Earlier this month, I encountered my first writer’s block. I had ideas, experiences, books, and places to write about, but somehow nothing flowed like it usually does. A friend of mine recently asked me how I decided what my writing would be about – whether I research a topic and then write, or deliberate upon numerous issues and then narrow them down. I guess she was hoping I was methodical in my compositions, but I am not. I need a certain jumble and disarray for things to flow.
As an Indian, I have been pre-programmed since I was a zygote to create a certain bucket list of targets: A great education, a higher education, a scholarship, a great job, an apartment overlooking Lake Michigan, great relationships and wonderful travels. So, I guess the block originated from the question: Of all the things that we put on our bucket lists, what will we cherish the most?
Spirituality is a great escape, to keep us from answering this very important question. Being a natural cynic, I have been a wary observer at Hindu festivals, Bible studies, and rituals at Haji Ali, as I tried to find a tangible relation to otherworldliness. Only one thing resonated very deeply with me, and that is the practice of giving thanks. So what did I have to be thankful for? Sure, I could give thanks for a great life, etc etc, but I needed something more corporeal.
So, as I tried to navigate through my creative block, I started browsing my bookshelves, going through old photographs, and grasping at some forgotten memories. As pieces of my past, lost in the stride of my exciting present, started coming back to me in flashes and rare glimpses, I realized that I cherished these memories the most!
Memories, like my grandfather’s hands – The skin on his 80-year-old hands is papery and soft. I always loved playing with the veins on the back of his palm, trying to catch them as they molded away from my grip. Long, afternoons that I spent with him, pestering him to tell me every single story, snippet and song ever written in Indian scriptures. Climbing up the guava trees in their yard, while my grandmother made me fried yams (called Arbi in India).
My mother’s closet – As a kid, I used to love climbing into her pile of saris. Her clothes had a faint smell of talcum powder and soap- just clean and comforting. To this day, that smell is extremely fresh in my mind. I used to fall asleep amidst her clothes only to be found by my utterly panicked parents who thought I had been kidnapped.
My father’s scooter – My place in our old family scooter was in between my dad’s seat and the handlebars. I used to stand there, against the wind, as my father drove us to the market or drove me to school. At my grandparents’ place, there was a picture of my father at age 16, leaping over a pole – Flying through the air with absolute confidence. He was the state high-jump champion. That picture was always vivid in my mind, and I thought of it each time I felt like I was flying against the wind, like when I was parasailing off the Gulf of Thailand.
Music lessons – Me, at the age of 5, wrestling to get out of music class, and my parents firmly holding me down, and making me practice. The faint humming of my teacher’s old “Tanpura”(A kind of Indian lute), and my begrudging acceptance that I loved it!
Time spent with my quirky best friends – Planning childish nights of communicating with the beyond, huddled together around a candle, screaming and laughing. Eating French fries exactly the way I like it (soggy, salty and mildly warm). Going on a Toblerone diet once a year.Screaming our heads off on roller coasters at Six Flags and then driving to Krispy Kreme in the middle of the night to devour a dozen chocolate-iced crème filled donuts. Playing poker night after night, and never for real money! Running and hiking with my three musketeers who prefer to remain anonymous, and listening to them sing and play guitar into the wee hours of the night.
My brother – The earliest thought I have of being truly grateful is from the day that my brother was born. After school, my father took me to visit my newborn sibling, and this little thing opened his eyes, and gave me a curious and clear stare. There was such wonderment and freshness in those eyes, that I couldn’t help but fall immensely and hopelessly in love with him.
My partner in crime – Finally, and most recently, when scuba diving in the Pacific Ocean, I remember feeling like I had stepped off onto an entirely new planet. I was terrified and blown away at the same time. In the stunning beauty and deafening silence that enveloped me, I looked at the hand holding mine, and thought, I’m so glad to be at the bottom of the ocean with you.
So, you ask, and I wonder, why am I suddenly so sappy?! I am not usually a philosophical person. I detest Paulo Coelho, and can never stand inspirational pep talks unless there is an element of absolute grounded reality to it. But this week, (as Linda Goodman would put it) perhaps due to the lunar juxtaposition of my natal horoscope, or something like that, I grasp at these forgotten threads of pure joy.
Sometimes, and these times are truly rare, the fog that is your daily life lifts, and you see things more clearly than you ever did. That’s the thing about epiphanies – they aren’t really extraordinary, just thoughts that are pristine. I know that in the regular beat of my jet setting life, this feeling will pass, and I will write about art, and travel and history, taking all these people and gifts I have been given for granted. But that, truly, is the beauty of it. Leaving you free to fly, knowing that when you return home, you will find peace with your memories as your head hits your own, familiar, cool pillow.
Feeling grateful to these people and experiences is like feeling grateful for my hands as I type this article. I find it ridiculous to say thank you to them, but will be devastated without them. Today is the day I seize the opportunity to remember, because tomorrow, the pace of my life will make me forget. Today for me, is thanksgiving without a turkey!