Mrs. Iyer and I met quite by chance. Her weathered face and kind eyes drew me to her right away. There was something about this woman that spoke to me; as if she was about to tide me over impending storms. It was the summer of 1999; a despondent phase which had taken me to a different kind of solitude.
People who know me are familiar with my largely erratic memory. It’s as if my cortical cells possess an innate, almost psychedelic sense of humor. So large chunks of data go missing without notice, and I can never recall things in tandem, but I do have visions from the past that can seem like they happened yesterday. That is how I recall my time with Mrs. Iyer, whom I eventually started calling ‘paati’ which means grandmother in Tamil.
A few months after our first meeting, I quit my job thus freeing up my evenings, many of which I chose to spend with paati. I had friends my age, but my time with her somehow seemed sacred. Paati had a lot to share about her animated life with her husband, their travels together and her recent loneliness after losing him. She was like a treasured book that I wished would never end. Our conversations spanned entire lifetimes, delved deep and colored our senses mirroring the purple-orange sunsets of the Middle-Eastern skies. Our silhouettes in the fading light must have looked weird and wonderful at the same time; a fusing together of the old and the new. Paati taught me about impermanence, imperfection and how to embrace bits of our life that remain unfinished. Above all, she taught me to embrace my flaws and appreciate myself.
There’s a Japanese philosophy which preaches much the same thing. They call it Wabi-Sabi. It is the art of finding beauty in blemishes and depth in earthiness. It is about going for the natural and authentic. About celebrating the cracks and crevices that time leaves behind. Wabi Sabi makes us see beauty in the dilapidated and ugly. Although on the surface, it seems to be about physical things, this philosophy runs way deeper than that. It is more about a state of mind, a way of being. As we move forward, the idea of abandoning ‘perfect’ and accepting the scars and the laugh lines seems increasingly prudent. Simplicity seems more appealing than forged exactness. This kind of shift can be truly liberating, and there’s more than just beauty in that. There is freedom. If we can quieten our mind enough to appreciate the muted beauty in our lives and find the willingness to accept things as they are, we are well on our way to practicising Wabi-Sabi.
Three years ago, I blew my big Four-O candles. Right around then, I’d started noticing the deepening lines on my face and the puffiness under my eyes. A lot of grey strands were showing up in my hair. I playfully started calling them my ‘wisdom highlights’. So while women around me spent hours in salons hiding their greys and getting spa treatments, I chose that time to introspect and hone my skills. I figured that if I had something worthwhile to do as age crept up – a gratifying hobby or skill that I could share with the world, then that would hold me in better stead. As one year folds into the next, I am glad about that decision. If I fail at something, instead of berating myself, I relax and try something else. That to me is ‘looking life through the wabi-sabi lens.’
In nature, everything is transient. A week ago, when the last of the Ganesha idols were being immersed, a discussion about its significance ensued over our evening tea. There are multiple theories about it, but one that interested me was this. The idols initially were made out of the clay that formed on the river beds. After the celebrations were over, those idols were returned to the water and left to dissolve back into the river. I thought about how this relates to our lives. And it became even more apparent for me to celebrate the time I have here. To nurture relationships and build a life that I can be proud of. To embrace growing older gracefully and joyfully. As Eleanor Roosevelt put is so correctly, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”
As for my dearest paati, I regrettably lost touch with her over the years. But her parting gift – a vintage bell, still hangs from a single nail on my bedroom wall. It is a reminder of the kind of person she was and the kind of person I wished I’d eventually be. Earthy, ordinary and unapologetically beautiful in my own way.
9 thoughts on “WABI SABI LIFE”
Diust Thou Art Dust Thou Return.
Yes, my dearest. That’s the whole post summed up in one line.
Life is a circle what goes around comes around.When younger were dependent on parents when older dependent on kids.The time in between is all ours which we can makethe best of it.
Live life king size. Its nt imp.what u need its imp.what makes u content
Even a small thing can make u happy and a big thing cannot give u contentment
Never stop learning from life
Never be complacent in life
Keep the thrill going
Keep on enjoying
And age gracefully
Thank you for caring enough to read and comment, Mavis. : )
Good read is meant to be read and appreciated
Ren ren ren… did i say it earlier…. i feel sooo proud about myself that we schooled together…. omg such beautiful thoughts.. i get so worried to loose them to my shortest memories…. to my retention issue that is…. …..by the time it occurs to you that you should take abhijits suggestion to publish these wonderful thoughts in a peppy short book… its my endeavor to note the notables for my quick ready reckoning…. ………..acceptance of scars… so lucky you are almost practicing wabi sabi… for me i belong to the other mediocre lot.. ‘abhi sobby’ if u may call…. …. then roosevelts amazing linez… then u effortlessly sewed-in the major social issue about POP ganesh idols…. ur lines about natural clay blending back to water wherth it cometh from… just made me feel so nice and dump this current crazy large ganesha idols made of pop material…. right away…. and finally ….as you close with an aspiration to someday be like your paati…. earthy.. ordinary and unapologetically beautiful in your own way.. has actually made you understand wabi sabi completely …. and there you are… earthy n stunning beautiful…extra-ordinary…. and beautiful inside out…… phew!!! My comments are longer than your blog…. hope to learn being concise from you… thx for this journey of mind… to an uncluttered path…..
Hey Abhi, your comments are overwhelming, to say the least. Thank you so much. And don’t worry about the word count, I’m only too pleased about it. ; )
ren, you are on the right path.truly enjoyed your writing as always…amchi porgi lai bhari lihtey, chaan khoop khoop chaan.
Ren lovely article…. Again ur mind declutter project has cum wid beautiful thoughts… Kewp it up
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