Extraordinary in the ordinary

When ‘I’ is not enough

My spontaneity is a result of my husband’s ‘live in the moment’ philosophy. An unplanned weekend trek in the Sahyadris is an offshoot.
Published at Hindustan Times.

Recently, I got a haircut. Technically, a chic bob cut. I’d rather call it the quintessential summer cut. Impressed by my new look, friends and colleagues showered me with compliments. I am so thankful to all. As human as it can get, all day, I basked in the glory of appreciation. However, near the end of the day, a nagging feeling crystallized in my mind. Did I deserve the entire share of these compliments?

After all, who or what is behind my new appearance is the talent and skill of my hairstylist, the lady in the salon who understood my face structure accurately and chose the style that best suited my personality with finesse. I remember that as her scissors went snip, snip, snip, I was a nervous lamb, while she exuded effortless confidence, calmness and style.

The next morning, I went over to her at the salon and thanked her for the fantastic work she had done. She had done an excellent job. I needed to acknowledge it, and she deserved to know it.

When something as external as a physical attribute can be a result of someone else’s efforts, then I can only hope to fathom the large canvas of people whose presence at different stages of my life, has nurtured me into what I am today. And this holds true for the natural and gifted attributes, as much as it does for acquired attributes. That is why I disagree with the claims of ‘self-made’ men and women. How can anyone in this world be ‘self-made’ when you can’t be anything without the right people to interact with, learn from, and use services of? After all, aren’t we all a composition of all the people we have crossed at different stages of our lives?

In just a minute, I can rattle out a serpentine list of the major contributors to my life who have made me ‘me’ today. If anyone admires my eyes, hair, or height, it’s the blessed genes of my parents – nature’s gift. If anyone likes my confidence or personality, it is a reflection of my father’s aura of an army officer. A compliment for my general positivity is an ode to mother’s perennial cheerfulness. My understanding of selfless love goes back to the time I spent with my pet dog Simba. My literary skills are the hard work of my English teacher Manjit Ma’am, and my spontaneity the magnetic energy and mental mobility of my dear husband Shantanu.

My belief in the existence of a genuine soul stems from my best friend, assistant professor Indu. My faith in the virtue of patience is the result of my experience with my physiotherapist Dr Tanuja. My ability to appreciate diversity was nurtured by the endless discussions with LSR College friend Nidhi Sinha. My faith in God comes from my mathematician friend and mentor, Rani. My ability to enjoy life’s little pleasures, be it a golden sunset, dancing butterfly, colourful wrappers, or an aromatic incense stick, is a product of the fulfilling hostel life I led in college and Delhi University. A big thank you to all my mates.

Natural attributes should never be taken for granted because they are gifts from birth. And attributes learnt or developed with time are a manifestation of the combined efforts of many. Considering self ‘self-made,’ thus, hints at ignorance and denial. Receiving compliments with the focus on ‘I’ creates a superficial inflated ego instead of humility. So next time, try this. When someone compliments you for your success or beauty or accomplishment, do spare a thought for the people who made it possible for you. You will feel gratitude, which will make you a better person. Most importantly, grounded and humble.

This article was published at Hindustan Times.

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