A few weeks back I went to Delhi to see my parents. They still live in the same house where I grew up. It is a little older. The neighborhood is a bit more crowded. The sun fails in its valiant attempts to kiss the ground. The smog feels a little heavier. Air is a little hard hard to breathe. The decibels have inched higher. The power lines are locked in mortal combat with telephone and cable lines. A few more strays have joined the pack that barks all night. Things have changed.
Inside the house, it is 1980. The furniture has been upholstered. The clashing patterns challenge my inner sense of balance. The walls are lavender – my favorite color. What also hasn’t changed is my bed — the bed I slept in as a teenager, before getting a chance to occupy half of a storage area on our home’s mezzanine floor. Old clothes, steel trunks, an HMV record player, and a lot of books and a bed on the floor. You couldn’t stand there – the celling was only 5 feet high. It was okay spot to read and study and just be alone. I liked being alone – it was the biggest luxury of my life. It still is!
At night, I would mostly sleep in the bed in the living room. It is a hard wood bed – it is called a divan in local vernacular – with a thin cotton mattress, a thick bed sheet and a quilt that is heavy. The pillows are still a little lumpy. There is a big round one to just lounge against. The bed, the house and the way my parents engage with me is a good way for me to reset, recalibrate and recontextulize my life.
I don’t like to dwell in the past – unless of course it is music, movies and sometimes lost loves – and future is always brighter and more exciting, present just more real. Nevertheless a visit to my parents house is a chance to remember how far I have come and for once not worry about where I have to go. It is pretty easy to get a skewed perspective on life, success and failures by the expectations and achievements of an A-type society that is Silicon Valley.
Like many others, in this cesspool of ambition and billions, I have sometimes ended up calibrating self worth with some false metrics. Going back in time is a chance to measure what really matters – life spent doing things that matter. Regardless, since coming back, I have felt more at ease, reminded that in the end success is about living up to your expectations and not what others define as success.
April 24, 2016, Houston, Texas