Hope springs

‘And all the spaces of our past moments of solitude, the spaces in which we have suffered from solitude, enjoyed, desired and compromised solitude, remain indelible within us, and precisely because the human being wants them to remain so. He knows that the space identified with his solitude is creative; that even when it is forever expunged from the present, when henceforth, it is alien to all the promises of the future, even when we no longer have a garret, when the attic room is lost and gone, there remains the fact that we once loved a garret, once lived in an attic. We return to them in our night dreams.’ (Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard, 1958)

I’ve been very sad recently.  My childhood home in India which was locked up, had been burgled. Not satisfied with not finding much there (yes, we were very poor), the thieves then ransacked the place, even ripping apart the mattresses.  Even if a home has been a very humble place, with not many things there, it still has its memories. It was also my first home and a place I always went back to.  I learnt to walk there and play with the children who lived nearby.  Our school was nearby.  So many people came there.  The address is forever etched my heart.  My beloved uncle and my father both passed away there. That place was the centre of my universe for decades until I left but I always came back to it whenever I visited India from the UK. My British born children loved it too.

Then this burglary happened- totally out of the blue. I felt violated myself because my home was so intimately connected to me- it was who I was, it was my body. The mattresses that had been ripped apart lay on the same bed that my father had died.  I was angry and helpless. But there was nothing to be done. When I was praying, the thought came into my head, ‘You need to concentrate on yourself. There is nothing to be done by getting angry or upset’.  And then I read about the people in Australia who had lost everything in the recent bushfires- and precious things like their pets, photographs of their childhood, livelihood, etc.  Tragically some had even died trying to save their homes. I began to feel grateful that such physical evidences of my life were still there- photographs, mementos, and my memories too.  No one had been injured during the burglary.  I heard a woman say about her home being destroyed during the floods in the UK, ‘After all, it is just bricks and mortar.’  And I thought about all those people around the world who had lost homes, left their homes fleeing wars or other disasters, or were even homeless.  Suddenly I began to see a brighter side to everything- and really how lucky I was.

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Black mountain on fire, February 2020 (image: Wikimedia commons, Saritha Balram)

Then today, I saw this- a little tiny shoot of a cactus plant.  Cactus plants are quite difficult to grow at home from seeds but somehow this little thing had managed to sprout. I felt like it was saying to me, ‘Don’t give up hope.’  It is still a long way from becoming a proper cactus plant but I thought this little thing has struggled and found a way to come out of the dark sandy soil, so could I come out my own dark place.

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My tiny cactus plant!

about lost things

When I am tired, I can be very forgetful.  Yesterday, after attending a very inspiring conference on a subject dear to my heart, I left all the handouts somewhere.  Typically we can do the following things when we lose stuff-

1. Berate ourselves

2. Forget and let go

3. Try to find them again

Well, the first option is never a good idea- only of course, we must never be so tired that we don’t know what we are doing.  The other two options are interesting.  With my lost papers, I could have just let them go- after all, yesterday I had written about acceptance.  I did remember the most important points from the papers that were memorable to me, so it was fine.   I think, sometimes instead of things, we have to lose people too- people who have become toxic to us.  It is not a loss- it is a gain then.

In this case, I decided to see if I could either find the papers or get duplicates.  The process was most interesting.  I emailed some people who I otherwise would not have and and received nice messages from them. I learnt about the valuable work these people were doing.  I realised that I had connected to some nice people only because I lost some papers.  I learnt what I valued about the conference and remembered what I had to without any paper reference.  Great stuff- I think.  We all have heard those stories when people deliberately leave something in someone’s house when they really want to get in touch with them on the pretext of finding their lost things.  Now I see lost things in a different way- a positive thing, a way of making connections and finding out about myself.

So next time you lose something, do think about doing the last two options- that is creativity!