I remember once, when I was a kid, we had gone to visit my uncle and his family in my village which was a good twenty minute ride from my place in the city. Since we were five of us my uncle offered to drop my sister’s home on his LML Vespa while my mother and me went with my father on our Kinetic Honda. Yes, those were the days when the humble scooters were in fashion and tripling wasn’t a heinous crime.
It was around ten o’clock at night when we started to head home. Being around Christmas time, we could feel the slight chill in the air. Goa is not the coldest part of the country but the vast open fields of the village made sure the mercury kept low. As we rode back we could see many houses on the way lit up with Christmas lights, one of which stood out for all the right reasons. My father stopped the bike for a second in admiration while my mother too stared in amazement. The only one disinterested was me; for my only focus was overtaking my uncle who was well ahead. My father prodded me to join in in admiring the beauty, but as naive and focussed I was nothing could distract me. In return I told my father, “It is a race, we need to catch up.” Without saying anything my father stepped up the acceleration, and we reached home, but last.
I am not sure if my father remembers this incident. I am not sure if he even remembers the house and its lighting. But surprisingly, I do.
There was no race we were running, no prizes to be won, no honour to be lost. My father and his brother were both riding at speeds they were comfortable with, ensuring maximum safety. Yet, it was me who wanted to get home first, to probably prove a pointless point and have a standing that would last for at most, a day and put my insecurities to rest for the same duration. At the cost of this non-existent race I had missed out on that house and all the beauty it held. I had lost a chance to soak in and appreciate beauty, at no cost at all. Moreover, I had lost a chance of learning something, again for free, which I could have put to very good use. Many things lost on a single night of uncalled-for madness.
As I remember this incident I can’t fail to realize that our lives in general have become this non-existent race. Ever since we gain consciousness of the world or even earlier, we are taught to race to the next step, pressurised to maintain pace and frightened to our bones if we don’t. As a consequence when we start to walk we are pushed to run; when we blabber we are pushed to speak and so on and so forth. We are taught to see everyone, even our relatives, friends and neighbours as competitors, souring the fruits of the relationship. Exams turn into battlefields and not the intended test of our understanding and knowledge. Having a car, and then a better car than the rest is important. Getting married and having children is even more important. Getting a seat in a public transport is a life achievement, for which any amount of pushing, pulling and stamping it may warrant is justified. This is unfortunately what our life has turned into. A life in which we have achieved many things but lost out on much more.
A few days back I read an article where a teenager had discovered a lost Mayan city. The teenager was hailed as a prodigy. Then I read about the 18 year old who won the Spanish Grand Prix. Videos of India’s Got Talent and other shows show me kids who do death defying stunts. A five year old defeats a 6 year old only to be challenged by a 4 year old in the next season. Now, do we continue to gaze in amazement or ask, “At what age do we let kids be kids?” When would this race end?
In this world where the future cannot be taken for granted and the only constant is change, let us live in and enjoy the present which doesn’t cost a dime. Let us not forget the beauty of the open fields, parks, clear blue skies or the petrichor of the first rains. Let us take pleasure in every stage of life and not rush to the next. Let us live life and not run through it. Life unfortunately doesn’t have an undo button.
So introspect, and work towards meeting your needs and not your wants. It will take time but slow and steady wins the race. Even the tortoise knew that.