Have and Have-Nots

I live in a small city.

Small by population standards, I mean, of course. I also live in a very laid back state in which agriculture is still the main occupation. In other words, there isn’t a frightful lot of industrial development or commercial progress. Particularly in my city.

Though I do get irked with the lack or resources and the somewhat restrictive commercial activity, the advent of the Internet- and online shopping- has much alleviated my marginal woes. Now I seem to have the best of both worlds. I get to live in the ease of a small town with the world just a click away. Can anything be better?

But no. There IS a fly in my ointment too. All ointments have flies no matter how brilliant the ointment or how minuscule the fly. But I digress, as always.

I live away from the town but close to the river- which is perfect. When we bought the house we live in, I chose it particularly for the vast open space behind the house. This space lay between the house and the eastern horizon. For many years- when sadly (and typically) I had no camera- I was able to see the sunrise in all its unimpeded, spectacular beauty. I am convinced the purity of the air lends a powerful magic to the sunrise.

While I was not able to record these superbly dazzling moments, they left subliminal traces of their allure in my consciousness. So deeply ingrained is their call within me that I wake up automatically well in time for the show to begin.

At this point, dear reader, you will be spot-on if you conclude that I am was favored of the gods. I felt that way too. For years I was convinced I was specially blessed.

And then, as they say, landed the fly.

Why is patience so important?

Because it makes us pay attention.

~ Paulo Coelho

Right outside the boundary wall of my house was a vacant strip of land. After that strip is a ‘nala’, a run off from one of the huge lakes that supplies water to the city. This nala empties into the Narmada ultimately. When the river is in spate during monsoon, this nala is where the excess water from the river flows backward.

But I digress, again.

Beyond the nala is empty land… with just some solemn old trees. Then there is the horizon which is the canvas for the sun.

When I bought the house, the vacant strip was marked as wasteland. I was assured that the land belonged to nobody and would remain vacant because it gets flooded during monsoon so, naturally, why would anyone want to buy it? The thing was so obvious that we were thoroughly convinced. Dumb, dumber and dumbest.

Yes. Out of the blue, someone bought the land. From whom, we have no idea. He erected a whole row of poky little houses all down that strip. That they are eyesores need hardly be said. That they house some impossibly noisy people is perhaps not so obvious, but equally the truth. They are. And they seem to have left to open spaces in their house at all. Their windows peer uncouthly into my windows from across my garden. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t left over twenty feet of land between my plot boundary wall and my house.

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.

~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Which was bad enough, but bearable. There is a sequel though; didn’t you know there would be?

Even with those houses- undesirable though their presence was- I was still able to enjoy my moments of magic with the sun. They were thankfully abed when the most brilliant moment of the day happened. And I was very fine with that. But more was comin’!

One by one, they all constructed the first floor. Now I only get to witness the sunrise when I go to the terrace for my morning walk. (Yeah, that’s where I go secondarily to walk, primarily to watch the sunrise.) But even that, is denied me fully. My view is blighted by their shapelessly bizarre  stairwell roofs. The water tanks perched on top of those roof add the final nail in the coffin.

As I was huffing and puffing today trying to clock some significant mileage on my pace counting mobile app and cursing (yet again) the manner in which the water tanks of my neighbors ruined the magical moment for me, I was struck by a thought. It made me grin in sardonic self-deprecation.

People living in those houses can enjoy an uncluttered view of the sunrise. They would not find sagging clothes lines, ungainly masonry and strangely shaped water storage contraptions ruining the magic for them. And yet, none of them were about at that hour. There was absolute (and oh, so blissful!) silence in their houses. They were all in la-la-land catching their eight hours with both hoary hands.

If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill.

~ Rumi

I, to whom even the presence of all that ungainly masonry was not deterrent enough, was up before dawn to be able to catch the slow lighting up of the eastern sky all the way to the appearance of the golden orb. It is always thus isn’t it?

Those who have, don’t care. Those who would give up their right hand for it, are rudely denied. But that’s not all. They are also allowed compelled to see people being absolutely indifferent to that which is most precious to them. Torture, yes. And so dreadfully unfair!

Then I was stuck by another thought.

Was there a lesson to this strange (and unfair) phenomenon? It is bad enough not to be given what you crave for with all your soul. But to see it being given- not sparingly but in a veritable deluge- to someone who has no need, no appreciation for it… can there be a bigger torture?

