In these times of great anxiety, we need something to ground ourselves, give us hope in our ability to get through this. Our relationships are the greatest source of resilience and strength.
The man came to see the woman, a long lost lover.
He came from the town into the big city, without much money. Withering away in his small town, as the local businesses slowly and painfully died.
He had held on to what little opportunity he could find in his town, until he couldn’t. Until the debts piled up, and the opportunities dried up.
He wanted to see her again. And hope that he could find a fresh start again. Fix his life again. He came with what little he had left in his wallet and a briefcase.
He called on the woman in the big city, arriving unannounced.
Taken aback, but glad to see him again, the woman let him in.
They stood awkwardly at the front porch, a dash of unsaid things running through both their minds.
But soon they went inside and started talking. First the usual small talk, until it wasn’t.
It looks like it will rain. Yes, so-and-so is still doing that. No, I haven’t gotten married yet, but congratulations to you! No, I’m just visiting.
They talked and reminsced about the past. The minutes turned into hours as memories of the past came flooding back.
The skies shattered and heavy droplets of rain drowned the city. Even though it was midday, it became dark.
She was married now and lived well, he thought.
He felt ashamed to ask for what he wanted. Her love, a chance to start again.
The doorbell rang, and the man decided to leave.
It must be her husband. I’m a huge fool to even be here.
“No, stay,” said the woman.
The door was left unanswered.
They spoke some more. Until there was nothing left to say, except of course that which actually mattered.
What if I had showed up then?
What if I had said that to you?
What if life had played out just slightly differently? What if we had loved more deeply? What if we had said what was on our minds, our hearts?
She asked to leave for just a few minutes to go buy some food from around the corner. The man was hesitant to stay any longer, but agreed on her insistence. She borrowed his raincoat and dashed off.
A few minutes later, the door bell rang.
The man opened the door, surprised to hear her come back so soon.
But instead, there was an old man standing in the door way.
Is the woman in? I am the landlord. They have not paid their rent for yet another month.
And it all started making sense to the man.
What seemed like luxury suddenly looked different. He saw the damp walls, the empty pantry, the unlit and unheated room.
The landlord left, disappointed at not meeting the tenants of the home.
Soon, the woman came back, breathless from the rain.
They ate in silence.
He thanked her for helping him relive shared memories, and told her that he must be getting on. And with that, he left.
As he made his way back to the train station, disappointed by the turn of luck, he reached into his raincoat, and pulled out a beautiful pendant that came with a note.
I read the letter in your pocket that laid you off. I did not know you had lost your job and you came here with nothing. Here is something to help you get by.
And as she cleaned up the scant meal she had served her guest, she saw a small stack of bills underneath the cushion.
He had left what little he had, save the fare he needed to go back to the town.
I hope this can help you keep your home.
Both the man and the woman gave, and gave deeply.
That was the gift that only love can provide.
In times of uncertainty, when our own mortality becomes abundantly clear, the only thing that can ground us is love.
There is a lot of panic right now. Panic for our health, the economy, our livelihoods, our families.
Life can seem out of our control.
But in times like this, the only thing we can rely on is not our bank account, although that is necessary. It is not our businesses and jobs, because they can turn for the worse at any time.
It is love.
The crisis we face today reminds us to latch onto the things that matter. The things we forget, the people we take for granted, the gifts we have received over our lifetime that we have ignored in the pursuit of more. They can never be taken from us.
It is hard to do this sometimes. I believe it is often because we do not feel we have done enough to prove that we are worthy of it all. So we must do more, achieve more, impress more. But none of that gets us there.
The only pre-requisite to be grounded in our relationships is to accept the gift of love that we have received and freely give others from the same bottomless well.
The crisis is an opportunity to become grounded in the unchanging things of our lives.
Love in the Time of Corona is the cure to our anxieties, our worries, our panic.
In my last post (The President and The Monk), I wrote about Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the Hindu guru who became the “ultimate teacher” in the life of Abdul Kalam, the Muslim President of India.
Later on in Abdul Kalam’s book, I read a quote by Pramukh Swami that resonates deeply with me.
He said, “In the joy of others lies our own.”
And I think to myself, what an apt expression to guide us through trying times (or even not so trying times).
He not only said this, but lived it his entire life. He himself visited hundreds of thousands of homes, guiding families on how to resolve conflicts and bring people together. He answered close to a million letters from people with questions about their families, their businesses, their worries and anxieties about health, and of course deep spiritual problems.
Perhaps that is why when people met him, they couldn’t help but feel completely at ease. Why he felt at ease no matter what the situation was.
When he was diagnosed with a severe blockage in his heart, he acted with complete equanimity. This was not a stoic coldness, a metallic indifference to the world and the body. It was a deep inner spring of joy that always bubbled. That is true equanimity, he taught.
As a leader, when there was major difficulties that threatened the very core of his position and his organization, he took it in stride. Those who closely observed him noticed that he remained light and unaffected as ever.
I hope to write more about lessons from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and what I’m learning reading Transcendence, the final book by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in the coming months.
Today of all days, as anxiety, fear, and panic overwhelms us, we must dig a bit deeper to give the gift of gratitude, of love, and of hope. More than ever, we need the lessons that Pramukh Swami taught Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
Update from my life: My wife and I will be moving to Houston this summer. At the same time, I have decided to go deep into healthcare as the sector to build my career. Many of you who know me well know how passionate I’ve been about health from my days of going vegan. I’ve recommended books, documentaries, etc to many of you. I’ve also done some writing, and had volunteered for many years for NYTimes Best Selling author Dr. Michael Greger and his organization NutritionFacts.org.
I now want to go deeply into it. I’ve decided to start a weekly publication to share the things I’m learning about the healthcare world and use that as a marker of credibility to get work in that field. You can follow my journey here as a complete novice below:
And of course, if you feel like this resonates with you and you can think of others who would be good additions to our tribe, do share this with them.
Aside: Special thanks to O. Henry’s short story The Gift of Magi and Rituparno Ghosh’s film Raincoat for inspiring the short story above.
How are you feeling?
I believe in building a tribe. And a great tribe helps each other out. We check in with each other. How are you feeling during these times? What are you doing to keep yourself buoyant, hopeful? Do share below! It matters!