Thursday, June 9, 2011

Homeward Bound

Last week, I attended my Sunday satsang at Little India and was just heading back to the hostel. As I waited for the train at the MRT station, someone tapped on my shoulder. Turning back, I saw a tiny lady who asked me in a timid voice how to go to Jurong East. I told her which train to take and where to get off, and soon we began chatting in Tamil. She was struggling with the weight of several shopping bags and the fear of getting lost, and yet, remarkably, she exuded a sense of quiet joy.

She had been here for four years, she told me. I was wondering how one wouldn't know their way about despite being here for that long, when it suddenly struck me that she possibly never had an opportunity to go out and explore for herself. She was one amongst millions of those who flock to the Middle East or South East Asia, armed only with their dreams. They usually end up in the kitchens of wealthy people, scrubbing grime off their floors, doing the laundry, cleaning dirty dishes at the kitchen sink... Add to that the agony of being separated from home, all alone in an alien land. They go through it all, their dreams spurring them to move on.

This particular lady told me that she would be going back home to Tanjore this week. I glanced at her Mustafa shopping bags and realized that they were packed with goodies to be shared back home. Chocolates for the kids, a watch for Appa, a dress for the younger sister, 'foreign' made perfume...four years' savings! Maybe her contract had come to an end and she wouldn't return. I don't know. I didn't want to be nosy.

But all along, what amazed me was her tranquility. She had been successful in her endeavors of the past four years, and the fruit of her efforts lay in her being able to go back home with enough money. Yet, there was no trace of the restlessness that excitement and sudden happiness usually bring. At the same time, after she returns home, what would she do? What about the future? Suppose she is not able to land another contract? There was no trace of the dejection that worry brings either. She was calm; as tranquil as the break of dawn over the horizon. Maybe, that is how life should be. Neither is there a sudden phase of happy restless excitement, nor is there a sudden dip due to dejection or worry. Just constant contentment; tranquil, quiet joy...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Homeward Bound

Last week, I attended my Sunday satsang at Little India and was just heading back to the hostel. As I waited for the train at the MRT station, someone tapped on my shoulder. Turning back, I saw a tiny lady who asked me in a timid voice how to go to Jurong East. I told her which train to take and where to get off, and soon we began chatting in Tamil. She was struggling with the weight of several shopping bags and the fear of getting lost, and yet, remarkably, she exuded a sense of quiet joy.

She had been here for four years, she told me. I was wondering how one wouldn't know their way about despite being here for that long, when it suddenly struck me that she possibly never had an opportunity to go out and explore for herself. She was one amongst millions of those who flock to the Middle East or South East Asia, armed only with their dreams. They usually end up in the kitchens of wealthy people, scrubbing grime off their floors, doing the laundry, cleaning dirty dishes at the kitchen sink... Add to that the agony of being separated from home, all alone in an alien land. They go through it all, their dreams spurring them to move on.

This particular lady told me that she would be going back home to Tanjore this week. I glanced at her Mustafa shopping bags and realized that they were packed with goodies to be shared back home. Chocolates for the kids, a watch for Appa, a dress for the younger sister, 'foreign' made perfume...four years' savings! Maybe her contract had come to an end and she wouldn't return. I don't know. I didn't want to be nosy.

But all along, what amazed me was her tranquility. She had been successful in her endeavors of the past four years, and the fruit of her efforts lay in her being able to go back home with enough money. Yet, there was no trace of the restlessness that excitement and sudden happiness usually bring. At the same time, after she returns home, what would she do? What about the future? Suppose she is not able to land another contract? There was no trace of the dejection that worry brings either. She was calm; as tranquil as the break of dawn over the horizon. Maybe, that is how life should be. Neither is there a sudden phase of happy restless excitement, nor is there a sudden dip due to dejection or worry. Just constant contentment; tranquil, quiet joy...