You fight for your rights when your rights are being denied. When the building is on fire, you don’t stand by and let the building burn down and say we’ll fight the fire another day.

~Richard Gilbert

Is it to teach us thirsty souls some patience? Is it to square a karmic debt- to desire but not to be given? Is it merely a a coincidence- in all its senseless, purposeless glory? Or is to to hone our love and passion for that denied fortune to a pitch from where we would be launched into compelling action to bring it into our lives?

Those who give up on the thing they love when they are denied prove that their passion is not yet the raging fire it needs to be.

It all comes down to gumption, doesn’t it?

Have and Have-nots
Picture Mine

Have and Have-Nots

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6 thoughts on “Have and Have-Nots”

  1. “Those who give up on the thing they love when they are denied prove that their passion is not yet the raging fire it needs to be.” Nothing remains to be said after this.
    You amaze me every time by this ability to draw such deep insights from seemingly common situations. Loved reading this one.

  2. It’s hard not to be awed by someone who seeks solace in Rumi when bucketfuls of sand is hurled into her eyes. Let me hazard a guess. You are a denizen of one of the virginal BIMARU states, and since Gujrat has been generally industrialised of late, and Narmada would rather not go to U.P., Bihar and Rajasthan, you are stuck behind those eyesores somewhere in M.P. So, the chances are, you are in one of the following cities:
    (A) Barwani
    (B) Jabalpur
    (C) Harda
    (D) Hoshangabad
    (E) Omkareshwar
    (F) Narmada Nagar
    (G) Dewas
    (H) Maheshwar
    (I) Mandla

    Or could it be you are in Indore? Anyway, they are all the same.

    Back in my village, when my father built a new home, we could see the tree-lined road 1.5 kilometres to the north, and the railway track half a kilometre further. We could see the rain coming to us in slow motion, or passing by with a gust of wind. We could see the bicyclists and the buses crawling to the east or west, the train hauled by a steam engine singing as in those tales. The road and rail tracks can still be seen but from the frontyards of the ugly eyesores squatting bang in our face rather than our verandah. (Steam engines have returned to some museum since, if not ripped apart by a bunch of crap dealers.)

    Permit me to quote my favourite author, Marilynne Robinson:

    Perhaps “To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing — the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.”

    1. Your powers of detection do you credit. I live in Jabalpur. Indore doesn’t have Narmada flowing by it.

      Your description on your home in the village is so poetic and beautiful! You could see the rain coming to you in slow motion? You can have no idea how deep my contentment is at reading your picturesque elaboration.

      As for your quote, I will only say this.

      You wrote this comment almost 15 days ago. Everyday, I would come and read your comment, determined to answer it. I did it again today morning. By the time I read through to the end, I would feel so full of joy, that to type out a reply would be beyond me. I would taste the ‘berries’ of my childhood. Feel my mouth water in memory of all the raw mangoes I stole from the mango orchard near my house. And from their hopping onto innumerable bicycle rides all over the place… including to the ghat of the serene Narmada… would be just a mental step. Then I would remember the songs I sang sitting alone for hours on the rocks at the bank, the gurgle of the waters providing the background score to my high and often off-key performance.

      Your words took me to a most beautiful world everyday. Oh bliss!

      Thank you! A million times, thank you for this treat!

  3. Aha! Truly and totally. Very different but I often wonder why I was never blessed with a girl. Actually both G and I do. I think I would have loved her and brought her up sensibly so that she would have felt cherished. But then that was not to be. And then so many callous souls get daughters and don’t even know how to treat them well. So I guess this applies to every situation in life sometimes unknowingly. When I went to live in the US, I was abhorred by the wastage I saw — food, electricity, paper. But then I realized that the people were not so bad. They just had never known shortage. They had not lived in a country like ours. So, the point I am trying to make is that many of the people living in those eyesore houses may actually be wonderful people. Perhaps someday, you may meet someone and hit it off and then perhaps their house would not feel so much of an eyesore. Just a divergent view. Something I have experienced but not in a similar context though.

    1. I know what you are saying Rachna, I really do. My unhappiness with those people is not because their house robs me of a beloved pleasure. There have been other incidents which have convinced me that keeping a healthy distance from them would be the best.

      But yes, there have been numerous occasions when I have been pleasantly surprised at how wonderful some people have been… despite all initial appearances to the contrary. 😀

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