Shivi Verma finds that adopting the Buddha’s middle-of-the-road philosophy is valuable (for everyone involved) even when it comes to being spic and span
As a person, I like clean spaces and orderliness around me. If I could have it my way, I would spend most of my time dusting surfaces, tidying almirahs, and arranging cupboards. I wasn’t always like this. Being mentally lazy and confused, I found it hard to organise my things as a youngster. My room and belongings were mostly in disarray, and my mother often scolded me for my habits.
Though I was impressed by organised and orderly people, I cannot say that I liked them. The reason was their smugness and holier than-thou attitude for being neat. They dominated others and made normal living difficult for them just because others saw and led life differently. A relative of mine does not want anyone to stay over at her house because she fears that they will disturb her impeccable setting. Another girl would change her bedsheet soon after someone sat on her bed. As a result, people began to avoid meeting them. However, this does not mean that I got along with careless and disorganised folks.
While I tried to adjust with the neatniks so as not to trouble them, the messy ones didn’t care at all if their untidy ways bothered others. One of my roommates had no qualms about leaving her dirty plates below her bed and her laundry in a heap inside the hostel room. This led to a lot of fights. A friend of my father would use a kitchen tumbler to soak his dentures overnight when he visited us. I wondered why he could not carry his own vessel to do the dirty work. I could not understand these two extremes and thought that people were just crazy.
But as I began to grow stronger from within, my beauty- and order-loving persona began to surface. I began to ensure that my living place was clean, orderly, and aesthetically pleasing. However, my observations have made me very clear about my priorities. While neatness, orderliness, and beauty are important, so are the comfort and feelings of other household members. My parents are old and need a lot of medication to stay fit. Whenever they visit me (which is for months), they bring a lot of medicines, which should be within their reach. As a result, my windowsills, drawers, and side tables get stacked with endless bottles of laxatives, cough syrups, tonics, antacids, and whatnot. My father also likes to have the morning paper by his side on the bed all day, which makes the bed look a bit untidy.
So, while I still ensure that the laundry is neatly folded and put in its place after drying, I don’t make a fuss about visible medicine bottles and force my folks to keep them out of sight, no matter how ungainly my room looks. My mother too ensures that the kitchen dusters are washed every day and the dustbins are cleaned periodically, which is her way of contributing to maintaining hygiene and cleanliness. The toilet is cleaned by just anyone who finds it dirty, without making a hue and cry about it. Because of this, my house looks clean enough to live in but not so clean to make normal living difficult. While I take care that my parents are comfortable and their feelings are not hurt, my mother ensures that hygiene is maintained even if tidiness is compromised.
Most people are so stuck in their habits, whether good or bad, that they fail to take into account the needs, feelings, or perspectives of others. This is the root cause of friction in families and society. Reaching a middle ground works wonders for maintaining peace and harmony. It also helps us learn empathy and expand our understanding. While we may be right, the other too is right in their way. Truth is never found in extremes but is always somewhere in the middle.
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