Education Plus

An attitude of gratitude

Illustration by Keshav  

Life, after the holidays, moves to a different rhythm. School buses ferry sleepy students trying to finish last minute assignments, neon-lit sales on billboards that promised delights at half prices are being brought down and there are new dreams to imagine .We have bid farewell to one year and set our sights on the coming year. Normally it is mixed bags of emotions, we like to introspect and revisit our successes and failures .We also chart our goals for the future, listing resolutions to work at for this year.

While I have enjoyed the power of listing very noble resolutions, often these resolutions have resolutely remained on paper! This year, a chance conversation with my maid, led me to look at resolutions in a new light. Perhaps, as we live the coming year, we should introspect the canvas of our lives with a magical ingredient called gratitude.

A maid’s resolution

Every day, my maid wakes up at five in the morning, walks two km for water from a communal pump and comes back home to get the children ready for school. Her husband shares the household duties and prepares breakfast. All of them then go their separate ways — the children are dropped off in a neighbourhood crèche and the couple head to their respective workplaces. She reaches her first house where she serves at seven a.m. and the monotonous routine of “top” work continues in several houses.

It is the same routine every day, and the job comes with no incentives. There are no training workshops to attend, no team meetings, no outings, and often performance reviews tend to focus on where she has failed. While talking about her job, she jokingly says, “Before, I enter the house, I pray that madam has not had a fight with her husband, that means a bad day for me! What is amazing is the sense of motivation she brings every day to work. She tells me that every night she decides what to wear, ensuring that the clothes are ironed and that her sari and blouse match. “When you dress well, you feel super” she says.

The conversation steers to the new year and all the celebrations. For her, there are no major plans or reolutions. She says that she lives for the day with the main hope being that their children will carve a better life for themselves. She says the best time of the day is when her family shares their evening meal, talking about the day. “My husband tells us about his day at the ironing shop, I imitate the different madams I work for and my children laugh. Perhaps that is the only thing I wish for the next year that — that every evening we are able to do this”

The voice of criticism

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. We brush aside all the wonderful things the past year has brought, focussing on our perceived sense of failures. Our own inner voice of self-criticism pulls us down further. I have seen so many students who punish themselves for not getting that extra mark or not making it to a college or course of their choice. Their entire world collapses and the notions of failure rest heavily on their shoulders.

Many of us have gone through this, and on hindsight have observed that help has always come in some form. It could have been a family member or teacher who listened and gave you the space to vent your feelings. It could be a newspaper article that showed you alternatives. It could be a story that you read on the life of people who have overcome failures. There are always avenues to show us the way. It requires a slight shift in attitude. The ability to see beyond the predicament you are in and look at the world from a larger perspective.

What helps is an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes just being grateful for experiencing failure, makes you see it as a gift. It is a stepping stone from which you can revisit your goals and expectations. It is an excellent opportunity to realise that when one door closes, many windows open. When you look at the year gone by, celebrate both the ups and downs. These experiences have contributed to your growth this year.

Gratitude for your foes!

Gratitude also allows us to accept people as they are. Many of us have had people who have made life difficult for us! Friends who have let us down, work colleagues who have been aggressive and perhaps relatives who have been demanding. Having to interact or deal with them might have challenged you. For those of you who do not like conflict, it would have forced you to look at conflict in the eye. On some occasions, it would have brought out the worst in you. The many tools that we use, ranging from sarcasm to indifference, to deal with such situations would have even sharpened with practice!

It is important to go through these experiences — It makes you reflect on what response you have chosen to employ. An understanding comes that you cannot control the external world. Wisdom comes in making choices that brings out the best in you. Often we carry the burden of anger and resentment that pollutes all our other interactions. We become lighter inside when we are able to view situations with a certain sense of detachment.

It also helps to talk to people who are inspiring as to how they have dealt with life. I remember reading an interview of a mother who had lost her son in an accident. She said that she made the choice not to give into anger or hate. “I prayed for the person who caused the accident for a very selfish reason. I did not want to live my life carrying the burden of hate.”

The canvas of life

Perhaps, as the year begins, we can all be artists, looking back at the canvases we have painted. The experiences that have brought the best and worst in us. The laughter, the tears, the frustrations, the joys. There is no bigger gift than the gratitude that we have for life, the biggest canvas of all.

On a personal front, a note of thanks to readers who have so generously shared their opinions, comments and stories. And yes, wish you a happy new year!

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 9:27:08 AM |

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