I call them Sunshine People. They are the ones who literally bring sunshine with them. Sometimes it is their smile, at other times it is their words and yet others it is just their aura that lights up the place.
How is it that some people can be so full of positivity while many of us are crushed by life’s knocks? It is not as if they don’t have their share of disappointments or sorrows. I am not talking here of those who put on a face in front of the world, though even that is not bad. But the true Sunshine People are those who face the odds and still find something to be happy about.
I had this neighbour who was in her early 50s. She had suffered a sudden stroke that had laid her up with the right side completely paralysed. A painter, she also taught painting to neighbourhood children and women. With her right side affected, she could not hold a brush or pencil but she still taught a few students the nuances of the art from her bed. She needed help to get up and get around and yet not once did I see her grumble or frown. She enjoyed looking at the squirrels scampering up the trees outside her window, loved watching the children play on the ground across the street and was happy to find someone to say a cheery ‘hello’ to. I called her Sunshine Lady, a title she found mighty pleasing!
That was the time when I was grappling with my vision problems and I couldn’t even appreciate the finer aspects of her art. Unable to read or write, I spent a lot of time in prayers and chanting and I taught her some shlokas to chant too. She was very happy to learn them. We talked of a lot of things. She loved ginger tea and I made some for her and took it down one day, groping my way carefully. And you know what she said? ‘Don’t worry. We are discharging our karma and I know that one day soon I will walk up the stairs to your flat to drink your ginger tea and will teach you to paint.’
Then we laughed. We both knew that it might or might not happen. But it gave us something precious to hold on and look forward to.
Conversely there are some people who drain you out mentally and emotionally. They have nothing positive either to say or feel and can look for things to be gloomy about even in the happiest of scenarios. Even their smiles are the opposite of the sunshine people’s. I once had a friend, who would counter any congratulatory note with, ‘…but you know, it is not as it looks…’ and come out with a long list of things about why it was nothing to be happy about. These are also the people who keep asking, ‘Why me?’ as if they are some special beings who are above hardships or tribulations. It is not the question alone, but the attendant emotions and reactions – anger, depression, envy and more that plant themselves insidiously into our psyches too. And we could do without those, couldn’t we?
Does this mean that acceptance of our lot is the best way out of problems? Or that passively enduring everything is the easiest option?
We have to evaluate the problem and then take all necessary steps to find a solution to overcome it. Simply enduring hardships is not an option at all, though the highly spiritual find it the most empowering thing to do. But even for ordinary mortals like you and me, sometimes things are beyond our control and solution and in such cases it is best to let things take their own course. Like my neighbour — she was undergoing the best medical treatment, had a live-in maid to help her move about and do her work, she was keeping herself mentally and even physically busy, and yet, things were taking their own time to improve and she was suffering in the interim.
We have the choice to ask, ‘Why me?’ or shrug, ‘Ok, so it’s me; let me not fret but get on with my life and let things take their own course.’ Sunshine people deal with things by taking the positive route to equanimity.
I find the theory of discharging our karma, a very soothing one to accept. My father had a ready explanation for any catastrophe or calamity. You have lost your wallet with lot of money in it in a crowded place and he will say, ‘You must have owed that man that money in your previous birth.’ According to him, everything that went against you or which you couldn’t do anything about but move on, was because of some previous karma that you were discharging. It doesn’t bring back the lost wallet or correct other situations, but it gives you some solace that you are only suffering what is your due and helps put things in their proper perspective.
Another thing that makes acceptance easy is faith. It can be either faith in God or on time or anything. But believing that things would work out eventually helps overcome odds wonderfully well. In college, I had a professor who used to always say, ‘This too will pass,’ whenever one of us looked upset over something and his words always brought an involuntary smile to my lips. And as the ends of my lips lifted, I found my spirits lifting too. I have gone through some nightmarish situations in life when I thought things would never end. But always, the smiling face of my professor swam before my tortured eyes and I consoled myself that it will end surely, as other things had ended before.
Likewise, believing that God knows best and would take care of us in every situation helps us face the worst situations with courage. Those who have unshakeable faith in God somehow manage to find hidden wellsprings of happiness to tide them over rough patches. ‘He will take care of it. I don’t need to worry,’ is their refrain.
Such faith is my envy, for I am still struggling with my ego and think that I am doing everything. The devout would say, ‘Your every action and even thought is God’s will.’ This might sound very simple, but if one gave a little thought to it, one will realise that it takes off all your burdens in one stroke. And by relinquishing the burden of worry, you are mentally free to actually work towards a solution to the problem at hand. Careworn minds are unable to think coherently or act wisely.
As I said earlier, chanting and prayers have always worked for me. These are monotonous, repetitive and have a soothing effect that calms agitated minds instantly. Every religion has this ritual. The tulsi mala of the Hindus, the prayer beads of Christians and the tasbeeh of Mulsims – all are used for chanting. Chanting simple mantras for a few minutes is enough to make me breathe evenly and think clearly – or not think at all. For at times, one needs to stop thinking to be able to act.
I don’t qualify by a long shot to be called a Sunshine Person, but I value every one of them that has come into my life at some time or the other. And I am sure they all use one or the other of the above mentioned methods to achieve equanimity in the face of adversity and spread their warmth around.
Coming back to my erstwhile neighbour, the last I saw her was two years ago when she had started walking — albeit with a pronounced limp — but walking nevertheless. And me? Aren’t I here writing and reading blogs of my wonderful friends after nearly losing my eyesight?
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