About three years back I had developed a fetish to wear flowers in my hair (the traditional south Indian way). At this point a friend had referred her flower delivery woman to me. Since then, this woman shows up every morning with a basket of woven flowers and gives me one ‘moyon’ (the term used for about 18 inches of woven flowers). Incidentally, the fetish for wearing flowers in my hair passed quite quickly (in about less than a month), but the flower delivery ritual continued. The outward reasons for this has been poor communication between the flower woman and me, my scant knowledge of Kannada, and my lack of assertive skills. Every time I have tried to explain to this lady that I don’t need flowers, she instead assumes that I don’t like the flowers and insists that she will get me better and fresher and a larger variety of flowers to choose from.
Since the flowers were coming in anyway, I started placing them on the pictures and idols of the Gods I have at home. That said, offering flowers to God is not an required part of my ‘Puja’ and I do have a garden full of flowers to use in Puja if I ever want to. So at the end of every month when I pay this woman, I try to tell her I want to stop her services. Somehow she insists on continuing and somehow I give in each time and so the ritual of morning flower delivery has continued.
My son is most amused by this predictably recurring sequence of events and he has tried to coach me to be more assertive. “Mamma why don’t you just tell her more firmly that you don’t want it?” He asks. I sheepishly mumble that perhaps it is a good thing anyway, perhaps she needs the money, it’s not really a bad thing to get flowers, it is not a lot of money outflow for me, etc. Hidden in some corner of my mind however is the knowing that I quite like this lady and our continuing relationship is not just about the flowers but also about ‘her and me’ and our unique encounters.
How is it that my rational mind has been reminding me that I don’t really need her flowers and yet I have not been able to bid her farewell?. Perhaps this is because in a way non-understandable by my rational mind I actually do treasure her presence in my life. She brings me gifts which on the face of it might appear intangible and therefore useless. Yet those parts of me that operate beyond my ‘rational frame’ have been acknowledging the preciousness of these gifts.
It powers me up to see this hardworking woman walking on our street early in the morning with a basket of flowers. In cold or rainy mornings when I am struggling to get out of bed and I see her up and about on her work, I draw strength and inspiration from her. My own laziness and my stiffness to do things sort of melt away a bit in her presence. My problems seem smaller in comparison to her ‘tough life’ and I snap out of any ‘self-pity’ monologue that might be running in my own head.
In a world where I am usually involved with a valuation and exchange of tangible goods and services, this exchange involving flowers stands out in a special way. To me flowers seem to form an elusive bridge between the tangible and intangible. I can touch and feel and smell flowers and yet they embody much much more than what the eyes and nose picks up. I know in my ‘rational mind’ that the flowers would have pretty much withered in half a day and that I will then throw them away. Yet I find unknown parts of me reach beyond this ‘rational frame’ to greet and salute and adore the flowers when I see and handle them.
What is this part of me that comes out so easily in the presence of these flowers? The part of me that is fully present in the ‘Now’, and unbothered by concerns of ‘future evaluation’. The part of me that is willing to get blown away by colours and fragrance. The part of me that is unconcerned with utility and so willing to play with beauty and even pay for it. I want this part of me to come out more often. I want this part of me to sit in the driver’s cabin of my engine, alongside my rational calculating mind. I want this lady to come and give me flowers each morning and activate this spontaneous, joyful, non-utilitarian, and romantic part of me. Oh how can I explain in a ‘rational way’ why I want those seemingly useless bundle of blossoms she gives me, that seemingly useless meeting of eyes and smiles, and that seemingly useless exchange of energy that infuses me with strength.
Yesterday, this flower woman lingered on a little longer than her usual 2 second visit. She showed me her mouth which she was keeping covered. She conveyed through actions and broken tamil that she had gotten quite a few teeth extracted and that it was a very expensive procedure. She spoke about her financial hardships and the various dentists she had been to. She looked like she was in pain but she did not speak or complain about the pain. She just indirectly hinted that some other people in our campus had helped her out a bit financially. I offered to help her out a bit as well and our conversation ended.
Today I saw her as she was walking on our street in streaming sunlight and she looked every bit like an angel who had descended onto earth. My heart leapt out towards her and I wanted to give her everything I had in my purse right then. However, I allowed my thoughts to ‘take over’ and I gave her the sum of money that my rational brain had decided to give her yesterday. She accepted it gracefully and left.
I sat down to meditate soon after this incident and a sentence jumped into my awareness. It was a line from a Donald Duck book that my son and I have read quite a few times. The story in the book is about a series of conflicts that arise between Donald Duck and the chipmunks (Chip & Dale). Donald buys a new house in the countryside and is all excited about repairing it and moving into it. The chipmunks however had made the abandoned building their home and had put together a ‘chipmunk home structure’ with leaves and twigs in the living room and had stocked up their supply of nuts for the winter. Donald sees this as ‘junk’ and ‘nuisance’ and starts sweeping it away. The chipmunks however are not to be outdone and they devise a series of strategies to drive Donald away.
Eventually after repeated failed attempts to drive the chipmunks away Donald gives up and starts packing his stuff into the car to leave. At this point Daisy duck arrives with Huey, Dewey, and Luey (Donald’s little nephews) to pay him a surprise visit. Together they manage to convince Donald to stay. The kids (Huey, Dewy, and Luey), then build a tree-house in the garden for the chipmunks and they refill it with the scattered leaves, twigs and nuts which Donald had swept away. The chipmunks take the cue and check out the tree house. They are delighted to find a cozy home and to see that the kiddy ducks had found and reorganized their lost and scattered treasure of nuts as well. Daisy duck watches the whole scene and tells Donald lovingly, “You always had enough space for them (chipmunks) in your house. You needed to find space for them in your heart”.
So this morning the question for me was ‘How much space do I have in my heart for this flower woman’, whose name I don’t even know. The sum of money I gave her need not have been a reflection of how much money I had to spare or how much money she needed to cover her costs or how much I owed her because of the employee-contract I have with her. These were variables my rational mind could find to help arrive at a sum. However, they alone need not have driven my calculation. My decision could have also been driven by how much space I have in my heart for her. Indeed, perhaps the final sum I gave her was a reflection not merely of how much space I have in my heart for her but how much of that space am I willing to acknowledge and approve of. Obviously this question then leads on to further questions like how much space can I create in my heart for her? How much space do I want to create? How much space am I willing to create?
How large do I want to make my heart and how many people and things do I want to allow into my heart? Truly, I have access to infinite resources because I live in an infinite universe. I can be creative enough to find ways to summon and distribute the infinite resources because my creativity has no bounds. What seems to have bounds and at present though (for me) is the space in my heart. Am I willing to relook at where I have drawn the boundaries of my heart?
One of my favorite songs these days is ‘Tum ne mari Entriyaan Dil mein baji Ghantiyaan’ (When you entered, the bells in my heart started ringing’. I will modify it slightly to suit me. ‘Every Time someone enters my heart, then a multitude of bells in my life start ringing’. So why not let those bells ring more and more? Why not let people enter my heart more and more? Why not let my life turn into an orchestra of ringing bells? Why not make more and more space in my heart? What is stopping me? What am I afraid of? What am I unaware of?