My wife’s not a Shah

Written by Suraj Shah.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

The name’s Shah, Suraj Shah. That’s what I’ve been born with, that’s what I’m still known as.

When I got married, I stayed as Suraj Shah. Naturally. The guy doesn’t change his last name for marriage, the girl does, right?

When I met my wife, she was called Heena Modi. Since getting married to me, she’s still known as Heena Modi. She refused to change it. I refused to force her.

It’s her identity. It’s what people in the community know her as. There are plenty of Heena Shah’s out there. There’s only one Heena Modi – to my knowledge. Makes it easy to identify the right wife!

What’s good about my wife is that she can comfortably go around being known as Heena Modi, but if anyone welcomes her as Mrs Shah or introduces us as Mr and Mrs Shah, she doesn’t make a big deal of it.

But when we’re out and about, and she introduces herself first, and then someone calls me Mr Modi, then impulsively I correct them by saying “It’s Mr Shah, actually”.

Why the need to correct?

What makes Heena so ok with being called Mrs Shah, but makes me so uncomfortable being called something other than Mr Shah? Why am I so precious about this name?

It’s my label, my identity, how people know me, the picture people paint of me when they hear the name. So I think.

Is the image of me as rosy as I think it is? Doubt it. I have my flaws – many of them – trying to keep them hidden so that my ‘image’ is not tarnished. But I bet people can see through that. I bet the people around me know what I’m really like – who I am beneath the layers of self-preservation.

Uncovering the layers to reveal the true self

Over the years, these layers have built up, one on top of the other, masking my real self, over and over again. These layers have hardened and protected me from the realities of the world – or so I thought.

What they’ve really done is that they have hidden away who I really am, and who I could be. It’s time to lose the layers, stop hiding, and face up to my true self.

Perhaps when I stop hiding, it’s won’t really matter whether I’m called Mr Shah, or something else.

Only protecting my own

Written by Suraj Shah.

When trouble’s brewing in your neighbourhood, what’s the first thing you do?

Mayhem has kicked off in London and across the UK. Riots are taking place, shops are being looted, buildings are set alight and innocent people are getting hurt.

Business owners have suffered great financial loss, through damage done to their property, goods stolen and loss of trade.

Families, the elderly and the vulnerable are terrified about the damage done in the world around them. They are scared about the harm that may come to them and those close to them.

Communities are shocked that their own locals are doing so much damage to their neighbourhood.

Reports say it’s the poor fighting against the rich. I say it’s the deluded battling with themselves.

As news reports roll though announcing trouble that has erupted, with security forces deployed, and total confusion about the cause of the riots, there is immediately one question on everybody’s mind:

“How will this affect me?”

Will I be in any danger? Will my family be ok? Will my friends stay safe? Is my house ok? Is my shop ok? Can I still get home from work or will the roads be blocked off?

We contact our wives and husbands and children and parents. We check with our neighbours that our homes and possessions are ok. We frantically scour the news reports to see how widespread the riots are, and whether we or our loved ones are likely to be affected.

Less thought is given to all the people suffering due to the riots – the victims and indeed the rioters themselves.

We tend only to focus on looking out for and protecting our own – those we consider as “me” and “mine”.

Looking beyond ourselves

However, once we are satisfied that we are ok and our own people and possessions are ok, then, and only then do we give consideration to how others in the community are, and whether they or those important to them have been affected in some way. Or do we…?

Hiding from the truth

The truth is that we tend not to care much about those people and things that we don’t have a strong relationship with. We hide behind fake sentiments and insensitive jokes. We try to create disconnection and escape from the graveness of the situation. We busy ourselves in our work and mundane worldly matters, hoping that we are not affected by the situation in any way.

This is real

There’s no hiding from it. This is real. What’s happening in the world around us is real. It’s on our doorstep, and we must face it with eyes open wide. Yes, we need to protect our family and those who depend on us. Yes, we also need to care for the well being of our neighbours and those in our communities. At the end of the day, we need to care for one another, with true friendship, for everyone.

Forgiveness settles anger

Friendship, true friendship, cultivates a sense of care for all living beings. It reduces the worry about our own possessions and relationships, and enhances care for everyone and all things, all at once.

Friendship, true friendship, cultivates forgiveness. It brings downs our egos and expectations, and encourages more acceptance and understanding. It doesn’t allow for even a glimpse of spite, malice or revenge.  It wipes out anger and replaces it with peace.

By enhancing friendship with all those in the world around you, it helps you develop understanding, trust and a deeper connection with your local and global community.

How to enhance the quality of friendship

Enhancing friendship means we:

  1. Smile at everyone we meet, rather than ignore anyone who is looking for connection.
  2. Appreciate the qualities of those we come across rather than focus on their faults.
  3. Care for those who are facing difficulties, rather than insult them with “I told you so”.
  4. Adjust to other people’s actions rather than demand our way all the time.
  5. Listen intently to what is being said, rather than carry out our own internal chatter.
  6. Communicate words of positive encouragement rather than contribute to fault-finding.
  7. Immerse in the conversation and make them feel special, rather that it being all about “me, me, me”.

Enhancing friendship is more important now than it has ever been before.

What do you do to cultivate friendship within yourself?

(Photo courtesy of Andy Armstrong)