“It reassured me, and it felt like a hug from a time machine.” That is how fellow blogger Anusha described (in a recent write-up titled, “A Personal Odyssey”) the feelings that sounds from a mosque evoked in her, given that she had spent her formative years in Kuwait. This evocatively coined phrase led to my reflecting on my own roots. And, the deeper I thought, the more I realized that a lot of my deep-rooted beliefs about a diverse set of things such happiness, contentment, love, loss, friendship, spirituality, education, work, have actually metamorphosed quite significantly over time. At first, that might sound paradoxical. Deep-rooted beliefs, by their definition, aren't supposed to mutate, you might think. But from family to friends, from mentors to peers, from authors to bloggers, the people that collectively shape my thinking are too many to keep count of. While I do derive immense pleasure from the element of surprise that an open mind gifts me, I also realized something else. That the elements of my being that tend to be the most fulfilling and gratifying are those that are tied strongly to my roots. Just like how it is absolutely essential to continually water the root of a plant, continual learning actually helps make the beliefs firmly rooted, retaining the broad strokes even when the colors have changed! And, as we ‘grow,’ it is absolutely important to acknowledge our ‘roots’ – be it a high school teacher that inculcated certain values in us or an author that made you flesh out your thoughts on a particular topic with an amazingly counter-intuitive insight.
A high school teacher. I didn’t pull that out of thin air. I have actually been the lucky ‘student’ that learned a thing or two about not only the subject matter but also about higher order things from truly special people. The high school teacher is an Aunt of mine who tutored me in Physics. The thing that I continue to admire about her is her calm, collected nature. Even when I use to give her grief with my lack of work ethic at that time, she would handle me in a firm but polite manner, never letting her decibel level go beyond a certain range. Something that makes me respect her even more is the fact that she had lost both her parents in an airplane accident when she was in her teens. It was something that she has never mentioned to me. It amazes me that she has never had an ounce of self-pity ever. She just focuses on being warm, loving and nurturing to anyone that has the fortune of knowing her. As I have gone through the highs and lows of my own life, I have kept in constant touch with her, making it a point to spend quality time with her and her loving kids whenever I go to Chennai. Thinking of her and talking to her consistently do two things to me. One is, I get a sense of satisfaction of keeping her informed of my development as a person and as a professional. It makes me feel close to my roots. And secondly, it makes me appreciate the boon that is life. That despite the fact that she had to endure a significant, unfortunate life event in the formative years of her life, she developed into a role model. By being amazingly and consistently positive and centered, she makes me look up to her - as much as I might feel indignant when unfair things (such as the untimely loss of a loved one) happen that it behooves me to shower my loved ones with as much genuine love and affection as I can, while staying composed during challenging times. Am I there at the lofty pedestal that I place my teacher on? No, I am not. Do I think I will get there eventually? I will try with utmost sincerity, for I have the responsibility of paying it forward.
An ill-informed belief that I used to have was that loved ones should accept me completely, unequivocally, warts and all. And, I would balk at suggestions to, for instance, control my temper, retorting impulsively, “This is who I am. You ought to accept me.” To change meant that I was moving away from the core of who I was, I would say. But as I mellowed down a tad, I began to realize that it was not the roots that I was sticking to. It was more the weeds! I began to realize that anything that made loved ones feel less loved was actually inimical to the core of who I was. That to feel a sense of entitlement and demand impunity was both callous and cowardly. As a result, personal development is something that I invest a lot of time in. That is where being open to getting inspired by the unlikeliest and unfancied sources helps me.
As I look to the future, I hope that people that comprise my roots can continue to see me grow personally and professionally. This way, I can live in the present and yet continually experience the loving, comforting hug of that "time machine!"