I came to realize the sheer number of ‘things’ we use and (believe we) need in our everyday life when we went trekking in the Himalayas and had to limit the weight that we had to carry to 10 kilos per person. It was a Herculean task, to put it mildly. It involved hours of agonizing over what we could need if one of us felt sick (extra medicines), or felt cold (extra woollens), or any other imagined minor catastrophes. Then to that, we added things that we would need, like a facewash (surely, that is basic necessity?). In the end, we ended up with two backpacks of 10 kilos each. In our minds, we were happy. We were ‘travelling light’. That was then. Once we reached the mountains, reality was something else altogether. We realized that for each of us to be carrying 10 kilos up steep slopes would entail a lot of effort. The perspective had shifted along with the question. Now we were asking each other: ‘What will we (probably or absolutely) not need?’ We stripped our bags down to what we now thought were basic necessities. And yes, that facewash did not make it to the list. The mountain spring water would be too cold for us to splash on our faces. And if we did, our trek leader warned us, that it might cause severe dehydration of the skin, resulting in cracking or bleeding, in severe cases. We reduced our things to 10 kilos. 10 kilos for two adults and a six-year old! And that is when it dawned on me that we carry along so much unnecessary (emotional and material) baggage in our lives; dragging us down, slowing our momentum, hindering flight. I have reached a stage in life when I want to accrue things that give meaning to my life and get rid of the things that don’t anymore. To declutter. To simplify.
A cup of sunlight, a square of bitter sweetness, and journeys without maps
I admit, I cannot do without tea. Even in the high Himalayas, this is the one thing that made it to my trekking bag — my precious Darjeeling tea bags. I begin each day, more often at the crack of dawn, sipping on my favourite beverage, staring out into the distance at the glass panes of skyscrapers turning a hint of orange in the light of the rising sun. I love the simplicity of this beverage. The boiling water releases the tea leaves from a state of dormancy and when the warm liquid reaches your lips, it is an experience of pure sensory pleasure. It’s main and most sought after accompaniment is a square of dark chocolate. There is something intensely pleasurable about chocolates. I cannot resist them. Sometimes I dare not. And if these two friends are met by their third best friend ‘a book’, then the party has just begun! Books are an obsession, a passion, an addiction. I am the happiest embarking on journeys without maps with a square of bitter sweetness gently melting in my mouth, and a cup of sunlight in my hands.
My grandmother’s heartfelt hugs and warm hands
The memory of my grandmother’s hands always makes me smile and cry at the same time. She is one of the strongest women I have known but she had soft, gentle, hands. They were a little thick and stubby, not those artistic hands with long narrow fingers. But they were the warmest hands I have ever touched. Every time she would take my hands in hers, I would feel invincible. She had a way of making everyone feel special because hers were never empty praises. Her hands emanated the strength and genuineness that made her who she was. She was a woman who held her own no matter what and she lived her life in her own terms for as long as she could. I wish I could be a tiny bit like her.
Recently, I was told that I like all things vintage. Admittedly, there is some truth to that. I find comfort in knowing that there was a time when life was much simpler, when values were not eroded by the harshness of an age that only focuses on selfish gains. Old photographs, old furniture, old songs, and old movies take me back to a time when people lived simple lives filled with simple, unadulterated pleasures. I sometimes find that life in Black & White was more amusing than all the technicolour and CG can ever be. That’s the other thing. I love laughter.
My mother’s laugh
And I especially love the way my mother laughs. She laughs easily and she laughs heartily, like a child. There are very few things in life that she does not find funny. I love making her laugh, watching her laugh, and hearing her laugh. When she laughs, she shakes uncontrollably, filling everything around with the lightness of her laughter. I always say that I cannot trust people whose laugh doesn’t reach their eyes. If that is a measure of trustworthiness, then my mother would be Trust personified because her eyes disappear in the mirth of her face.
My husband’s eyes
In the days of yore (it feels so long ago), when I had bought my first Canon DLSR 100D, one of the first things I had photographed was his eyes. He has kind eyes. I love their softness, their colour, the long lashes which I wish I had. There is always a little mischief in them, like the salt in the salted caramel. I find solace in them. One look at his eyes at day’s end and all my troubles melt away. It is like drifting into a quiet sleep. I willingly drown in them.
I love drowning inside the warmth of a thick duvet; especially when it’s chilly outside; and settling down for an afternoon nap. That’s one thing I have learned to cherish more after being a mother. An afternoon nap when the baby is sleeping (when younger) or watching Disney Junior (when older); is a luxury the very thought of which relaxes every muscle in my body. And if there is a beautiful scene outside the window to stare at while you drift off into slumberland, then don’t let that opportunity pass you by.
Magic in Windows and Moonlight
I have this (some would say, annoying) habit of opening all the windows of the house the first thing in the morning. I love greeting the morning by standing in front of an open window. It is the singular architectural design element that has a direct impact on an inhabitant’s mental health. Windows bring the outside world inside. One of the first poems that I had written was about a real experience. It was about the moonlight streaming through the open window and on to my bed in my childhood room. There is something magical about windows and moonlight. They both have the power to transport me to a different world.
Long walks and stillness
I have always enjoyed walking long distances. I remember walking most of my streets in my hometown. It is cathartic, it is reclusive, it opens up my mind to all the thoughts that crowd in. I am able to sort them into different compartments, decluttering them while having innumerable conversations with myself. And sometimes, there is silence. I find that solitude in these walks. On many walks, there is nothing I am thinking about except being mindful of my breath and the sound of feet on the asphalt or the treadmill. Yes, I count those runs/jogs/sprints/walks on the machine, ‘long walks’ too. After all, I do all those things that I would do if I were outdoors. On days when the mind is quieter, I bask in the stillness. A stillness that I crave in the frenetic pace of urban existence. I try to find ways to pause and stay still for a few moments each day. I have found that while reading amidst household chaos, I can slip into some much-needed stillness by switching on some meditative sounds like birds chirping or water gurgling. While the background fades away, I can easily shift my mind into a slower gear and enjoy some stolen time.
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.
I look at it from the other way. While du Maurier was talking about bottling up memories, I wish there was an invention that bottled up those scents that bring to the surface my personal memories attached to them. The scent of freshly brewed coffee reminds me of my first international flight. The smell of freshly baked bread brings back memories of Tim Hortons and the smell of fried eggs and bacon of my housemate cooking on Sundays. I yearn for the smell of mountain air and forest walks when the concrete jungle engulfs me and I struggle to breathe. These are scents that come and go and every time I encounter them, I am transported to a different plane of existence. But the two most precious scents that I wish I could bottle up are the smell of my father’s shirt (which was a mix of soap, and cologne, and cigarettes) and in contrast, the smell of my child’s skin. The innocence and sweetness of his baby smell and my first encounter with a masculine scent. These two scents belong to two ends of the spectrum and yet, perhaps not. My father is the first man I have ever loved and my child is the first human being that has taught me a love of the all-encompassing and overwhelming kind. Both are deeply entrenched in my soul. Perhaps, that is what I love the most about the olfactory senses – it is much more complex than our rational minds can grasp. They cannot be boxed in, except in our minds.
I look up at the list and I see so many things that I have not mentioned. Perhaps it is an accidental omission or perhaps, I have so internalized them that I cannot separate them from me any longer to look at them objectively. But I also realize that I am happy with it. In contrast to things that make us heavier in mind, body, and soul, these are all objects, memories, and feelings that enrich my life; that are the wind beneath my wings. These don’t bog me down. They make me lighter, and more often than not, they are not things that I can carry in my pocket. I carry them in my heart. These are the things that make me who I am.
So, what are your favourite things?