Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life. For yesterday is but a dream. And tomorrow is only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness. And tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day! Such is the salutation of the dawn.
We need rain to fill our main reservoir, Mare-aux-Vacoas, where the level of water is still far below what it was expected to be at this time of the year. But the type of rain that has been falling is not adequate to fill up the lake to a safer level. Over the past few days we have had the typical, mild to moderate drizzle in Curepipe – the index location as it were, for rainfall – that used to prevail during winters of my childhood and adolescence. It makes everything so wet; there is palpable and uncomfortable humidity indoors where we are forced in a way to spend most of our time because it is cold too. For a short period I think most people do not mind that, in the hope that sunny days will return sooner or later – but at this stage there is no saying when. We just have to take things as they come, and get on with the daily routine of life.
And here the quotation by the poet Kalidas uplifts our spirit and gives us comfort. If rain be the salutation of dawn, so be it! I remember that when I was leaving for my surgical studies in Dublin in January 1976, at the peak of winter there, my then boss Dr Steven Keating told me to equip myself properly to face the cold. Especially in the morning, he advised, make sure that you have a monkey cap so that only your nose sticks out of the blanket first when you have to get up, otherwise you will freeze.
He had anticipated that I would not be able to afford central heating, and I had to use a gas burner which is set to go off in the middle of the night once one is cosy under the blanket. So when one woke up in the morning, the room was really freezing cold. Of course I followed his advice, and was able to get through those few months during which the course at the Royal College of Surgeons lasted. And it was a great relief and pleasure to pass the examination, and to head to the summer of 1976 in London, a memorable one on a personal level and for England as a whole: it had never seen such a summer for nearly forty years!
Except for the bitter cold and the snow, Dublin was much like Curepipe of those days, with biting winds at times and grey skies for most of the winter. Fortunately this has not been the case for the past several years – but we do need the rain though, and plenty of it preferably! Of course it has not been possible to go for morning rounds for a couple of days, and that, I daresay, is a problem! But we’ll make up, no doubt about that.
The adaptation capacity of human beings is amazing. Luckily in Mauritius we do not have the extremes of climate that other countries have to face, but what is remarkable is the way that living things have adjusted themselves within their respective habitats. I was watching a documentary on the life of a nomadic clan in Tibet. They were living at several thousand feet of altitude in a region bordering on Nepal, where they had migrated to in winter from the plains: because their faithful companions, the yaks, could not tolerate the heat and had to be up in the mountains. The female yaks were also pregnant during that period, and they had to be cared for. Interestingly, one of the critical ‘measures’ they had to take was to chase the male yaks away up in the mountains, otherwise they would disturb the females and prevent them from delivering their litter in peace! There you are, the local knowledge and experience that allow people to co-exist with other living beings to mutual advantage.
The Tibetans have high regard for the yaks, whose milk they use to produce butter that is used in their tea, and also to light lamps. Besides, the abundant fur of the yak helps to keep them warm as clothing and as blankets. And the yaks are also used to transport goods and personal belongings. A perfect symbiosis between man and animal indeed.
No less remarkable are people who live in deserts, and who travel God knows how many hundreds of miles to find an oasis and water. On the other hand, I simply shudder when I see the frozen snows of the Canadian North, and am truly in admiration of the way that the inhabitants have, with the help of technology and modern means, turned these inhospitable places into inhabitable regions where they conduct business as usual. I have a picture of a car park in the hospital where I worked in, in West Yorkshire, in the 1970s, taken on a cold wintry, snowbound afternoon. I took it from the window of my comfortable, centrally-heated bedroom, and even today if I happen to take a look at it, I almost shiver, simply at the memory of that bleak, depressing afternoon. Unfortunately, there were far too many of them – and my little island in the sun beckoned! For nothing on earth I would want to live anywhere else for too long!
Looking forward and ahead, I have geared myself with my stick of books and regular magazines, my main sources of leisure and enjoyment, along with only a few TV programmes. Since I have stopped taking coffee, I resort to a traditional and much more nutritionally valuable drink to warm my inside as it were: fresh saffron in hot milk with honey. Here are some nice thoughts to mull over during cold nights, and act upon to add goodness and richness to life:
- Live simply and live deliberately. By choosing not to get caught up in the details of this fast-paced world, you are doing your part to slow down. You will discover that you have more time to enjoy being alive.
- Stay in touch with yourself. Soul searching, meditation, and journaling are just a few of the many activities you can take part in to stay aware and learn as much as you can about your emotions, reactions, likes, dislikes, dreams, and fears. Having a solid sense of self gives you a firm foundation for living in this world.
- Support or teach others as often as you can. This can help you form connections with people while also giving you an opportunity to make the world a better place.
- Consciously choose what you will allow into your being. The media bombards us with visions of hate, war, and pain. Be judicious about what you read, watch, and listen to.
- Acknowledge the beauty that resides around you. Whether you live in a sprawling metropolis or a stereotypical suburb, there are natural and man-made wonders just waiting to be discovered by you.
- Nurture your ties to your tribe. If you don’t have one, create a community that you can belong to. Modern life can be isolating. When you have a tribe, you have a circle that you are a part of. Its members – loved ones, friends, or neighbors — can be a source of support, caring, guidance, and companionship.
- See the larger picture. Remember the way that you choose to live is not the only way to live. Widen your perspective by exploring other modes of being through research, travel, and discussion.
- Embrace the challenges that life presents to you, and challenge yourself often. After a time, even the most exciting jobs or lifestyles can seem routine. Never stop assimilating new knowledge about whatever you are doing, and your life will never seem dull.
- Move your body. In this busy world, it can be easy to live a sedentary life. Movement reacquaints us with our bodies and connects us to the earth in a visceral way. It also restores our vitality.
- Make time for stillness, silence, and solitude. The world can be noisy, and we are subject to all kinds of noises nearly every waking hour. We are also often “on the go” and unable to relax. Being alone in a peaceful place and making time for quiet can help you stay in touch with yourself.
Happy musings and happier days to everybody!
* Published in print edition on 5 August 2011