That day, my early morning coffee session with my wife became a bit introspective. I was thinking out aloud, trying to figure out my strongest qualities. Midway through my extensive list, my wife spoke out:
“You have a lot of scope for improvement”,
This was my eureka moment; I had found my strongest attribute. I have a lot of scope for improvement. This is what makes me good husband material.
Before marriage, every Indian girl worth her salt says to herself:
“Wait till we get married; I will change him to my own specifications”.
My wife is no different and she has been doing her best for several decades, trying to work with the material she has, to the best of her ability.
Have you wondered why devices like mobile phones, tablets and laptops are so popular? It’s simply because there is so much customization you can do, so many apps you can download. There is so much scope for improvement.
A new mobile phone just out of the box does very little. It can make or receive phone calls, browse the internet and take a picture or two. Apps are required for everything else.
When I got married, I was much like that mobile device. I came equipped with an engineering degree and a job but not much else. New software had to be installed for everything else, and my wife took up this task with great enthusiasm, like any good Indian housewife.
During college days, we lived pretty much like hermits. We lived in caves called hostel rooms and walked to the temples of learning every day. We pretty much wore whatever clothes we liked as there were hardly any girls on campus to notice things. If a guy wore good clothes and was clean shaven, on any particular day, there were only two possible reasons for this strange behavior.
1. He just got engaged.
2. He was giving a job interview.
As a result, our clothing sense was very limited and major upgrades were required after marriage. On the day of the wedding itself, my brother-in-law gave me a new suit, an ominous sign of things to come. Over the years, I got domesticated and settled down to a larger wardrobe. Even today, though, I prefer to put on the first comfortable set of clothes I can find in the wardrobe. My wife is more particular about me, but she sees a lot more of me than I do.
During my hostel days, we lived on only two kinds of food: hostel food and, tasty food. Anything we ate outside the hostel was ranked as tasty food and we just didn’t care what it was. We ate it with gusto and stayed very healthy.
Now I realize that I was very ignorant. In today’s world, the food we eat has to be part of some kind of diet plan. It could be low carbs, low or high fats, low or high proteins, or some combination thereof. You can’t just pick up food and eat it. It’s amazing how we managed to stay so healthy during college days, in spite of my ignorance.
I have always been a clean freak, enjoying taking a bath every day, especially with hot water on the cold winter months. In the good old days of my ignorance, I used only two types of soap: opaque, or transparent, and both did a pretty good job. Today, in our bathroom, there are only liquids. Some are called shampoos; some are called conditioners and I have never quite figured which does what.
Even shampoos come in different flavors. There are egg shampoos, coconut shampoos and almond shampoos, to name just a few. They all sound delicious, and I am surprised there is no mango lassi shampoo. Maybe, some research laboratory somewhere in the world is working on it right now.
I realize how much I am a work in progress when I visit other people’s homes. It’s almost like a law of nature: every home must have a remote, or a system of remotes, that are unique to that particular home.
I stayed a couple of days in my son’s home, and I must confess he is technically much more advanced than I could ever hope to be. The only people more advanced than him are his kids. He has set up a set of three remotes that perform different functions, plus a voice actuated system for sound control. My grandson explained the set up to me, and I understood it perfectly – until I had to operate the remotes. Eventually, I ended up literally watching the TV set, in the off position.
My son also has some very cool water faucets in the kitchen, that start delivering water with a wave of the hand. They even stop delivering the water with a wave of the hand. Unfortunately, they are not designed to work with dumb IIT grads like me, who keep waving their hands. The water doesn’t seem to come on. In my own home, I have kitchen faucets that operate easily with a turn of a tap, but they are outdated. There is scope for considerable improvement in their design because they work too well.
In my son’s home, the showers work quite well, without too much human intervention. I had a very pleasant ten-minute shower, except for the episode with the shampoo bottle. I was just about to rub the shampoo all over my body when I happened to read the label. It said: puppy and kitten shampoo. Did I mention that my son has a dog, too?
It was just by merest chance that I did not end up smelling like him, although many would have considered it an improvement. I still have a lot to learn, even from a dog; there is endless scope for improvement.
Even on the spiritual path, my thinking is too simplistic for today’s world. I have been a yoga enthusiast for quite a while, but in my simplistic thinking, there are only two kinds of yoga: physical and mental and, perhaps, a combination of the two.
In physical yoga, we simply stretch our body and turn and twist it in different ways until every part of the body hurts the same. Then we relax and sit in a steady posture, for the mental part. When the body is still, the mind is still, and real meditation starts. To me this is all there is to yoga and meditation.
However, I am a work in progress and don’t understand the nuances of today’s yoga. There are so many schools of yoga and so many colleges of meditation; I haven’t enrolled in any. Plus, we have to wear the right clothes for yoga with the right accessories; there is a whole industry around it. Unfortunately, the ancient yogis who developed this science to perfection in remote ashrams in the forests were not privy to all these improvements.
Perhaps, this is why I am so enamored with the path shown by Om Swami ji. He reduces everything to its basics and talks about stillness of posture, mantra meditation and chakra awareness, in the simplest possible language, based on his own experiences. I love listening to what he says but find it a little harder to do as he says.
Where the second step is concerned, I am still very much a work in progress. There is, no doubt, a lot of scope for improvement.