I don’t know when I became aware of my own mortality. I can’t really put my finger on it. Was it when I was a teenager, lying in bed late at night, dreaming and concocting stories in my head about the future, the way all kids do.. stories that didn’t really have an end. They were open ended dreams that were vague and hazy in their conclusion. I couldn’t really dream beyond a certain point of time. Not that I thought I would be dead by then or anything so grim, but more like the exciting part of life would be over. Or perhaps it was just that I exhausted the limits of my imagination. How young I was. Big dreams, elaborate stories, detailed to the minutest. If one day it was a dream of a house and a man, the next it was of a career of fame and fortune. Each story so detailed and so real. It felt like I could reach out and touch it. But never did I plan for anything but the infinte. A dream and then.. well then nothing. My mind couldn’t make my dream or story jump beyond a certain point.
But somewhere along the way when the dream and the reality began merging I stopped dreaming and probably started living. The occasional story flashed into my head some nights but most nights the reality was better than any dream and it felt disloyal and selfish to want more.
Life passed by and very surreptitiously the end entered my consciousness. When and how things changed I really can’t pinpoint, but change it did and the seeds of thought on my mortality crept into my mind, and with that the dreams became finite. It has to end, that’s about the only sure thing in this journey, the end is a certainty. Maybe it happened because I lost a parent or maybe when I became a parent. Awareness of my mortality not in a ghoulish way but in a way that makes your life come alive.
I know now that there are all these unanswered questions that I have for my mom that I didn’t ask, and I know that there are some moments in my child’s life that I will never see. But I also know now that most of those questions don’t matter, and what matters is the life we lead together. With my children too, the length of time spent together won’t matter as much as the way that life was lead.
Knowing and accepting it’s going to end is what has made everything more bright, colourful and delicious for me. Something to savour and cherish, much like the feeling you get when you dig your spoon into your favourite dessert. It has to end but the joy and satisfaction you feel while eating it, is what makes the moment unique.
This might sound totally crazy I know, but now that I can savour my own mortality, my smile has gotten wider and my world a whole lot brighter.
The most glaring eye opener through all of this has been the immense privilege I enjoy and the amazing blinkers that so many I know wear about that very privilege.
My luck or good fortune is up close and personal now. I can’t un-see it even if I wanted to and I often wonder how so many others don’t seem to see it! Their lack of introspection is as astounding as it is troubling. The flooding of my social media timeline of people posting pictures of themselves doing simple domestic tasks ( And making that task akin to scaling a mountain or discovering the cure for cancer ! The elation level seems to be disproportionate to the complexity or difficulty of the task at hand !!) and endlessly complaining about not having their “Servants”
What is it about us that makes us revel in broadcasting our ineptitude at basic survival skills?
But having said that first let’s just pause a minute and look at that word “Servants” That’s a horrible word to describe people who work in your house day after day. The number of even so called enlightened people who use that cringe worthy word is truly mind boggling. This archaic all encompassing word to talk about people who do specific tasks. A word that’s reminiscent of slaves and ownership. A word that has its twisted roots both in Colonisation and in the caste system. Why isn’t the person a cook or a cleaning lady or a house manager or a nanny? Why is it so hard for you to describe them by the service they do or call them domestic workers or your staff?There is technically nothing wrong with the word as per the dictionary but there’s nothing right about it either. It’s just plain crass, insensitive & downright disrespectful to people who you trust your kids with, who cook the food that you live on, who do so many tasks that make your life heavenly and so damn easy. I know that neither you nor I are responsible for their circumstances. Circumstances that force them to leave their homes and loved ones and live with you. It’s a a twist of fate that put them there and us here, but I think the least we can do is to address them, refer to them & treat them with respect. It’s not just enough that you pay them, respect and love is a huge part of the human need. So desist, expunge and delete that word from your mind, heart and tongue.
Now having said that, back to privilege. Ok your staff isn’t there. We get it. What I don’t get is what makes you think that not having basic life skills is something to take pride in and something that you need to publish over all your social media and to anyone who cares to listen. Its totally possible that thanks to one’s privilege (many a time as I said before it’s just a twist of fate) you never needed to learn those skills and that’s sort of but not totally understandable but that’s not the point. Here’s the thing.. it’s not something to boast about that you have now learnt how to sweep or wash dishes or load the washing machine or cook a meal to feed yourself. That’s something you should know and if you don’t know it keep your voice down and go google it and learn it. And go about it quietly because trust me not knowing it is not what’s making you look foolish.. it’s bragging about it and being unaware that the boasting and the posting is a sign that you desperately need to check your privilege!
Privilege privilege,how it makes us all so blind in a way. We just become so used to so much, so very much that we have forgotten how to distinguish between real hardship and perceived hardship. It all feels so real to us. Our pain and hardships are real. From the smaller more mundane hardships like not being able meet our friends or go out for dinner or Nature’s basket being closed to bigger problems of being worried about our businesses & the future. We feel sorry for our kids cooped up in our 3 bedroom plus apartments, so lonely with multiple entertainment options and online schools and meals that fill them up and ACs to beat the summer heat! But the thing is that I am not suggesting that the problems of the privileged aren’t real because they are. They are real, but we have to put it in perspective. Are our or our kids’ pain & hardship really as real? I guess I don’t know! Maybe the only real pain right now is the fear. That fear is real as real for the privileged as it is for the “have nots”. But the glaring difference & something we really need to understand is that our fear is cushioned whether we like it or not. Cushioned by our privilege, the safety of home, the bank account & the power of that privilege that will get us into the hospital or get us the test or just get us more than what the others don’t have. It’s the difference between the powerful and the powerless. For the powerless it’s in an unimaginable fear of not just the now but their very survival. It is a paralysing fear that we can’t even begin to comprehend. It’s a fear of never being able to get up from this.. I’ll be the first to say that yes its a horrible and really frightening time for many of us but for the have nots it’s an apocalypse. Make no mistake about that. It’s an abyss from which most will never ever climb out.
So next time you post about how you washed dishes for the first time or crib on your Whattsapp group about not being able to go to Izumi or how you’re missing your gym… think once again. Check your privilege and check it again and again and again……