I was standing at the busiest intersection of Mumbai, India, just arrived from US, couple days ago. It is the end of June and rains are expected anytime, unannounced. I was there waiting for my friends to pick me up, to take me shopping for some rain shoes. I was much immersed in the experience of being there, soaking in life moving at a fast pace around me. There was a sense of impatience in the atmosphere as there were too many vehicles on the road, to be able to move fast enough. Mixed in was the sun, moist heat, dust, pollution and the blaring horns from drivers. I was going to be waiting there for 15 mins, my friend called.
My eyes lingered and then my gaze dropped down on a sight, about a foot by my side. Just inches away from traffic, on the footpath/sidewalk, on a tattered mat, was a mother tending to her newborn …maybe a month or so old. She had the baby on her legs outstretched, no clothes on the baby. My mind drifted very briefly to some memories of how I had lovingly purchased multiple things to keep my babies in perfect health and comfort. I was again drawn back to the sight in front of me. Words came to my mind …hygiene, safety, nutrition, sickness …but I was again drawn into the scene. The cars and people zapped by …but the only thing real for me was the mother taking care of that baby …perhaps just like the only thing real for the mother was her baby and what she could do for the baby. Flies were hovering over the baby. The baby was clean. She had a rag in her hand and a half filled bottle of water by her. She would sprinkle a few drops of water on the baby and then wipe it off with the rag. It was her way of keeping the baby cool and the flies away. The mother and the baby looked content, and for what it takes, doing ok with each other. I was filled with love and inspiration for the duo …what endurance and strength they have been born with and what beauty in that the mother making the best use of all that was available to her, to be able to give her baby all that she could.
This experience opened me up to a different reality altogether. The reality of our human arrogance that equates a good life and happiness with wealth and all that it brings. I remember only 3 years ago when I previously visited Mumbai, I had a very different perception. I used to feel sad and have tears in my eyes as I walked past poverty and people living in tiny made up houses with their kids roaming around naked. I felt happy and also guilty about having a beautiful house and a bountiful life. I assumed they were suffering from poverty. I assumed I was happy and was supposed to be happy because I had all these material comforts.
In the 3 years in between, I went through a profound journey of self-discovery, transformation and renewal. I can now see the world through the eyes of people who have felt like their body has betrayed them completely. People who had to show up for themselves, each day with tremendous courage to survive, what feels like their own death, day after day. The ones that go through pain so intense that they have to continually keep tapping into the pulse of life itself to find faith, surrender and the means to help them inch towards the ability to thrive. Having a house, the food, the comforts, all become part of gratitude. Body and mind become the primary dwelling and the immediate place of turmoil and suffering.
There is tremendous beauty in the strength and resilience that people show, in showing up each day of their life, to make the best of what they have available to them.
To me this day, there was no difference between this mother and anyone else doing just that. Having a house is not enough. What you choose while living in any kind of house or under the sun is what makes you what you are. In that baby I saw a beautiful being born with a purpose. One purpose was to open my eyes to this beauty. In the mother I saw a face of pure nurture and love. I felt a renewed faith that we are all very well equipped for where we are placed. In that mother and baby, and all other contrasts around me, I saw no suffering, only beauty, grace and strength!