Extraordinary in the ordinary

It’s not about where but how you live

Unless you drop the anchor inside you, the exterior can do only as much.
Published at Hindustan Times.

During my travels to mountains last year, I revisited a fundamental principle of life. Let me share two moments.

One evening, a local woman invited me to her home in Mussoorie. We had clicked well over our conversations during a bus journey from one remote hamlet to the other in Uttarakhand. That culminated into a warm invitation for breakfast. As I stood by the kitchen door watching her prepare a super tangy salad dressing, we talked of our love for the gorgeous blue skies, the gardens and open spaces, the delicious momos in the streets, and even book-reading sessions in her neighborhood. All the same, with a smile on her lips and an as pleasant tone, she shared how she disliked standing in long lines at the departmental stores, how the seasons had become unpredictable impacting her family’s small-scale cultivation, and how she struggled to find time for herself as her daughter was young.

I realized that her life in the mountains was a combination of blessings and irks, something to be thankful for, something to miss, just as life was for anyone in another geography. It wasn’t that living in a bungalow in the Garhwal ranges was a ticket to a glorious life divorced from mundane troubles. It was all about attitude. She was grateful for the idyllic environs she breathed in. She didn’t take the little joys for granted. And she was equally ready to iron the creases in her life with a positive outlook.

On another day, during one of my walks in Gangtok city of Sikkim, I was completely taken in by a villa I crossed. Its unpolished oak wood staircases and a fireplace evoked old-world charm. The drapes in pastel colors allowed the perfect intensity of sunlight into the rooms. The historical maps framed on the walls were original. I knew that the owner had put his soul into creating the space. So I met him over a cup of tea.

A gentleman in his 60s, he shared a heartfelt conversation on how after living a chequered professional life in Gangtok, a Himalayan abode blessed with spectacular views and vibes of the Kanchenjunga, he had been restless all these years. Finally at 50, he discovered the vocation that gave him real happiness. His happiness lay in converting his villa from being just an accommodation to becoming an experience for travelers that they’d cherish forever. He had breathed life into every inanimate object there.

Again I realized that it was not about the place he was in. It was about the moment when he found the courage to take a risk, put all his savings at stake, and build something afresh in the same city, at 50. And what a marvelous output! Life is truly reflection of the choices we make, every single day.

Yes, mountains and valleys, sea coasts and farms, all of nature’s wonders have a magic about them. They refresh every cell in the body. They clear up the mind. They elevate creativity. But discontent, pain, restlessness, and envy don’t have an address. They live within people.

Whether you live in a cottage in the hills or in a farmhouse in the open fields, a flat in the skyscrapers of Mumbai or a hamlet on the backwaters, the effect of your physical location is only temporary. Unless you are willing to be centered from within, unless you drop the anchor inside you, the exterior can do only as much.

And guess who taught me this lesson? The mountains themselves.

This article was published at Hindustan Times.

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