Comforting Thoughts for Winter Evenings

Depending on one’s age and preferences, whiling away winter evenings can be utterly boring or pleasant. In our modern times, multiple channels on the TV, innumerable websites and social media offer an almost infinite variety of fare to entertain, to learn from and even to interact with.

In the days when such a profusion of options was not available, let’s say going back to the 1950s, only the box radio came on the waves, with local and BBC news and programmes. There was also Ceylon Radio where Amin Sayani played the unforgettable songs of Bombay movies (not then known as Bollywood) to the great delight of faithful listeners.

We also gathered around the coal fire of the rechaud to listen to stories told by our parents and grandparents, but as we grew older and learnt the art of reading, we discovered the delight of seeking for ourselves from our schoolbooks. When I saw the news yesterday about a NASA probe having reached Pluto, which was re-classified as a dwarf planet some years ago (very sadly for some), I remembered a picture in black and white of the moon’s surface that I had seen in my primary school book for the first time, showing the pock marks of craters and other features which were then so little known.

To this day I recall the excitement that I felt at that moment, and ever since I have looked up to books as my primary source for information and for material that inspires and comforts, especially on those cold winter evenings when the cosy indoors are the best place to be after a hard day. This is especially the case in Curepipe.

The advent of the computer has provided the opportunity to archive a good amount of such material, which includes quotations for all occasions from so many people and sources. Perusing them again and again is a favourite pastime of mine, as they stimulate reflection, especially in light of events taking place in our country and around the world.

We live at a time of instant everything, and for this reason we move from one thing to another mechanically, which results in fleeting memories of things. For me, these pithy sayings from the wise and the experienced are an occasion to take stock, and are like guideposts along the journey of life. I will share a few that I hope will kindle interest for more of the same, which never gets stale and is true wealth as it enriches our mind, our heart and our soul.

You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.

– Anonymous

We tend to equate chronological ageing with being old. But as has been said, we are only as old as our minds are. We may stop from time to time to ponder awhile, especially about what we can or cannot do – some precautionary restrictions basically, such as climbing ladders – but making allowance for those, there is practically nothing that the elderly cannot do in terms of physical or mental activities.

In fact, if one has developed the habit from younger days, one simply keeps going without even thinking of age creeping. But because for medical and health reasons, the body does develop some constraints, a little more care is required in certain activities which may be demanding. It is wise counsel then to seek sound advice, but generally speaking: keep going!

If given with love, a handful is sufficient.

-Telugu Proverb

The most precious resource is time. We tend to waste in so many negative ways, giving some of it for a good cause is doubly beneficial – for those at the receiving end as well as for ourselves. Think of ways to use our time in the best way possible: selflessly, and we will be amply rewarded, with love and gratitude. No amount of money can ever equal that. And as Margaret Gatty observed: The days are too short even for love; how can there be enough time for quarrelling?

This is an echo of a favourite passage of mine from the Bihadaranyaka Upanishad, going back thousands of years ago: ‘As a person acts, so he becomes in life. Those who do good become good; those who do harm become bad. Good deeds make one pure; bad deeds make one impure. So we are said to be what our desire is. As our desire is, so is our will. As our will is, so are our acts. As we act, so we become.’

What we become is therefore in our hands. These days we tend to look for scapegoats for our shortcomings, instead of seeking within ourselves for them and bring about the necessary rectifications. There is nobody who can say that he has never made a mistake, out of ignorance or inexperience. Simple commonsense tells us that we should not repeat our mistakes – but for that we must listen to the little voice that talks to us inside. If we don’t, we pay the price and suffer the consequence. A little introspection daily can go a long way to prevent us from repeating blunders. Another formula is to look ourselves in the mirror every night before we go to bed, and ask ourselves whether we deserve a peaceful night’s sleep. Very good tonic.

A good one to remember as we start the day is:

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.

— Theodore Isaac Rubin

Such a beautiful one from Martin Luther King, Jr – ‘Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.’

And in these times when our courts of law are being burdened because of our arrogance and greed, we would do well to heed the wisdom of Mark Twain: ‘Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater.’

We’ll sure agree that there’s nothing better than this as an end-piece.

 

  • Published in print edition on 17 July 2015

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