William, my husband’s school buddy, was gone. That dreaded call had confirmed it. William, working his night shift at a reputed Indian call-center in Gurgaon, suddenly collapsed of a cardiac arrest. His panic-stricken colleagues took him to the nearest hospital and sat in wait… waiting for that reassuring word that he was “okay”. But it never came.
William, an easy-going, friendly person of forty-two, who did not look a day older than thirty-three given his thin, almost skinny frame, always had a sparkle in his eyes and a ready smile that invariably broke out into full throated giggles – this is what I see when I close my eyes… this is what I remember of William.
Jolly, friendly, good-humored….goofy even, William always had a happy, witty predisposition as he went about his everyday battles of life. Smiling through the ever-rising petrol prices; smiling through the maddening Gurgaon traffic; smiling through those ‘unrealistic’ deadlines imposed by the boss; smiling through that missed promotion; smiling through the fact that he may not be making those big bucks or having a luxury car like the other guy; smiling through the failed attempt at starting a new business… William would smile through everything.
And William, wherever he is, I can see him smiling down and breaking into that quintessential, full throated laughter of his.
Life is hard and living it is even harder! These everyday battles of life – these constant problems and difficulties are hard as it is. And our constant worries and reactions to them make living through them even harder…
“Can’t you see where you’re going? These stupid people drive on the road with their eyes closed!”, “I got such a lousy bonus this year!” “I have to wait another year to buy that car… my dream 2BHK house!”, “My child is not doing well in school! I don’t know what to do?”, “I’m fighting with my spouse all the time!”, “I have two cars but he has four!” It is just unending, isn’t it? Our constant comparisons and competition with others… and the result is our constant unhappiness.
We come with nothing and we go with nothing; we will all pass away so why do we fret and fume, fuss and stress and fill our lives with worries about all those material things which will be left behind?
Sadly, our happiness today is tied to the possession of all things material. In our unhappiness and disenchantment of what we don’t have, we never register what we do have – the breathtaking beauty of nature; the lush forest, the trees and flowers, the pretty clouds and the moon on a starry night… We have our health and hearth, our lovely friends, our loving family and precious children… we have all these things – things which could actually fill our short life with happiness, if we only let them!
“Good Evening, madaam, sir!”, “...here’s your change, sir” …anything else madam?”, “Thank you very much, Madaam, Sir!” – you are greeted with these words and a big hearty smile every time you enter a McDonalds or a Burger King.
Leaving their home, their family and friends and going to another country; working as a waiter and waitresses in fast food joints; slogging away endlessly from dawn to dusk; living from pay-check to pay-check and sometimes even barely scraping through. No big houses to call their own, no luxury cars, no expensive watches, clothes, shoes, bags – a sure shot receipt for unhappiness, as you and I would say.
But why is it that these petite Filipino waiters and waitresses are always smiling, laughing, singing and humming as they serve you your Big Mac burgers and French fries?
Well, maybe because these people don’t shackle happiness in conditions or situations like you and I do: They don’t link their happiness to when this happens or when that happens. And they don’t postpone happiness or procrastinate on it. They’re happy in the moment – in the ‘now’.
Talking of procrastination and living in the ‘now’, years have passed since we last met William, even though he was living in Gurgaon where we always stayed when we flew down from Kuwait.
“I spoke to him on the phone; we’ll try to catch up next time, maybe…” my husband would say each time. “Next time”, – we never got that “next time”, and it now fills us with grief … guilt! Life is short – too short; although we will not have a ‘next time’ with William, we still have ‘now’ at our disposal.
So, go and have that much delayed cappuccino with your friend, now! Call your parents and tell them you love them, now! Tell your husband or wife; your children that you can’t live without them, now!
Make that bucket list – now!
Shireen Passi Chopra