by Ayesha Chopra
Ayesha Chopra remembers with gratitude a little yellow flower that taught her valuable lessons in life and living
The fragrance of jasmine
Years ago, when I first started my professional career with an international organisation, I learned a lesson that quickly became my motto in life.
I was based in Bangkok, Thailand. It was my first time in that exotic country and I could not get enough of its sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. In describing my experiences in letters to family and friends, I would invariably write about my fascination for the scent of the jasmine, “…and the smell of the jasmine…ummmmm… heavenly!” I would exclaim.
A flower vendor who sat just outside the gates of the building where I lived sold the freshest, coolest, prettiest garlands of white jasmine flowers with a single yellow cylindrical flower on both ends. Every day I bought a couple of garlands and draped them over the air-conditioner in my bedroom. The cool air carried the sweet, enchanting, and refreshing aroma to every nook and cranny in my small apartment imbuing it with the feel of a garden in full bloom.
Then one day, I was standing beside a Thai colleague in the office and I caught a whiff of the same aroma that permeated my apartment and which I come to love. I turned to look at her but could see no jasmine flowers anywhere on her person.
Not able to contain my curiosity much longer, I asked her where the fragrance was coming from. She reached into her shirt pocket and took out a single yellow flower – the same flower that I was accustomed to seeing strung on both ends of the jasmine garlands but to which I had never bothered to pay heed. She said that it grew on a tree in her home garden and that she had plucked it on her way to work that morning and just happened to drop it in her pocket.
Try, if you will, to picture the stunned expression on my face at that moment. I was taken aback, to say the least. A strong belief had just been shattered. I had just learned that the scent I cherished and raved so much about came not from jasmine. It came from the yellow flower in the garlands that graced my home everyday, and which had received no special attention from me so far. It disturbed me to realize that I had credited the jasmine all the while for something that rightfully belonged to the yellow flower.
In that moment, I imbibed a memorable lesson. I was struck by the fact that who got the credit for the aroma, made no difference to the yellow flower. It just kept doing what was in its essential nature to do. It kept emanating and spreading its innate perfume freely, with no reservations – and credit was meaningless.
I knew then that I wanted to make that quality a part of my own professional life – and I did. On the surface, the lesson was simple. I would continue to do my work honestly and faithfully, paying no heed to where the credit went. However, when I look back on it, I can see a deeper meaning on a much wider scale, with potentially far-reaching effects that I had not thought about at the time. On hindsight I see that the message the Universe was giving me that day was, first of all, to know myself fully. What is my true nature? What is the raison d’etre of my existence? For what am I here? Only when I understand and accept my inherent nature, can I be true to myself and live up to my life-purpose.
I realize that when I live according to my own truth and act according to my own highest values and convictions, my own inner being becomes my sole guiding light. I do not need to look to anyone else for credit, approval, or acceptance, for I am not then defined by anyone else’s standards, nor do I choose to define others by mine. What was it that Shakespeare had said? “To thine own self be true; and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Thank you, little flower, for teaching me something so valuable that held me in good stead throughout my life. I remember it with gratitude as I now share it with others.
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