Jan 02, 2017

Spot the Differences Around You – Celebrate Them

Renuka Kamath

Spot the differences and likely you will end up seeing many more similarities, quite like the two pictures game we play even today. What do we do? We carefully look for the differences and count them, usually six.

Isn’t life similar? Stop for a moment and look around. I did and found around me very similar beings, more a validation of who and what I am. There was a time it comforted me, it still does. Isn’t there something very comforting in seeing a validation of who we are? Reassuringly so.

All through childhood in school then college, I found myself making friends who were like me. It was so heartening when in a crowd I found at least one person who could speak the ‘language’ I did, laugh at the same things and pun away (a quality I still find stimulating in people) much to the incredulous look of others. Moreover, if what they read matched my list, that person skidded to the top of my chart! It was interesting to talk about life’s philosophies and judge people unlike us. That’s what I thought was the best yardstick to making friends – if it matched mine, we’d stick around and the bond would be stronger. At times when there was a crisis, I’d run to them and they assured me that my decision was the best and that they’d do it the same way. I argued with those who didn’t agree with me and marked them for future reference to see a pattern.

Work life began and that was when utter strangers became my travel mates, month-end target mates but sharing the joys and travails wasn’t easy any more. Even then I found good buddies whom I could relate to, some of whom became friends for life! But slowly a change was happening. There were people around me who were so different from me. Some of them had a passion for things alien to me that left me fascinated and curious. I learned to read books that were completely out of my genre of reading. I watched movies that were uncomfortable. Did I begin accepting the differences? No! At least not obviously so.

Some of the best lessons I have learned are (and these are only a few):

From the cashier of a retail store on Park Street, Kolkata, who told me how the bill book works or doesn’t and let me into secrets of accounting
From the coolie who loaded refrigerators onto trucks, when while smoking his much needed beedi told me how stocking at the warehouse could be optimized or manipulated
From the theatre artist I met in Lucknow who told me how she interpreted Mirza Ghalib’s pain in his poetry
From the 8 year old child who told me why he holds secrets from his parents
From my go-getter pushy, confident sales officer, who showed me how being in sales can be fun…a riot!
From my student who told me why she hates going back home from the hostel
From another student who taught me how to enjoy the joys of sketching small stuff whenever you get the time or when life gets you down
From yet another student (a very special one for me) who made me go back to reading history (I detested it as a kid), made me re-visit World War II, read Greek mythology (and so much more).
…and so on. Can the people on this list get any more different? As different as they can get, somewhere the change had begun and I began accepting differences. It wasn’t easy. I look back and realise I was severe with people who were unlike me; didn’t agree with me, but they are the ones who made me who I am.

I’d say, surround yourself with people who are different and celebrate the differences. Learn to patiently accept that life can’t always give us a slide that is smooth – much like the play ground slide we glided on, during our childhood, where there was a bend or a bump to make us slow down so that we landed with a soft thump!

Let a different new year begin….

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