‘What are my grey hairs for?’

Dear golly baba,

So sorry dear, I know you don’t like to be called that – but you know, for your grandmum, you will always be a little baby. And anyways this letter is just between us …so where were we?

You know, you sound very grown up in your mails – I can’t even imagine …so very far away, living in the US of A and learning so many things. I don’t mean your biology and music. I mean meditation.

My friends at my Ladies’ Friday Club were so surprised when I told them that my 19-year-old is writing to me about meditation and saying: Dadi do you meditate? They expressed surprise and in front of them I didn’t say much and quickly changed the topic. It’s tough to convince people sometimes baba –  but I must confess I’m truly proud of you.

You seem wiser than me sometimes, me! A 70-year-old grandmother from Mumbai.

The thing is baba – we were never allowed to make choices and usually we had to conform to what everybody around us was doing. I remember a lady coming to teach yoga and pranayaam in our colony – 45 years ago. I had really wanted to join…even managed sneaking into one class…but was caught and later reprimanded.

But that was a very long time ago. I was reminded of that when I read your mail – and also inspired. So young, so determined, so strong. Always, be like that beta.

You know I wanted to ask you – how do you feel when you’re meditating? Do you feel like opening your eyes? Do you think of movies, or some fantasy stories?

I also imagine you to be in a place peaceful – like that feeling I get in the mornings when I get up at 4 am (its a 6-decade-old habit, so do forgive your dadi, dear one). Its so quiet. I am fresh from a bath and the smell of incense and the gentle glow of a ghee lamp at the alter – and that is enough. I feel so peaceful. Sometimes as I stare into the heart of the lamp, I remember old times – a memory pops up out of nowhere. And just as the burnt ciders of a match stick fall at the end of its life – the shadow of the memory leaves me.

Does meditation feel like that? You know, I read in the papers about some research about the brain and meditation. It seems to be a good thing to do. I was thinking about this and wanted to ask: Have you tried meditating with your eyes open?

Can you look at the world around you and still feel that sense of peace when you shut your eyes? You know beta, we, human beings, constantly need something or the other to make us feel strong and loved. We’re just built this way. We seek comfort in food, friends, hugging each other, beautiful scents, music…its not wrong, no not at all! But beta, when we started needing these at all times, when we don’t feel complete without them…

That’s why beta, I thought of something this morning: why don’t you try meditating with open eyes sometimes? Can you look at the world, feeling steady and comfortable – even when you don’t get that movie with your friend? Or that dress that you wanted? This morning only I scolded our maid – I know you don’t like it when I do, but what to do? I’m also old and a little haggled. And these hands need some help na?

Anyways, I counted. I felt upset and anger four times today…when my tea was not the normal temperature, when the maid came late, the neighbor’s dog kept barking when I was saying my prayers and when your uncle didn’t call me (It’s his weekly time to call me and he forgot, I suppose. I know he’s busy with work but then I always want to hear his voice na? Its ok – I cheered myself by having an extra spoon of achar today at lunch. Don’t tell anyone. Let this be our little secret!

Beta, you must also be having so many tough moments in the day…maybe getting up late, and remember you wrote about the tough assignment that you have to submit? And also that really nice boy who doesn’t look at you – I didn’t tell your mother anything yet, don’t worry.

So I’m thinking if we both can try meditating with open eyes through the day…it will help. I felt so bad about shouting at the maid for coming late. But then I thought – what’s the use of repenting? The words already came out…But if we meditate with open eyes, we will be more aware na beta. That would help us to avoid mistakes and just enjoy life, as it is right now. Whether its five steps more on my evening walk with my best friend – my stroller. Or eating that extra chapatti at night without indigestion.

I know you must think this is all so strange? Why should I listen to my dadi when an exciting life is unfolding around me? You know, I would have said the same thing once upon a time. I think I would have enjoyed my life more, had someone told me these things. Maybe I could have dropped fights easily, forgiven people more, let go…and possibly been more caring. You don’t have to wait till you become my age. What are my grey hairs for?! All in vain?

Pappies & shappies,

Tumari Dadi

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