Reaching out


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Category: Reviews Date: 24 Nov 02

Life stops when you stop reaching out.


I was getting there, whirling senselessly in an endlessly running washing machine of our islands. Like many of us, I was suffering from a case of too many elections, too much talk based on narrow individual interests, too little vision in our public life, too little hope for sustained long-term change.


Another Christmas was rolling around and kids were still subjected to filthy toilets in schools; poor, neglected orphaned kids would still stand around near traffic lights wiping windshields instead of going to school; people still thought of nothing but money. Nothing was being done to encourage people to read; and once again, this season we would see the widening gap of obscene spending by those who have, on those who have, and those with nothing, left in the scratching heat with bitterness in their hearts.


Any sharing that would come wouldn’t be real — it would come in the form of “hampers” filled with perishables that would last for a day, and get the philanthropic givers photos in the papers. The obscenity of this exploitation of the sentiments of this season I knew would make me nauseous.


The giving wouldn’t be jobs, or books, or skills so people could take care of themselves. It wouldn’t come in the form of ensuring the ill and the elderly could get decent medical care in our public hospitals, or donating a computer or two to schools in areas where children were being left behind due to lack of facilities. The giving wouldn’t be opportunity or a sense of possibility. The giving wouldn’t take people out of the holes in which life had dumped them.


So there I was, thrashing around, caught in the sameness of it all, watching the aperture of my own vision shrinking, gradually freezing with the sensation of spinning top in mud, not making any progress.


I nearly came to a standstill.


It so happened that Anna, a beautiful Canadian woman, stretched her cyber hands out to me, and pulled me over to Toronto for a week because she sensed I was on my way to being jaded.

“Your room’s ready and waiting,” she said.

“The towels have been freshly laundered, and I’ve put some books I know you will love by your bedside. We can build a fire, and talk in the evenings.”


In a world of ambiguous relationships, where one is never quite sure where one stands, this was a pearl. The most refreshing thing about being given permission to inhabit other people’s lives is the opening of the aperture in one’s own life — the movement that allows you to view life from different angles.


I met friends, and friends of friends here, each with painful stories of neglect and loneliness, of loss and hopelessness.


Some came home to lonely flats night after night. Others were recovering from broken loves, illness and death of people they loved, or struggling in jobs that didn’t give them the satisfaction they craved.


Yet here they were, in a coffee shop, in their homes, glowing with candles and fires and photographs of good times giving — not things, but of themselves. They spoke with the justifiable confidence of survivors — people who had overcome the odds and, despite it all, became strong independent people with hope.


It was with this realisation that I woke one morning to find the windy, cold weather had been transformed into a winter wonderland. The bare, straggly trees holding on to the last of their flagging yellow leaves were now playing themselves, gleaming in the soft light with snowfall. The rooftops and chimneys, and the lawns, the tops of cars, and the wreaths encircling street lamps, the length of pavements on streets were covered in the purest, softest, white snow.


Everyone said it was unusual weather for this time of year. While kicking some snow around, and attempting to make a snowman in a children’s park, I thought I hadn’t taken so much of a risk after all. What I saw around me, as day faded into night, and the glow of the whiteness around me intensified, was rewarding me for trying.


Instead of being frozen with fear, I was now filled with whipping exuberance of movement.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur