The bigger picture of life

This weekend we headed out to College Station, a small college town some 90 miles from Houston. The Texas A&M University is the biggest attraction in the town and students form a chunk of the population. Every year sees a drifting population of students coming in from all over the world and graduating and moving on to greener pastures in search of jobs and careers (R is one of them!). We make a trip to College Station occasionally to visit Dr and Mrs. AS, catch up with family news and just enjoy a day of peace that engulfs you when you are with family. V and R have known Dr.AS’s family for years and though the relationship is too complicated to explain, they are our surrogate parents in the land far off from loved ones.

As I said College Station is a small town, with around 100+ Indian families putting down their roots there. They love the old-world charm, the laid-back life, the empty streets and above all the friendly community there. Honestly, I can take College Station for a week and then I find myself pulling my hair out in boredom. I am a lights and glamour bear and so are V and R (lil wonder that we get along well!). This weekend we heading out to CS on Friday evening and we were just dragged into the whirlpool of activity. No questions asked and no explanations needed, you were a part of everything and I loved it!

Let me explain things better. Dr and Mrs.J are long time residents of CS and their daughter Ms.J was having her Bharatnatyam arangetram (solo dance recital) on Saturday in CS. V and R reached Dr.ASs home at around 6pm and after a quick dinner, V was whisked away to Mrs.S’s house for a puja. A group of ladies, welcomed V as if she was one of their own and were there enquiring about everything from her courses to the new home, while V so much used to the American way of living was dumb-struck at the way everyone was entering her private space. Next destination was the J’s residence helping them out with the numerous things that need to be done for the next-day’s program, another set of welcoming strangers who put you at ease and make you feel belonged. Saturday’s program was a small and intimate affair (according to big time Houston events) and the best part it was a family event. Everyone was proud of Ms.J on stage and everyone did their bit, be it Mrs.M’s cookies or Mrs.D’s stage d├ęcor or Mrs.A’s tailoring skills. It was just perfect. It was not one of those events were people are strained and formal. It was not an event that said no kids and had a bunch of strangers (read party planners) welcoming you and seating you.

So coming back to the topic, I think back to the days in India, a function/a party or whatever the whole kith and kin are there a week early helping out. Be it making yummy delicacies for everyone or making themselves a nuisance (as V often did!) it was a family affair - time to sit and talk and feel a sense of belongingness. There were no secrets from family and family members were the first to congratulate you and the first to pull you down to earth. They were there no matter what. And this was years back. Now with the nuclear families and 2 bed room, 1500 sq feet homes no one has time or the patience to deal with well-meaning relatives. They call upon party planners and get done with necessary celebrations. Friends and relatives turn up the morning of the function and head back to their cozy homes the same day.

And living in US, V and R have fallen into the same grind but this weekend, in CS we took a step back into time, into the world we should live in, the world where family and friends come first. In the small community in CS, they made every event, every milestone memorable in their own small way and that is the best way. More than the event I enjoyed the feeling of belongingness and the friendships that were built on trust. We were strangers there but we were dragged into their circle, unwillingly at first after all we guard our privacies more dearly than we guard our social security numbers and identities.

We live in a world where we look at suspicion at everything and we frown upon anyone trying to invade our personal space. We never trust anyone and we always want to be someone we are not. We are all in the rat-race competing against friends and family and believe the road to the victory is never letting anyone know your strengths. We act innocent, we hide our skills and put out a fake smile and circulate but all the while calculating the next move towards proving we are better. We forget to realize, everyone has their own strengths and together we can create a better morrow. We forget to realize, in life all that matters is living happily with others and not living successfully alone. We all need our personal space and time no denying it but we also need friends and together times. We need to be ready to lend a helping hand to a friend in need without expecting something back. As always a good deed comes back when you need it.

These are small lessons of life we learnt as kids and forgot in the rat-race. And the weekend at CS put me to shame. We had started looking at the bigger picture and forgetting the smaller and finer aspects taught to us. We had become selfish and locked out the world. Big thanks to the wonderful Indian community at College Station for showing me the real meaning of neighborliness and goodwill. It is a lesson we learnt and one we will never forget. It is amazing how in the journey of life we often lose sight of the ultimate goal and get lost in pointless pursuits.

Success in work/career is just a part of the big picture; it is family and friends that complete the bigger picture of life. Spare a few minutes for them and in doing so you gain something that cannot be measured. And to the big family out in College Station, thanks for accepting us and unintentionally you awesome people have put us back in the right track!

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