The “think within the box” project has started. The idea – as I had explained before – is to fit all my clothes and shoes in a suitcase. This includes all summer, winter, office, home and running clothes and shoes. After about two hours, I managed to come out on the other side of Phase 1. Nikita helped me take the 150+ articles of clothing to the Goodwill center and give them away in donation.
As I was cleaning up the closets, I remembered what my brother and sister are having to do back in India after our parents’ demise. I felt vaguely good that after my death, others will have to spend less time getting rid of my stuff.
Coming up soon – phase 2. I have to tackle all the office clothes and winter clothes in that phase.
This week, in our annual all company meeting, we hosted one of the special needs (autistic) students and his mom. These are the kind of folks that we make products for (actually to help them and their teachers). We also hosted the CEO of the company the kid now works in. You can guess that he has become a fully functional socially contributing kid now.
I will write about the kid and his mom later (awaiting permission to publish their picture). But this piece is something the mom (please allow me to refer her by that till I get permission to publish names) read out when she was asked during the Q&A session – “What went thru your head when you realized that you kid has special needs?”
It is a piece (some call it a poem) written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987. The picture her is of the author and her son Jason, born with Down Syndrome.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND!!
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says,
“Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
The other day, Sharmila and I were hanging out with some friends and I was gently chiding her about all the clothes and shoes she has – that she never wears. I do not remember most of the rest of the discussion (no, she did not hit me on the back of my head causing me concussion) but I remember how the ladies agreed that they do not want to be seen twice in the same dress. I am sure, in the past, it was possible to abide by that rule and still wear a dress twice if the people to be met had not seen the dress before. Today, of course, with any party getting memorialized forever with obligatory pictures in social media – that wiggle room has gone right out of the window.
However, what I remember most is that Sharmila immediately retorted “You have lots of clothes in the basement too”. I brushed her comment aside chalking it up to be a defensive reaction from her.
But later, I did reflect upon those discussions and got stuck at that comment. While I certainly have far less clothes than her, it is true that I have a lot of clothes. I am defining “a lot” by stuff that I wear only a few times in a year.
That drove me to an uncomfortable realization that I probably suffer from the same challenge that I ridicule others about. Why do I have so many clothes? Why do I need 5 running shirts when 2 should be enough? Why do I have so many office shirts when 4 should be enough? (Even that, in these days of work from home, I am not sure I need all 4).
Lest it be ever said that I lack the capability to go from an awkward realization to a crazy decision faster than you can cry “Uncle”, I managed to conjure up my next personal challenge.
Can I live my life out of a suitcase?
Not all my stuff, mind you – for, it would be difficult to fit my motorbike in any suitcase – but at least, all my clothes, shoes and those stuff. Anything I wear. And if I buy anything new, one compensatory item has to go out.
No doubt I will be ridiculed for this clothes project – if not for anything else, for insisting on thinking inside the box only – but then again, I get ridiculed no less for my choices in what I wear anyways.
Have any of you ever tried such a project? Shridhar and Suzanne, I think you have some experience in this kind of minimalist living, right? Any tips on how to plan, what mistakes to avoid etc?
First thing first. I have to call dibs on the biggest suitcase we have in our house now!
After going thru all the posts in FB on Father’s Day, the stickler in me has a question – why do we write “Father’s Day”. It should be Fathers’ Day – right? (It is wishing all fathers). Just like we write Children’s Day (not Child’s Day) and Presidents’ Day (not President’s Day).
Google it up – it is always Father’s Day and not Fathers’ Day. Does not make sense to me.
Also, in that line, even more confusing is “Veterans Day”. There is no apostrophe at all!
I am not saying this impedes basic communication.
After all, It is not a catastrophe.
But still, it is an apostrophe.
Brought out one more vinyl record from the India trip, cleaned it up and listed to it. Nazrulgeeti by Anup Ghoshal. One of the favorite songs for my mom is on Side A – “Nai chiniley amaay tumi”
I think the words go this way…
“Nai chiniley amaay tumi
Roibo aadhek chena
Chaand ki janey kothay fotey
Chaandni raater hena”
“So what if I remain a stranger to you
Somebody vaguely familiar to you?
The moon does not know either
Where the fragrant flowers bloom in the moonlit night”