by Suma Varughese
There is never any reason to write ourselves or others off, because we can always change, says Suma Varughese
It was the last week of December and the Sathe family was discussing an annual ritual that the elders took very seriously: New Year resolutions. The kids were less interested, but they had never been able to get out of it.
“My next year’s resolution is to lose more weight,” said Dad.
“Uh, Dad,” reminded Avijit delicately. “You have been making that same resolution for the last three years.”
“So, what, my friend,” said Dad, heartily. “Maybe this is the year I will finally crack it.”
“Come on, Dad,” said Avijit, “Who are you kidding? If you were to lose weight, you would have done it by now.”
“Do you mean I have to give up on myself?” asked Dad, indignantly. “Avijit, if there is one thing I have learnt in life, it is to never, ever give up on yourself.”
“Yes, but, Dad, it seems a little pointless to continue to keep a resolution that you have not delivered on for so many years.”
“Avijit, it may seem to you as if I am not trying, but believe me, I have been working very hard at controlling my love for food, and although it may seem to you that I have made no progress, I know I have. For instance, I may not have lost weight, but in the last two years I have not put on much weight either, which means I am not eating as much as I used to, right?” said Dad, sounding quite hurt.
“Yes, Ashwin, you are far more self-controlled than you used to be,” said Mom. “And Avijit, I am really disturbed by your cynicism. How can you just write off people like that? So tell me, how many times have you given up on yourself?”
Avijit looked embarrassed. “Quite often, actually, Mom,” he said.
“It stands to reason,” said his mother. “So what did you give up on?”
“I wanted to learn singing, if you remember, Mom, and you made me take classes, but one time, the teacher gave me a firing and I felt so bad about it that I stopped going. Then there was the time I decided to do yoga but that phase did not last for more than three months. And then there was my social work phase, and my learning swimming phase, and my nature study phase….”
“Most of us go through this, Mom,” broke in Nisha. “There are so many things I have started but have not finished. I either lost interest in them or something else took my fancy; well that’s how it goes.”
“Yes, but look at the number of possibilities we miss out on,” said Mom. “And most of the time, we give up because maybe we missed doing our chosen activity once, twice, thrice, came to the conclusion that we do not have the discipline to keep this going, and just opted out.”
“Yes, that is true,” nodded Avijit soberly.
“But instead what if we were to forgive ourselves for our indiscipline, commit to being more disciplined, and continued the activity?” asked Dad.
“I guess we would eventually come to a stage when we would do it regularly,” admitted Avijit.
“Exactly,” nodded Dad.
“Everything comes to those who persist,” said Ajoba, sagely. “Thomas Edison is said to have failed 999 times before he invented the light bulb. He never called these earlier attempts failures. He called them ways on how not to invent the bulb, and said that each of them took him closer to success. That is the attitude to have.”
“The point is that we are all works in progress and what we may not be able to do today, we may be able to do tomorrow. Will, determination and every other characteristic can be cultivated. There is not even one characteristic of ours that is written in stone. There is nothing in our nature that cannot be changed. So why should we write ourselves or others off?,” said Dad.
Mom added, “You know there were many things that were beyond me when I just got married. I was pretty disorganised, and keeping the house neat and clean was really hard for me. I reworked the programme in my head which said I was disorganised, forgave myself for the number of times I goofed up, and kept committing to keep a neat and tidy house. And it happened!”
“It sure did,” said Alka, looking in wonder at the impeccable house, and at her mother’s immaculate appearance. “I can’t believe you were ever disorganised, Mom,” she said.
“Believe me, she was,” said Dad wryly. “We could never find anything because Mom had no idea where she had kept it. That included house keys, and wallets and gas lighters and, on one memorable occasion, the dinner, which she had gone and kept in the cupboard instead of the fridge!”
The children giggled. “Really, Mom?” they asked.
“Really,” Mom grinned. “What this means is that we can revisit what we were once unable to do, and see if we can do it now. I never used to write off anything. What I would do though was to keep the things that were beyond me on hold and pull them out periodically to see if I could do them.”
“Maybe I could revisit the swimming project, and take singing classes once again,” mused Avijit.
“Maybe that could be your New Year resolution,” suggested Mom.
“Oh, no,” said Avijit. “I will do both these things, but my New Year resolution is not to write off myself or others in future.”
“That will do too,” chucked Dad.
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