I recently watched videos of two Commencement (Graduation) ceremonies at
two different universities in California. After more than two years of the
pandemic that kept the whole world in a vice-like grip, this was the first time
that a graduation was not virtual but in person.
Thousands of students who had endured the hardships and the consequences
of the trauma of isolation were parched for the freedom and joy of
celebration. As I saw thousands of graduates walking dressed in the full regalia
of their department’s individual gowns and hoods there was one thing that
struck me very forcefully. There was not a single face without a smile. They
waved to their families and friends; some wore colourful garlands and some
pumped the air in victorious happiness. But surpassing all that, what made the
main and deepest impact was the palpable exuberance born of years of hard
labour resulting in success.
Watching the scene I realized it is just that very exuberance that is the most
essential factor in our lives. This vast store of exuberance that is so evident
when we are young starts to wane as we get older and older and little by little gets suffocated in some people. The secret of remaining young and healthy is
to retain this exuberance in life.
Most elderly people who retain this exuberance remain young forever. Being
exuberant is more than just being happy. It is a lively cheerfulness that shines
through your eyes, your smile, your laughter and your speech. It is not
restrained by formality or politeness. It comes from deep within and is visible
for the entire world to see. Those who have this magic touch are those who
take interest in other people’s activities; those who take up new hobbies and
follow their passions and people who have let go of their ego, envy, greed and
There is no happiness greater than being devoid of all negative emotions and
being content in your own skin, being what you are and doing what you are
doing. The pleasure of seeing your children and grandchildren living their lives
blending honesty, integrity and hard work and tasting success is a tonic in
itself. Remaining independent and yet being part of a social community is
another vital factor that keeps one healthy and active.
Apart from being in the heart of a very friendly social environment it is vital to
be at peace in the deep corners of one’s own mind and heart. Get rid of all the
burden of past mistakes – your own or others. Forget all hurt and all memories
of bad experiences. One way of doing this is to surround yourself with objects
that give you emotional and mental comfort.
Some of my prized possessions are not exquisite cut glass, delicate porcelain or
antique silver but a small pine cone, a rather jagged piece of rock, a deep
burgundy coloured stone the size of a large lemon and an egg shaped
paperweight with swirls of vibrant rainbow colours.
When I look at the pine cone nestling against the photograph of a young man
with deep dimples and a broad smile that reaches all the way to his bright eyes
I wing back to the rain washed afternoon in Long Island with a perfect rainbow
arching overhead. My son and I walked and talked – magical hours of deep
bonding that came unplanned and unannounced. I can feel the gentle pressure
of his hand on my shoulder – loving and protective – while he played with a
pinecone in the other; talking animatedly and passionately about his hopes
and plans for the future. As we neared home I quietly took the cone from his
hand – to cherish the moment forever.
The jagged piece of rock is a part of history, a small piece of the Berlin Wall.
While many such “pieces of the Berlin Wall” were manufactured to meet a
flourishing tourist trade, this is a genuine fragment given to me by a dear
friend who picked it up on the site and it reminds me of all the lives lost, tears
shed and hearts broken. It is also a chastening reminder that human emotions
and manmade regimes, no matter how powerful, come a cropper with time.
The lemon sized, deep wine coloured stone, with the rich glow still trapped
inside is a large uncut garnet gifted to me by an uncle who had worked in the
mines of Rajasthan – a colourful personality and a great raconteur. In moments
of stress, this uncut jewel from the depths of the earth; a rock that was formed
over many years; a small part of this earth that itself is a miniscule fragment of
the universe gives me great strength by restoring a right perspective of
everything around me. It fits snugly into my palm, transferring to me some of
its cool serenity and timeless patience that it has absorbed from the earth and
The spectacular and stunning colours swirling in the conical paperweight are all
the more remarkable given its humble yet dramatic origin — volcanic ash from
an eruption that wiped out a whole township. It is a picture of nature’s fury,
becalmed and frozen in a work of art. A reminder that nature can never be
tamed just treated with respect.
Fragrances wafting from stored clothes, little notes left around the house, a
pressed flower, children’s drawings and messages of love scrawled in crayon
that trigger pleasant memories – these are some of my favourite things.
Ultimately that is what life is all about isn’t it?
by Mrs Malati Jaikumar, resident of Covai S3 Retirement Community
Reblog – originally published as a podcast at CovaiVani