‘They sleep in the open, the children shivering, hungry’

In a broken and contentious world, it can be difficult for an individual to find the happiness that he seeks, even if by nature he (or she) is not a contentious person.

Published: 21st April 2021 06:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st April 2021 06:34 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: In a broken and contentious world, it can be difficult for an individual to find the happiness that he seeks, even if by nature he (or she) is not a contentious person. It is difficult to enjoy the flowers by the wayside if a tear gas cylinder (or something worse) has just burst in front of you. Throughout history the peace-loving, happiness-seeking individual is caught in the crossfire of human conflict. But still, he grows flowers, and sometimes he gets to enjoy them. 

If you can grow flowers in your garden, or on your balcony, or on your windowsill, you have a chance of finding happiness-fleeting moments of it, anyway. From my bedroom window I can see a storm brewing over the distant hills. The sky has darkened. The wind is a low moan as it channels a pathway through the trees. Lightning strikes at random, zigzagging across the evening sky. Nature at her most elemental but also most beautiful. 

That lightning, the violence of the storm, are not aimed at me or mine, for the elements take no sides. I can stand and watch the beauty of this electrical display, knowing it is indifferent to the watcher. Lightning will strike by accident, not design. I close the window and turn on the television. Tired, desperate refugees from bombed-out homes in Syria trek across no-man’s land in search of something and are turned back from another border. They sleep out in the open, the children shivering, hungry. 

In America, a lone gunman goes on the rampage; a ‘disturbed’ individual. But we are all disturbed individuals. Trump shakes his head, talks about money; there are white circles around his eyes; he is losing colour! 

In New Delhi, there are communal riots. This suits many of the politicians. In Indonesia, an earthquake, nature asserting herself. We are obsessed with outer space, forgetting the fires smouldering within our planet, ready to erupt without prior notice. This, the only green planet as far as we know, is looking less green by the day. There will be many Pompeiis.

7 April 2020 
Grow something, my friend. Even if it is a potted tomato plant, it will make a difference to your life. 
A bowl of tomatoes is on the table before me. It’s two o’clock, and the afternoon sun slants through the west window, falling on the tomatoes and giving them a certain resplendence. They glow. They glow like-well, like tomatoes in the sun. 

At one time, these blood-red ‘love apples’ were considered poisonous, until a brave man came along and consumed a basket of them in public. Now we add tomatoes to all our dishes. Eating would be a dull business without a tomato to flavour the curry or the roast or the soup. Extracted from It’s a Wonderful Life: Roads to Happiness by Ruskin Bond, with permission from Aleph Book Company


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