Looking back with pride

Amrita Raichand writes about small town values and how they have influenced her.

Looking back with pride

Growing up in a small town, little did I know that there will come a time when I would reminisce so fondly of my small town days and miss them, especially when I part the curtains of a busy big city existence. Do I miss them? Sure, I do. Could I have achieved all that I have? Should I not have moved? May be...may be not!

This brings me to a very pertinent question. Why is it that even though we strive for success, power and fame all our lives, finally it’s the little things in life that bring us the biggest joys: a coffee with one’s best friend, a cuddle with one’s child or a little ‘dabba’ of ‘halwa’ that comes from mom’s house?

I have been doing some soul searching lately — trust me, one only ends up doing that in a maximum city like Mumbai when one is compelled to stay put in bed by flu!

A simple cold and cough, coupled with fever can knock you down for two weeks. It’s actually not the flu that is so virulent, rather it is the condition of the body that one has battered and bruised by burning candles at both ends — by the way of over-exercising, working long hours (in my case, cooking in a hot kitchen and alternating that with sitting in a cold air-conditioned room making notes, being on a 24-hour-call duty for the only child I have — yet another price one ends up paying while living a hectic city life. And embarrassing as it may sound, I do worry about his grades even though he is not even 10).

Finally, something as bizarre as keeping up with what’s called the ‘social scene’ here does get stressful. Like how it is considered awful to let your friends down even when sometimes you just can’t show up!

I am not suggesting that any of the above are not important, neither am I saying I do not want to partake of this life. However, I do wonder about the lack of opportunity to pause and reflect upon life and just do nothing for a change.

I remember if I ever fell sick as a child, in the middle of the night, my mom’s doctor-friends would just land up at home (yes it helped that my mother headed the management of the Tata Hospital, Dhanbad). They would examine me and instead of  prescribing a string of antibiotics, would simplify the process with ‘iced pattis’, and supplement that with a list of dos (listen to some good music and eat well) — and don’ts (“beta no playing outdoors for two days”, no ‘masti’ and no school!).

This, along with the drama that I absolutely cherished of almost the entire neighbourhood visiting you with some simple dish cooked specially for you, would spring me back to good health in no time at all!

Life in a big city can weigh one down with all sorts of pressures: work, marriage, kids etc. However, one can alleviate some of these by retaining the values of the small town that one grew up in (and even if one didn’t). By doing so, one can make the most of the opportunities that Mumbai provides, whilst at the same time sidestepping being embroiled in the glitz and glamour here to an extent where one forgets who one really is. So, here is what I have learnt over time. I believe that if executed sincerely, these may help one lead a wholesome life:

Starting one’s day with meditation. I cannot emphasise enough the benefits that even 15 minutes of quietude can bring to one’s life.

Making a list of the things that one needs to do in order of priority. This is something I learnt from my father-in-law.

Exercising, even half an hour a day, is enough as long as you do it regularly.

Making it a point that one sits down and chats with one’s children for at least one meal sans all electronic gadgets. If and when possible, put them to bed too.

Sleeping, at least for six hours if not eight.

Letting one’s hair down.Going out when one wants to but not going when one is too tired to do so or otherwise disinclined. Go for a movie or a quiet dinner instead with your loved ones.

Making fewer friends but valuable ones.
Friends who will take the time out for you when you are down and out and who will care more about ‘you’ rather than the bags, shoes and the car you own. Those who will understand when you couldn’t make it to their party because you were busy at work but will sulk when you don’t show up at hospital and give them company when their parent is admitted there; those who won’t call you just on a Friday to plan the ‘party night’ but on a regular basis to just chat about nothing. Those who will promote your work selflessly and will genuinely be proud of your success.

And if you can’t make such friends, do remember you always have your family to fall back upon because at the end of the day, they will be the ones to pick you up when you fail and look up at you proudly when you succeed. 

Finally and most importantly, thank God for everything you have. Make prayers your steering wheel and not your spare tyre to be sought in times of an emergency.

Amrita Raichand (Chef and television presenter)

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