Life is short and there is so much to do. Life, like a lover, is drawn towards death. But there is so much that I need to do still. I need to restart that painting which I had left half done and I hope to write a couple of poems after having returned from an inspiring journey to Rishikesh. I learnt and sang a sweet melody of Lataji the other day but there are yet innumerable lovely ones which I want to sing and yes, Lakshmi Holmstorm has been beckoning me since quite sometime. I want to re-read her book, The Inner Courtyard. And I want to book my tickets for the live Kathak performance of Birju Maharaj… My God, there is so much more, I mean, that I haven’t even started listing it all.
A few years back I was informed that a friend of mine was suffering from an unfortunate disease. His life was a matter of few years. I was numb. I sat on my chair, lost. I tried comprehending what I had just heard. I prayed for him as my eyes brimmed in silence. I contemplated if I myself was prepared to pack my bags. Life, for all mortals is after all, ephemeral. I realized that I wasn’t prepared. I wanted to live more, achieve more and fulfill many more desires.
I woke up next morning with the thoughts of my unfulfilled plans, big and small. I needed to go to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary as early as possible, I needed to visit my college friend, I had to fulfill the promise of inviting a friend to my place and cooking for her, I needed to call another friend and apologize for something, I needed to visit my uncle and aunt who are feeling quite lonely and I needed to write a letter to my professor narrating to her my latest aspirations and I need to show up for a promised coffee date with someone.
I needed to. . . I needed to . . .
My phone rang. It was a school friend. His cousin needed some counselling, he said. I told him that I was busy and that we would discuss it later and I went back to my priority list- my friends,my family, my travel plans, my unfulfilled promises, my art, my dreams, my love obligations, just about everything.
Days passed but my frenzy of fulfilling my priorities had yet not settled. I put my priorities over almost everything that came my way.
Then on an unpleasant day I received a phone call. The news was a rather shocking one. My school friend’s cousin who needed counselling, had passed away. He had committed suicide. He was deeply confused and depressed. Counselling could have helped him.
My heart suddenly felt heavy like a stone. I received this news while I was travelling to a natural retreat for solace.
Travelling had been my priority. I had been busy fulfilling my life. My own words were resonating back to me. They had assumed a new meaning though. “Life is short and there is so much to do. Life like a lover is drawn towards death. But there is so much yet that I need to do . . .”
In the melee of personal desires, is there any place for priorities that do not include us? Is life fulfilling only when we are busy ticking personal wish lists? Or do we owe something to life..others? Should priorities always include the word ‘MY?’ Suddenly I knew that sometimes to stand by someone was more important than to travel far and wide in search of personal joy.
Nilesh P Megnani is a professor of philosophy. Connect with on firstname.lastname@example.org