By Suma Varughese
It is only beyond the comfort zone that growth lies, says Suma Varughese
The Sathe family were at dinner one Sunday night. Ajoba and Aji were regaling the children with stories of their childhoods and early married life.
“Do you know,” Ajoba said, who had grown up in a small village to an agricultural family, “It was so difficult to go to school those days. There was no school in our village so I used to walk for two hours every day to reach my school, whether it was burning hot, freezing cold, or soaking wet.”
“Wow,” said Nisha, “I wonder if I would have even gone to school if I had to struggle so hard.”
“Yup,” agreed Alka, “As if going to school is so great. I would have been happy to never go to school, and simply stay at home and play.”
Ajoba smiled at them. “You kids are used to things being easy for you, and in consequence, you have no value for them. Because I had to take so much trouble to reach school, I really valued my education. I never cribbed about having to go to school, because no one forced me to go. I wanted to go. ”
He added, “I wanted to learn, that was very important for me. But equally important was that only education would help me to move beyond our family poverty. We were really poor. There were days when I used to go to school with nothing in my stomach, and when lunchtime came, I would have my fill of the school water.”
Tender-hearted Nisha cried out in horror, tears rolling down her eyes. “Oh Ajoba, how terrible for you. How you must have suffered.”
Ajoba patted her gently on the shoulder, “It was difficult, but you know what, it has made me who I am. Even after I got a job and came to the big city and got married to Aji, we had a lot of struggle. The children came quickly, and I was only a school teacher. How hard it was to make ends meet.”
Aji’s eyes turned misty, “I remember once making an omelette out of one egg to feed four children (Dad had two brothers and a sister).”
“But because Aji and I were used to a hard life, we never found it unbearable. We often forewent our meals happily so the children could eat. It was not hard to do that. And all those years of walking really built up my constitution,” added Ajoba.
“It is because Ajoba made all those hard choices that he developed the character he needed to triumph over life,” said Dad. “Thanks to him, all of us siblings got high quality education, and are able to lead a comfortable life.”
“If I had decided to take the easy way out, and sit at home and play instead, maybe you and your sister would be still in our village, Alka,” said Ajoba, teasingly.
He added seriously, “If there is one thing I have learnt in life, it is that the difficulties we go through and successfully overcome are our biggest teachers, and give us the strength, determination, courage and faith we need to live life.”
“Ajoba,” said Nisha thoughtfully, “You said that we have things easy today. So how do we develop our character the way you have?”
“There are challenges in all lives and in all ages,” said Ajoba. “The challenges change but we all have ample opportunity to develop character.”
“One of the most important things to do at any time,” he added, “is to never take the easy way out. That one habit is enough to help you build all the character in the world. For instance, Alka, I often find that you put off doing your homework or studying for an exam till the last minute. Now that is taking the easy way out. And I see that you often take advantage of being the baby of the family by getting Nisha and Avijit to iron your clothes, braid your hair, put your food in your dabba and wash your dishes. You are now 15 years old. It’s time you became independent.”
Alka, nodded, embarrassed.
“And what about me, Ajoba?” asked Nisha anxiously, “Where do you see me taking the easy way out?”
“Well, child,” said Ajoba, ruffling her hair, “You are a sincere person and I see you putting in effort to do your duty. But you are often limited by your timid nature. You do what is required but you do not go beyond. Even when it comes to relationships you hold back. Be more daring, strive a little more. All growth lies outside the comfort zone.”
Nisha flushed, looking uncomfortable. “Can you give me some examples,” she asked Ajoba in a low tone.
Dad responded, “You want to learn driving but are afraid to do it; you want to start your own blog, but have not done it as yet, you allow some of your friends to take advantage of you.”
“That is true,” she conceded, “but I don’t know how to handle these fears.”
“Learn to not give them much importance and continue with your EFT practice and affirmations. You are already much better than you used to be. Just work on it,” reassured Mom.
Nisha felt a surge of strength inside. She wanted her life to be as fulfilling, and brilliant as she could make it. Ajoba and Dad were right. There was so much more she could do. “Make it a practice to do one difficult thing everyday, said Mom. “Something you have not tried before, or are afraid to do. That will build up your will power, strength and confidence, and soon you will be looking for fresh challenges, instead of fearing them.”
“The great ones know that life loves them and that when it throws a challenge to them it is because life wants them to grow. They receive these challenges with gratitude and do their best to fulfil the trust life has in them,” said Ajoba exultantly.
Nisha felt strangely moved, and her throat swelled. “I will get there one day,” she vowed.
“Of course you will,” said the elders. “So will you, darling,” said Mom to Alka, who nodded dutifully, but really looking as if she didn’t quite mind if she never got there!
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