The day before, I met my grandmother after almost a year. The last time I saw her, she was an incredibly independent 85+ years old lady, who was always dressed well, regular with her daily Yoga- putting the rest of us to shame, mentally alert and coherent, with an autonomous routine as well as hobbies. Over the past months, she has been working hard with the rest of the family, to bring back full mobility to her limbs and mouth after a paralytic attack.
Yesterday we had the very unfortunate news of a paralytic attack on a dear Aunt.
Perhaps it is a coincidence, but something pushed me to drive again today after a full decade. On the car on which I had first learnt to drive, I took to the busy Delhi roads today (with my brother as the brave enabler).
My husband and I are fortunate to be living in a part of the world where public transport is flawless. Everything is so well-connected that one is simply better off not owning a car. And yet I often feel the urge to go off the main roads and paths- not on the paths that have already been pre-approved and decided for me.
When we visit home (Delhi), we are always going places with family, and there’s always someone who drives. Else there is the now-effervescent boon of cabs on demand. And yet, I feel somewhere that I am confined. I cannot take off on my own. Any time I fancy. For no reason.
Perhaps these are idle fancies. But there is a strong voice building up: “I want to feel that if I want, I can”.
There’s something about this phrase, “If I want, I can”, which I realize guides so many of my decisions- minor ones, like number of dresses I pack for a holiday so I can pick the exact shade of green I may want to wear next week.. as well as major ones, like how much one needs to earn so that one can afford purple hair implants if one ever felt the need.
The quest for self-determination is perhaps the very quest to feel fully realized as a human.
Sometimes one consciously works very hard to achieve this feeling.. at other times it is important to remind oneself not to take the privilege one already has, for granted.. It is ironical that the latter is often infinitely more precious than the former. So thank you God, even if I don’t say it often enough, for these and more.
If I want, I can walk to wherever I want on my own two feet.
If I want, I can cook my own food, and feed those I love.
If I want, I can buy an expensive trinket without having to count my pennies.
If I want, I can help someone for nothing in return.
If I want, I can break into a dance to express or feel joy.
If I want, I can cry alone and wipe my own tears so no one may know.
If I want, I can throw things in anger.
If I want, I can buy or make gifts for love.
If I want, I can hug tight enough so no words are needed to say how much I love or miss you.
If I want, I can visit a far-away place where the sun melts into the sea every evening.
If I want, I can speak with a loved one far away in a moment when I most miss them.
Is there anything more important- than feeling that one has the opportunity, resources, and ability to do what one needs to do, to feel satisfied? That one does not feel helpless, or bound? That one feels in control of their life?
Driving down the now-unfamiliar roads today, sweating nervously on a cold-ish November day, blabbering incoherent threats and requests to jaywalkers and jay-drivers 20m away on the road, reflecting with some amusement on my own transformation as a driver from a decade back, I was convinced that there indeed was something more important than knowing “If I want, can”: It is, “I did, while I could.”
And I can only guess, that perhaps this thought cheers up those on whom limits have been frustratingly set (as will be for all of us some day), but who’ve always lived their life with a positive spirit.