The human spirit…

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it” – CC Scot

More often than not, we don’t realise how strong and adaptive we are, we fail to recognise the fact that we are actually far better than we think. Things fall apart and go wrong in our lives all the time, we lose people we believe we can’t do without and yet, we go on. On most occasions, we are able to bear the brunt of failure and let-downs and are able to ride the wave of dismay that washes over us.

Troubles are unwanted guests, they land up at our doorstep unannounced and then seem to never leave. They shake the most fundamental truth that we all so keenly hold on to – that nothing bad will ever happen to us, that our time on earth will be a cakewalk because that is what we deserve. We go about each day, taking the next for granted and that is usually when the tempest strikes. An unimaginable accident takes place, the parent you went shopping with just hours back is suddenly gone, the person you walked out on the world for, turns his back on you, the son you had a tough time sitting down to study, can now not stand up on his own, the corpus you had built for your later years is all lost to a wrong decision. Almost everything that you had built your dreams and life on, is left battered and in ruins. Such deep anguish often sabotages the narrative of our lives and plunders it of stability and direction.

And as we reel under the causatum, our hearts and spirit rattled to the core, just like after a sudden dizzying spell, we reach out a hand to hold on to whatever we can – a wall, a door, a friend, love, books, work, meditation. Thats most of us. But then there is also that rare person who reaches down into themselves and summons their own reserves, relying still, believing still that life will be exactly how we respond to it. They are the ones you see dutifully go for a walk every evening tap-tapping their danda along the way, the ones you see on the mall cheerfully wave at EVERY single shopkeeper and ask after their children, the ones who will tell you silly jokes till your tummy aches, the ones who will slip and slide down slushy mountainsides to bring you blessings of the local Devta Maharaj, the ones who will unhesitatingly order a chocolate pastry every time they cross the vanilla-smelling baker!

This post is about one such person who I love and admire deeply. My neighbour,Neerja Shukla.

She lives a life of simple abundance, content in what fills her life, smiling at what doesn’t. When life literally knocked her and her family off their feet, and turned their life upside down in 2011 – a freak accident that her younger son had – it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse. But they did. A huge tree fell on her husband and left him immobilised. To make matters worse, she contracted chikungunya and could barely walk herself. Most folks would either have slipped into depression or given up at this stage. But not Neerja. She dug a new foundation, wrote a new story, slowly, one chapter at a time.

Despite her personal turmoil, she breathed life into her NGO ABHI in Shimla that helps differently abled children lead better lives. Her husband recovered fully and was able to go back to his normal life. Slowly but steadily her son regained sensation below the neck and till his waist, allowing him to go back to working, albeit from home.

Being around her is like swimming in a warm clear natural pond getting the most profound life lessons. I finally understood the deeper meaning of the Japanese concept of Kintsukuroi – the art of repairing with gold. When a pot or bowl breaks, the artisan puts it back together using gold, making it more beautiful and stronger than before. I think Neerja, embodies this way of living so beautifully and totally. She has stood – all of her.. gold repaired..more gorgeous than ever before, stronger than anyone I’ve ever met – and smiled right back at life, more in love with it than ever before, forcing it to fall in love with her too.

My brave soldier neighbour is off to Kailash Mansarovar tomorrow, 18th Aug and this post is in celebration of her spirit. Did I mention she is 63… just 2 years younger than my Mom would have been, had she been around. I spoke to her a few days back, wanting to check if she was kitted right, and if she had finally bought the shoes for the trip that we had talked about for hours, sitting on the edge of the mountain that we walked passed everyday. I fussed and worried, as I would, had my mother been going on this trip. And in typical Neerja style she said – arrey saari duniya jaati hai, hum bhi pohnch jaayenge, ludakte-pudakte!!

Wishing you a wonderful, fun filled and safe trip Neerja. May your gold shine brighter, may you infect everyone you cross with your positivity and good cheer. I love you 😍


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