Our world is made up of people. Usually our finest and worst memories have other people in them. You may desire luxury cars, beach houses, yachts and what not, ultimately though, you dream of sharing them with someone. Away from the madness that courses through the world, you may imagine running away or being by yourself on a remote island or in a Himalayan cave but eventually, your heart yearns to share your joys and sorrows with someone, that perfect person who is there for you, who understands you and so on.
When love is such a fundamental and mutual requirement of human existence, have you then ever wondered that why do people struggle to be together or fall out so quickly?
Let me share with you the story of one of our volunteers at the ashram. He along with many others spend a great deal of time here and keep a careful watch. A happy-go-lucky soul, I have seen him keeping the cats away from our kitchens, shooing the birds from trees whenever I sit in the garden, and scaring other dogs. We call him Mixoo because his face is jet black while the rest of his body is snow white.
While Mixoo is adorable, he’s not exactly known for compassion or peace. The other day, someone caught him peeing at the towel of one of our monks. A towel that had been harmlessly drying in sun on a line and not hurting Mixoo in any way. When he was confronted, he wagged his tail, gave the most innocent look and walked away remorsefully. Only that the very next day, he was angling at a towel again.
He was pulled up once more and thankfully Mixoo refrained from venturing into such leisurely expeditions after that. I’d come to accept everything about his behavior except his dominating other creatures in the ashram especially when I sat outside and fed them. Mixoo, however, wouldn’t stop eyeing and gorging on others’ share. As a result, I banned him for one week to come in my garden and be around during my lunch hour.
One day, in Feb 2017, I was sitting under my favorite tree and my lunch was about to be served when Shamata Ma (one of my resident disciples) came and told me that Mixoo was no more.
“What!” I couldn’t believe my ears. “Just yesterday I scolded him and sent him away. He was perfectly fine and playful!”
“A snake bit him in the afternoon, Swamiji,” Ma said. “We quickly got a taxi and rushed him to the hospital. The vet gave him an injection, put him on a drip and tried everything but unfortunately, he didn’t make it.”
Ma’s eyes were filled with tears. I suddenly lost my appetite and Mixoo kept flashing in front of me.
My lunch was brought and I shared the sad news. A veil of sorrow covered our happiness like unexpected rainclouds on a sunny day. Everyone reminisced how Mixoo used to play and boss around. They recounted many funny stories and we all missed him too much. I rapped my knuckles for scolding him the day before. I remembered him going out of my garden sad. Lunch felt tasteless and the afternoon slow. The evening aarti in the temple was an ordinary affair. I couldn’t swallow the truth that we would not see Mixoo again.
The next day, Swami Vidyananda came running to me most excitedly and said, “Swamiji! Mixoo is hale and hearty. He’s just fine!”
“But, Ma said he was taken to the hospital and treated and he couldn’t survive.”
“That was a different dog who had only just started coming here. Ma thought we called him Mixoo. He is naughty as ever. I just gave Mixoo bread with cream.”
I erupted in joy and went downstairs. There he was, wagging his tail vigorously. Looking at his shaking and swaying, one might even think his kundalini was awakened, if you see what I mean. I waved him down and he came running and began rolling on the grass in front of me.
For the next two days, Mixoo was treated like a VIP (Very Important Pet), a celebrity, and every resident of the ashram was elated and fed him all kinds of delicacies. I am sure that he was confused at the sudden display of this great love and attention. He must be thinking, “What did I do? What’s wrong with these guys? I hope they know that I am Mixoo. The Mixoo. Why me? Why now? Truly, humans are nuts, I tell you. A crazy bunch. Fried with me one day and drooling over the next. What’s going on!” I could not only understand his confusion but appreciate it too.
He was preferred over all the other mongooses, cats and other dogs for the next many days. And it drove home a beautiful lesson: sometimes, you don’t know how much you love someone until they walk out. Often, we take the presence of our loved ones for granted. When two people get used to each other, everything between them becomes a kind of norm: love, care, respect, affection and so on. While it’s a good thing, it has its downside too: when something becomes normal for us, we often stop valuing it. We start to feel that we no longer have to work on ourselves or on our relationships, that those good feelings will always remain. What had been a privilege, a blessing, all along is now seen as a right. Soon, such sense of entitlement creates expectations. Unfulfilled expectations, in turn, are the root cause of all sore relationships.
When two people grow apart, both start to focus on the negatives of each other. We only see Mixoo bossing around or marking towels and then one day when we can’t see him anymore, we find the same aspects naughty, even cute. All real and mature relationships undergo a phase of crisis when everything you know is challenged. In fact, it is only in stress that you really get to know how fragile or strong a relationship is. And, there’s only one thing that sets apart the couple who are celebrating their golden jubilee from the one who are fighting in a court within months of marriage. That is: in a healthy relationship, you focus on the positives in the other person while in a negative one, you do the opposite. When you focus on what’s good than what’s bad, you naturally learn to value what all is there. And when you truly value something, you work hard to protect it.
During a heavy downpour that flooded the streets and looked nothing short of a deluge from the time of Noah, a man entered a bakery. His umbrella was battered in the stormy rain and he was completely soaked.
“One bagel with cream cheese,” the man said.
“Just one?” the baker asked, surprised to see a customer at this hour.
“You must really love my bagels!”
“I don’t eat bagels. It’s to go.”
“Oh,” the baker said, “is it for your wife?”
“You think my mother would send me out in this weather for a bagel?”
It is easy to get carried away and think me-me-me, but a functional relationship is about a lot of patience, mutual care and respect. With such traits blossom the wild flower of love, spreading its fragrance all around, making life more beautiful and worthwhile. Since no man’s an island and considering that our memories, thoughts, desires and dreams have other people in them, we may as well value the people we already have in our lives. For, you always value what you truly love. And the only way to keep love is to love back. Love begets love.
(By the way, just two days ago, I saw Mixoo sauntering about the river side without a care in the world.)