Walking the walk …

Spring is not just in the air, there is a spring in our steps as well.  It’s (finally!) starting to warm up and the mere sight of the sun-filled blue sky is enough to lift the spirit.  “Tramp” poet Davies had pointed out “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”.  Fortunately, for some of us discerning (aka “retired”) folks with time on our hands it is exciting to stop every so often during the day and note the changing size of fresh leaves budding everywhere, spot the multiplying numbers and growing height of new sprouts emerging from the ground.

The changing weather plays tricks on the mind and body.  Stepping out for a walk I feel the nip in the air and dart back inside to get a light jacket.  However, twenty steps out I am forced to doff my jacket because it feels too warm and claustrophobic.  The breeze feels cool and fresh but the pullover makes me uncomfortable.  This transient phase of the season makes it difficult to decide how to dress appropriately.

It is an analogy that we experience all through our life.  Recently my wife and I met with two young visitors from overseas, each of whom is in a transitory phase of her life.  One is moving from India to live in Canada while the other is headed in the opposite direction, having completed her studies at NYU.  One is anxious about settling in her new environment absent the support of parents and recognizable social and professional networks.  Searching for people and an environment that is familiar and comforting, she is probably dismissive of the oft-quoted adage that familiarity breeds contempt.  On the other hand, the young lady heading “back home” has to acclimate to the customary environment where she was born and spent most of her life before coming overseas to study.  The core values may not have changed much; however, with the mindset for evaluating these being now altered, adjustments on her part may arise.

Each of us has at some stage faced the fear of the unknown.  Equally, we are also able to draw upon an inner reserve that helps us to cope, time and again.  The two young ladies are well-equipped to travel the path each has chosen for herself and will no doubt successfully cross the milestones leading to their respective goals.

In discussions with newcomers to Canada or speaking with people setting forth on new ventures, I have often quoted a hiker-friend’s advice to me from many years ago, that “It does not help to stare at the top of the mountain; rather than focusing on how steep it is, focus on each step that takes you to the next “padaav” (bivouac or resting camp).  You amaze yourself when the top is suddenly reached.”

To quote Sufi saint Jalal ad-Din Rumi:

  • “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears”
  • “It’s your road and yours alone, others may walk it with you but no one can walk it for you.”

Listen to this beautiful ghazal that was sung by Jagjit Singh’s wife Chitra and penned by his friend, poet and lyricist Nida Fazli:

Safar meñ dhuup to hogī jo chal sako to chalo The journey will be under a scorching sun, come (only) if you are able to walk
sabhī haiñ bhiiḌ meñ tum bhī nikal sako to chalo Everyone is a part of the crowd, join in (only) if you are able to step up
Kissī ke vāste rāheñ kahāñ badaltī haiñ Do paths ever change for anyone?
tum apne aap ko ḳhud badal sako to chalo Step out (only) if you are able to change your own self
Yahāñ kissī ko koī rāstaa nahīñ detā Here, no one makes way for others (or, lets anyone else pass through)
mujhe girā ke agar tum sambhal sako to chalo If you are able to steady yourself after toppling me, then proceed
Yahī hai zindagī kuchh ḳhaab chand ummīdeñ This is what life is all about – a few dreams and some aspirations
inhīñ khilaunoñ se tum bhī bahal sako to chalo If you too are willing to be entertained by such toys, then come walk

All my fellow-travellers walking on well-trodden paths or charting courses unknown, hike well, resting often to scale the heights you set for yourselves.


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