Friday, 2 July 2010


I'm having lunch today in a small, basic restaurant on one of Mysore's main streets. Sitting outside, cross-legged on the pavement is an elderly white-haired woman. She is dressed in a simple orange and fawn coloured kurta. In front of her is a large, round, shallow wicker basket from which she takes jasmine flowers and, knitting with her fingers, creates garlands for other women to put in their hair.

People walk past her. Some stop by her to chat with each other. With nothing more than an occasional glance, she lives her gentle life, earning a few rupees a day. I have no idea if she has a family, a husband. But the aspirations of the new India are passing her by.

And I wonder if it matters.

She gets on with her work, her life and others around her, me included, get on with ours. She does not appear to strive for success or power or money. She sits, present in the moment, focused on stringing her flowers, surrounded by the scent of jasmine.

What could make her happier? The chances are she doesn't read or write. Does she miss great literature and music? If she could read would she be more content? Quite likely. If she had a new sari would she feel better about herself? Possibly. If she had the money to buy the new iPod, would that complete her life? No way.

I'm making a huge assumption here but I reckon she's content as she is.

And I wonder what makes her content, happy even? Certainly not striving for bigger and better. The same things as me? To live in the moment, to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, to give and be given, to hold and be held, to respect and be respected, to share a good wine, a cheese, bread, to share a life with family and friends and to love with physical and mental connections, to talk and laugh and cry together? I suspect she needs little else herself except perhaps a better education.

Someone is buying the garland she has just woven. She smiles.

And just what is this great economic miracle providing that is passing her by? Great art, music and literature? No. That bottle of wine, cheese and bread? No. Love and loving, friendship and laughter? No. They all exist without it.

So, what is it really for? To enable those who want to push the boundaries of humankind's need to know, to control, to discover, striving for the next frontier? And when that is found, what next? Do we just go on and on until our planet and ourselves are worn out, burnt out? Why?

Someone has bought another garland. She smiles again. She has enough. And so do I.

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