I have woken up a little disturbed- for many reasons. Yes, one of them is the severe pain, which is also sciatica now, and of course the lower backache for which I got treated two months back. It seems the treatment did not have a lasting effect. I am trying various ways to deal with it- so now some ayurvedic painkillers, called Shalaki.
Anyways some strange things that have been happening around me have stirred me deeply and I am really saddened to see how inhuman humans have become, as though forgetting that our time in the world is limited and let us spend it wisely, gently, without hurting others and embracing their truth as a valid part of their reality, which does not require your validation.
Yesterday was the birthday of someone known to me. For the sake of this post, I will call him, Alex. Purposefully I do not disclose who it is, because it will be clear if I say just the mere word of our relationship (he is a family connection). He lives alone by himself and never shares about his life with others. So one does not know if he is happy, sad, needs anything and how he spends his life and day. I always remain concerned about him, though I never meddle or ask too many questions, because a single person is always more defensive and easily threatened, than someone who is emotionally ensconced in a family.
I always want to do a little extra for someone’s birthday, because I feel everyone’s birthday is special. I feel it more for those who live alone, for how scary festivals and birthdays can be, only those who live alone can really tell you. These are occasions one associates with sharing, family ties, food, presents and in general bonhomie, camaraderie and togetherness. For those who are alone, these days are really very lonely and never seem to end. I have been there on so many occasions, not birthday though.
In the same spirit, I invited Alex to have breakfast with me. We ate and then we parted. We had decided that he would cut his cake in my house in the evening and I would make the dinner. None of us wanted to go out (by us I mean us in the family)- I due to my pain and general irritability and Andre due to his own fatigue, due to house repairs and everyone else had their other reasons.
I did not know, but he bought two cakes- full with white chocolate icing, truffle cakes. Anyways it is not my business to ask anyone how many birthday cakes they are buying on their birthday, for who would ever do that?
Later in the day, after dinner, when we were having the cake, I told Andre to take the remaining cake with him to our village home, as my fridge is small and usually remains full. Andre said he already had a cake with him, so he would not take the one I had.
I was surprised to hear that. I said, ” where did you get a cake from and for what?”
He told me that Alex sent it to him.
So I looked at Alex, the birthday boy, in askance.
It turned out that Alex had brought two identical cakes (no, I did not take a picture of the cake and the foto above is of a different cake, not Alex’s birthday cake). He brought one for us, and the other he took for a family that he identifies as ‘friends’.
He has never introduced his ‘friends’ to anyone, as if they were some sacred treasure that he needs to guard, or as though we, his extended family, should not know who he connects with. Naturally, it is not decent of us to demand anything about wanting to know who he moves around with or how. Whatever else has happened as a result, we have stopped showing any concern for him at least visibly, because we want to tell ourselves that he can manage on his own.
The truth is that in this vast ocean of humanity nobody can manage it alone. We all need other human beings, to live and contribute to our lives in infinite number of ways everyday. Every act of our’s is steeped in the outcomes of labours of hundreds of people. The very food we eat or the cup of tea we pick up to drink is a testimony of our sacred connection to life around. Some people can live in ignorance of it or others can live in recognition- it does not matter. We touch and we are touched by life around everyday.
The picture that emerged was that when Alex took his second birthday cake (the first belonged to us, the family) to his ‘friends’ house, they simply told him that they were not interested in having the cake! I have never heard something so bizzare. Or unkind. First of all, a man having his birthday brings over his birthday cake, because he wants to observe his birthday with someone who he thinks are his friends…but what do the friends do?
They simply declined it! I have never thought anyone could ever do that.
Their reason was that they are no longer into eating cakes and more into a diet mode, possibly to deal with their health issues.
I became quiet, and looked at Andre. The sheer unkindness of the act did not escape either of us.
He too looked a bit stunned and trying to divert the issue said,
“Cakes are always welcome in our home.”
Cakes are welcome in our home, because people are welcome in our homes and we love to embrace life wholly, soulfully and in recognition of people’s humanity and need. We always welcome Alex, despite our strange communications with him, at times. I want to sometimes engage him in more serious conversations about his life, but he runs away at the prospect. So I never pester him or poke him with unnecessary, curious queries. I am not curious, but concerned. He is not younger to me by any standard, yet unwilling to see the writing on the wall- of his emotional marooning.
But I felt a strange eerie sadness descend upon me this morning, while I was still in bed, contemplating getting up, while from the dark hill in front, a cool autumnal breeze blew into my bedroom. Suddenly a whole lot of jackals or some other animals started to howl in the wilderness outside. I got out of bed and wore my glasses to peep out, they seemed so close.
They were not so close after all. It was pitch dark and the street lights were on. The clock showed 5:30 am. Pain shot through the sacral region and then the sciatica nerve told me of its presence. I lay down for a little longer.
The unkindness of human actions has echoes that ring into time.
Come to think of it, there is no calamity in someone declining someone’s birthday cake. May be people routinely do so, assuming that ‘birthday-people’ like to celebrate their birthdays with others.
What stands out however is the deep trust and respect one person (Alex) had for his ‘friends’ and how they showed the opposite picture – of no trust, no respect for his feelings and no recognition of his need to be loved, accepted and celebrated.
Birthdays matter to everyone.
We took birth, therefore we are here to watch the dramas of life. Can we not be part of another’s drama in kinder ways?
From morning I have been trying to think, how to think of this dilemma. Have human beings just become living beings, bereft of emotions and inclusion? Who is responsible for the millions in the world who are alone- will anyone ever love and accept them? Do they belong anywhere, or no?
Alex just sent me this message on phone- Thanks so much for everything yesterday, followed by two smilies.
I did not know what to say. But I just sent this message in return- “Live life by spreading sweetness. You sweetened our evening yesterday. Thanks for letting us be part of your birthday.”
Of course, he had brought another cake for me, a banana cake, especially because he had been wanting to share it with me for long. So he had really made the day sweet, and done so much running around. I hope, so did I- make his day nice in my little way.
Of course, I did not leave the neighbours out- I gave them a big portion of biryani, that I had made and it turned out quite nice finally, without telling them it was Alex’s birthday, so no cakes for them. And of course, I offered a piece of the same nice, too sweet truffle cake, to Haseena, who works in my home.
Better to spread sweetness, even of a cake, than to carry the sweetness within yourself and exit the stage/drama of life- cold, aloof, full of yourself, impermeable.