Upgrading to the sea view

Tea in BrightonAs I sit for breakfast, overlooking the sea at this hotel in Brighton (Southern England), I look out towards the turbulent waves hitting the pebbly shore and reconnect with my mum’s love of the ocean.

Mum grew up in Mombasa, a relaxing coastal town in East Africa. It’s where she had studied, formed close friendships and first met my dad. My brother and I, as we grew up, would hear stories of the infamous “lighthouse” where all the youth would gather outdoors in the evenings to hang out, for music and hot food – makai (corn on the cob), mogo (cassava) and chips, not forgetting madaf nu pani (coconut water) and perhaps other drinks they never told me about.

We’d had a number of beach holidays together over the years, with our last family holiday together in Aruba, just after I graduated from uni – again close to the water. When I attended a conference near Lago Maggiore in Italy and had sat by the lake on a beautiful June afternoon in 2005, I had vowed to take mum there so she too could enjoy a cappuccino overlooking the lake – but I never got round to taking her there. Now that I can, it’s of course too late.

This September will mark 10 years since mum died. A few weeks after she passed away, most of the family, including my maternal grandmother, had made the day trip to Brighton to scatter mum’s ashes, somewhere along the coastline that I’m overlooking right now.

If mum was here, staying at the same hotel, staying in the same part of the hotel (facing north so not overlooking the sea), I feel I would have upgraded her room to enjoy the sea view from her room. Even with limited mobility, at least she could have enjoyed that. Then I would have brought her down for breakfast to enjoy the sea view from the hotel restaurant. We would have had far too many mugs of tea together, making the most of the unlimited refills!

But sadly she is no longer around and these gestures no matter how grand or small, cannot come to fruition. This makes my eyes well-up realising the futility of my wishes for mum and I to have any more of those experiences together.

On this bright spring morning, as I finish my second mug of tea while overlooking the turbulent waves crashing against the pebbly Brighton shore, my heart is filled with sadness and regret.

While it’s been almost a decade since mum died, these feelings of regret are surfacing only now. I realise too, that while there’s nothing I can do to make up for all that’s left undone, it’s certainly within my reach to simply observe what’s coming up and let it pass in it’s own natural time, in it’s own natural way.

I have a choice now to either get bashed about by the rough waters or to upgrade to the sea view and calmly observe whatever comes up. Like each wave along Brighton’s coast that builds up momentum and gradually comes to rest, even these turbulent feelings will comes to pass.

New beginnings

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

“O Ahura, rise within me,
grant me steadfastness of purpose.
— The Atash Nyaish prayer, the Zoroastrian Gathas

Welcome to the new year, to a new start, to a new beginning.

The past year has been one of ups and downs. Many many ups, and just as many downs.

A year filled with gains and pleasures and delight. A year also filled with loss and pain and sufffering.

The year just gone has taught this for sure: all that we gain in the world around us, we will inevitably lose.

And that’s ok – that’s the nature of the world around us.

So let me salute this new year, this new beginning.

Let the year ahead have fewer ups and fewer downs.

Let me hold on less to what will inevitably go.

Let me uncover that which this precious life is.

Let the year ahead be one of purpose, of calm, of clarity.

Let the year ahead be one of peace for family, for friends, for colleagues and our neighbours.

Wishing you a happy, peaceful year ahead.

To be an ocean of love

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

This one’s to all the ladies who calmly endure pain and hardship, and to their husbands who lovingly care for their wife’s every single need — I salute you.

We’ve had a bereavement in the family. My wife’s aunt (we’ll call her ‘masi’) passed away at the age of 51. She had been facing an ongoing battle with cancer for many years. Masi leaves behind her husband (we’ll call him ‘masa’) and a 17 year old son.

At the prathna sabha — a prayer meeting where the community come together to take strength from detachment-cultivating songs and pay their condolences to the family — members of the family and community spoke about masi’s life and her virtues.

Samta bhaav: calmly enduring the ups and downs of life

Masi’s cancer was advanced. It had gotten into her bones and affected every part of her body. She was constantly in so much pain and yet her focus was clear. She knew she needed to remain calm, stay strong, persevere and raise her son to become the wonderful young man he is today.

In Jain dharma, there is a term known as “samta bhaav”. It means to have a feeling of calmness and peace in any given situation. It means to have equanimity regardless of the pushes and pulls and ups and downs of life.

Samta bhaav arises from a knowing that everything around us is merely temporary — it will come and go as appropriate, based on the knots we have bound to ourselves through our previous behaviours. Those knots we have bound in the past bring rise to these present situations in our life.

Samta bhaav is a feeling that arises as a result of knowing in the depths of our heart that we are wholly responsible for the situations that are manifesting in our lives right now. Our present behaviours — the way we endure the situations we face — will determine the knots we bind and the subsequent situations that present themselves to us.

Masi, through the day-to-day endurance of physical pain, demonstrated samta bhaav to us.

Despite what she was going through, she would have a smile on her face and not let talk about her medical condition dampen the vitality of her life and her family.

We can take inspiration from that, learn to ease our own suffering and eventually free ourselves from our own self-made traps.

Pyaar ka saagar: being an ocean of love

During the prathna sabha, there was a devotional song performed, titled ‘Tu pyaar ka saagar hain’ (external links: music video; lyrics translation).

The song expresses devotion towards the great souls who have experienced their true limitless inner bliss and freedom from suffering.

These great souls are an ocean of love, overflowing with compassion. We look to them to give us just one drop of love (from that ocean of love) to quench our thirst, our thirst for freedom and ultimately cure our otherwise endless suffering.

Pyaar ka saagar means ‘ocean of love’. By taking a drop from the ocean of love, may we also be free to fly across our own ocean of suffering.

During the words from family members shared at the end of the prathna sabha, masi’s eldest brother spoke briefly about masi’s virtues and then directed our attention towards masa (masi’s husband) — an embodiment of ‘pyaar ka saagar’, an ocean of love.

Masa, in all these years, stood firmly next to masi, taking care of her every single need. From the ups and downs, the holidays and the hospital visits, and everything in between, he was right there, by her side, supporting masi through the journey.

He would work hard at the office all day and then tend to masi in the evenings and throughout the night. He is someone who clearly understood his duty and continued to diligently fulfill it.

Masa personified an ocean of love by consistently being at masi’s side, helping her endure what life presented her with.

Striving to be an ocean of love

As the upcoming years and decades unravel, I hope that my wife never has to suffer any physical pain, emotional turmoil or mental anguish.

But if she has to face any of this, then I hope I have the strength, stamina and diligence to care for her every need and soften her day-to-day suffering.

I look towards masa, my father, grandfather and other great men out there, and seek to become an ocean of love just like them.