It’s the Little Things that Matter.
Last month Dad turned 68. Every year, my sister and I ask Dad what he’d like for his birthday. Every year he comes up with the silliest of requests – a pair of new socks, a set of handkerchiefs and such souvenirs. Frustrated, we always ask him, “How can you ask for such trivial things? It’s your birthday! Ask for something grand!”
Last year was no different. He asked for a pair of shorts and track pants. Knowing how fussy he is about the colour and cloth of his attire, we suggested he come along to choose what he liked. This was a few days before 6thMarch 2018. Guess when we went shopping?
21st February, 2019.
Yes, it took us that long to coax, plead and finally force him into buying his much-belated birthday gift.
So we went shopping and as expected Dad started playing up. He probably thinks we don’t know why he always made those silly requests – they came cheap. A self-made man to the core, Dad has lived through some hard times in life and has had to make some very big sacrifices. Naturally, he’s been watchful of his expenditure. I don’t blame him; after all, those very sacrifices he’s made over the years have given us the very lifestyle we have today. But now we want him to enjoy the fruits of his labour, and give himself and Mom the comfort they deserve.
After much discussion, we bullied Dad and bought 2 track pants, 3 pairs of shorts and even a T-shirt! We’d noticed him eyeing them but as soon as he saw the prices, he started saying, “It’s not that good”. But my sister and me can be worse than the most seasoned goons when need be. After putting up a tiny fight, he finally gave in. We paid the bill and left the store with huge grins on our faces.
On the way home, Dad remarked, “I’ve never spent so much on my clothes! It feels great!” His daughters were obviously thrilled – we felt like we’d bought him a Ferrari! He showed off his new clothes to Mom who was shocked (that we succeeded in bullying Dad into submission) and delighted (that he let us spend so much on him). At that moment, there wasn’t a happier family in the world 🙂
It led me to wonder… we hadn’t bought him an expensive suit, car or even a big TV. Shorts and track pants? That’s home wear! And yet, had we really gotten him a Ferrari, we wouldn’t have been so happy. It was the best birthday gift ever. Dad experienced something new too – that sometimes spending that hard-earned money on yourself is alright. And letting your kids splurge on you is ok too. There is no greater pleasure for them.
That night I went to sleep with a ton of gratitude in my heart. The little I’ve earned or achieved enabled me to bring such great joy to my parents. I’m in no way a millionaire, not even close, but I sure did feel like one that day.
I also realized that gifts needn’t always be grand. It’s the little things that actually make you happiest.
There are people who wake up to breakfast in bed, brought in by a butler. I’m excited to wake up to the calls of my three furry squirrel friends on the tree outside. There are those who eat fancy meals and drink expensive coffee. I’m on cloud nine with a Mumbaiyya ‘cutting’ in one hand and a vada pav (with that dry red chutney, of course) in the other. People gift each other designer watches and chocolates. I was jumping for joy when my friends gave me a watermelon slice-shaped eraser last month! Does that mean I’m compromising or stingy? NO.
My sister and I often sit and simply watch our parents. We’ve often been told that we “ought to” buy our parents a bigger TV, higher-end phones or tablets to “keep themselves entertained”. It made us doubt ourselves – are we bad daughters? Are we failing miserably in keeping our parents happy? Are we depriving them of all those wonderful luxuries their peers and friends enjoy?
Then we see Dad laughing his head off while watching a movie on our 22-inch TV, Mom singing (sometimes dancing) along to the most preposterous songs, both pulling each others’ legs over Rishi Kapoor (Mom’s favourite actor) and Neetu Singh (Dad’s favourite actress).
A simple truth shines through the clouds of self-doubt: there is no competition or contest when it comes to happiness. Buying a small TV was a choice our parents made, and they’re content with it. Size, price, brands and trends are of no consequence. What matters most is Contentment, with a capital C. Watching a comedy on a small TV does not make it any less funny. What greater proof does one need than seeing with your own eyes the cheerful, content faces of your loved ones!
Occasionally we watch the stars or the moon together. We give each other head massages (I always end up giving Dad a new hairstyle after every ‘champi’ session and he keeps it that way all evening). We pull Mom’s cheeks and tickle their feet and do all the things that most would definitely find weird for our age. But it doesn’t bother us. All these little joys enrich our lives like nothing else ever can.
To be able to enjoy them, live them, value them is the biggest joy. And for that I am eternally grateful. Helen Lowrie Marshall sums it up beautifully in her poem called “Little Things”:
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