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As Long As It Floats

I remember struggling with the making of a paper boat in school. My craft teacher thought it was lack of focus that gave the corners of my boat a shabby appearance but as I discovered over a period of time, origami is not my forte. Nevertheless, despite her admonitions, I knew that I had really tried. I suppose, my fingers weren’t as nimble as needed. Somehow, I could recite (for example) without much effort, Alfred Noyes’s The Highway Man or remember with ease that Sher Shah Suri built The Grand Trunk Road. Yet, I broke my head over theorems in Mathematics and formulas during Chemistry. Even so, despite the dread and boredom I harboured for these subjects, I tried. For a long time after passing out of school, I remember swapping stories with my friends about waking up to the fear of arriving late to school. Our system of education back then put great emphasis on discipline. We didn’t always agree but we tried to accept the adult perspective without openly questioning their authority. We were aware that most adults agreed that only strict adherence to rules would make us capable citizens and rebellion was not to be tolerated. We ignored what we couldn’t change and tried to have fun whenever we could.

Later, as a young adult I realized that I had to try more than ever; to fulfil the commitment I had made to household duties, to my gender role (given my cultural milieu) and to my responsibilities. In fact, I encountered a new series of more challenging trials. I tried to plan for a better future, I tried to maintain peace and harmony at home and I tried to raise my children as best as I could.  Sometimes, it feels as though the years went by in dropping and picking up the kids to and from school and their various activities. I recall attending birthday parties that involved an exhausting amount of gift buying and packaging, staring in disbelief at clothes that they outgrew within months, tutoring them, juggling budgets, attending social engagements and entertaining extended families. Over and above, most of us who were housewives were responsible for every individual quirk and need of our family members. The days with their miscellaneous demands have now become a cache of memories that I can’t sift through in detail because they didn’t lead to bricks and mortar or balance sheets and bank accounts. They merely pop out of my sub-conscious every now and then but have otherwise slipped through my fingers like sand and all I have with me are a few nostalgic remnants. Moreover, all along I tried to adjust to a world that was changing beyond belief. I had to keep making compartments in my mind; to follow tradition as well as accept the new way of life for the bold (sometimes brash) new generation. Moreover, in the midst of it all, I realized that what I tried hardest to hold on to was my original self.  I snatched hours where I followed my heart, read and wrote and prayed and hoped for a few desires that belonged to me and no one else.

I can conclude that there has never been a time when I haven’t tried. I have failed as much as I’ve succeeded but I’ve evolved only because I’m willing to keep trying. When a water pipe bursts in the kitchen, I try to keep calm instead of moaning over the mess. If I’m late for a doctor’s appointment I try not to complain about the traffic congestion. I try to dress up and show up for my friends and family even on days when I’m feeling dead inside. I try not to get swayed by criticism or praise. Regardless of my personal circumstances, I try to help someone in need or cheer up someone who’s feeling down. I try to better my writing and my relationships and at the same time I try to expect less from both. I look at the big picture when there are minor troubles and work on the details when the big picture blurs. In other words, I try to believe in making the effort but I try not to bank on the desired results. The words ‘I can,’ and ‘I will,’ are important but they are dependent on circumstances beyond my control. What is in my control is that I tried and that I keep trying. In retrospect, my craft teacher’s sardonic quips have stood me well. I’m sure she was egging me on to achieve my best but sometimes my best may not be another person’s idea of best and after all these years I’m comfortable with that gap. I don’t allow another person’s assessment of my handiwork to dampen my joy. A tad messy and a bit out of shape it may be but I respect my paper boat for all the effort I put into it. 

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