Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
I recently heard a talk by Dr Wayne W Dyer, based on the above nursery rhyme. He makes a beautiful analogy as he talks about the importance of living life with peace, acceptance, joy and harmony, both for self and others. If the boat is your life, you swim with the flow down the stream, rather than against the tide. Take what life has to offer and make the best out of it. Life is a dream because things will happen and most of the time we have no control. All we can control is our own reaction and our attitude. As he says in one of his quotes, “It is better to be kind than to be right.”
This reminded of my days of yore when I was newly married and had long days to spend alone at home with nothing much to do. As I would come out on the terrace in the evening I would often find Mrs Zain from the adjoining apartment and we got to chat. She worked in a nearby school and asked me if I wanted to join as a teacher. Seemed like a good option so I went with her and was appointed. I was assigned to teach Class 5 with about 15 students, all girls. This was a community school and most of the students were from under-privileged backgrounds. Some were much older for their class and with very basic English language fluency. I was a snob from an English medium background who thought anybody who couldn’t speak English was sadly lacking in life.
I went into class the first day and introduced myself. I got a chance to know some of the girls who were less shy. Amna was one of them. She wore a scarf on her head and was at least four years older than the class average. The other girls told me she was engaged and will be married next year. Horrified, I looked at this 14 year old thinking of the kind of depression she must be suffering from. She looked back at me with bright eyes and a cheerful countenance. For a long time after that, I kept looking for signs of despair or de-motivation in this young person but all I saw was a very courteous, hard working and cheerful soul ever ready to help me and her classmates. She was fun to be with and all her handicaps of poor language skills and a less privileged background did not deter her from putting in her best in school. Her effort and respect for every one was what inspired me to give her my best care and support. She told me once, and I knew it to be a fact from other teachers and students who knew her personally, that both her parents were unskilled labourers and worked as domestic servants in a nearby bungalow. When she went home from school she had to look after her young siblings and help with other housework. And yet, not one day did she come to school without doing her homework or in a dirty uniform. She spoke highly of her parents and said she loved them, and wanted to do all she could for them because she knew her parents were giving her all they had, which was, time for her to go to school. They could have asked her to stay home so her mother could work and earn in the morning as well, but they loved her and wanted to give her all the life chances they could.
Really? Oh my God! Is this what parents’ genuine love and support could bring out in children? Amna was an effective communicator because her parents had taught her the value of communication. She was a caring person because her parents showed their care and concern for her. She was confident because she was allowed to make a choice to study even though they would be less materially sound if her mother couldn’t work in the morning. And she accepted her early and arranged marriage as an aspect of her life she probably didn’t know how to fight or maybe even that it could be fought.
And here I was…… a fighter all my life. A rebel without a cause! I missed out on a lot of opportunities in life, in spite of having all the privileges in the world, because I was too busy using up my energy swimming against the currents and standing up for issues I didn’t know how to handle or maybe was not even equipped to handle. I missed out, on many occasions, the love and support of my elders and friends because I was not perceptive enough on how to communicate and with whom.
It was after I met Amna that I understood the true meaning of the prayer I often read: