in my gum. It is a part of routine dental procedure that has lasted me for more than a year now. Naturally, I was scared shitless. I have realized that I am my most insecure self when my health is suffering. From living alone to traveling alone, I start questioning everything. All my spunk and crazy enthusiasm for life goes out of the window, I just binge on negative self-talk.
Anyway, I survived the three pokes they made to find the vein on my right arm (the nurse even asked me if knew what arm they used last year, as if I would remember), the grogginess due to anesthesia, a couple of stitches and some bloodshed, as well as getting high on hydrocodone. I decided to stay home and rest for the day. I kept getting in and out of a semi-state of nausea and half-wakefulness all day. In the evening, I got to see the beautiful colors of the sky after sunset from my apartment, something that I do not get to see from office.
I also called grandma and told her that I would not be able to talk, so she should talk to me. She is quite a chatterbox, always high on the little joys of life, and had quite a bit to say. The thing about talking to family is that there is often a prescriptive syllabus of conversations they keep falling back on, not because it is useful, but because it is easy small talk. Have you cooked? What have you eaten? Is it still cold? Are you taking precautions while crossing the road? When are you visiting? We miss you. How will you manage things on your own? Indians will never learn to keep their environment clean (a broad generalization lacking data-based evidence). Rickshaw fares are going up. Vegetable prices are going up (anyone heard of the word “inflation”?)
I really do not care about such small, usually negative talk. A lot of things around us might be wrong, but if I only focused on the negatives and kept ranting about how cold it is in winter and how expensive healthcare is (I just shelled $3.2k for the dental procedure this morning even after good insurance coverage, you do the math now), I will never move forward in life. There is Chetan and there is Chitra. It is my choice to decide what I spend my time reading (I know the difference because I have read both before making up my mind). Although preferably, I would rather read Lahiri's short fiction. I am a sucker for short stories, in particular.
So I asked grandma a simple question-
Grandma, it is Tuesday morning in Kolkata. What are you looking forward to today?
Grandma was flustered. I am sure no one has asked her this question before. So I asked her to think again and repeated the question.
She had to come up with something since I would not let go. So she said,
“There is so much work to do. The domestic help will arrive soon. Your father will leave for office soon. The vegetables need to be chopped. Lot of work today.”
I knew she was dodging my question. So very patiently, I explained the question again. I asked that amid all her chores that she just described, what is one thing she is looking forward to today? And she again repeated about how at her age, life is monotonous and her knees hurt and she will die soon, so there is nothing to look forward to. So I told her that everyone of us will die, sooner or later, and she is not special. I told her that the response to my question could be anything, any small, but genuine thing. To which, she said that she will be happy when I visit her next.
I once again knew what she was doing. Putting the onus of her happiness on others (which is attachment and conditional, but not love). I told her that I have no plans of visiting, but she could take some time and think about my question. This time, she thought. And her answer warmed my heart.
She said that she is looking forward to the open doors today.
Kolkata is in the throes of winter, but the weather is slowly warming up. She is a balcony person, she loves standing at the balcony and watching people go around with their life. People headed to work, children headed to school, vegetable and fruit sellers going around in their rickety trolley rickshaws selling stuff. She said that given the winters, the balcony door has been closed and she has missed watching people. Today is the first day it has warmed up a bit, and after her chores, she is looking forward to an open balcony door, sunlight streaming in and she spending time in the balcony. It was endearing. And I think I had finally succeeded in my mission.
She asked me the same question next. I said that it was already evening for me, and I had a rough day at the doctor’s, but tomorrow, I am looking forward to staying home for a specific reason. My apartment gets a lot of sunlight on days when the sun shows up. So I am looking forward to seeing how the sun lights up my living room and kitchen in the morning and my bedroom in the evening. I no longer have a grand view of a fjord and cruise ships the way I did from my home in Germany, but I live in a very nice neighborhood with beautiful homes, tall trees, and I am looking forward to a day of sunshine at home (pun unintended).
I then asked her to write down one small thing that she would be looking forward to everyday in her diary. I don’t know if she would, but it would be a wonderful read if she does. I think I will do the same, not for social media and Facebook propaganda, but just for me.
The thing is, there is a lot of bad in the world. But there is also a lot of good in the world. What you focus on makes you who you are/become. Often, when you ask someone how they are, they will usually reply with a lot of whining, like “আর বলিসনা, গায়ে ব্যাথা, পায়ে ব্যাথা।“ (Literal translation: Don’t ask. Pain in the body. Pain in the legs). I do it too. I don’t think people do it consciously. They do it because the others do it. Many people view the ongoing of the world as an outsider, an onlooker in third person. However, we are not outsiders to the world, we are what makes up the world. We are the world.
Today, I am thankful that I am able to afford healthcare in the US (I know that many cannot), that I was able to rest and enjoy my home (which does not happen often), and that I was able to chat with my grandma at leisure (she is my only living grandparent now). What are you looking forward to today?