Cookie-Cutter World

I can remember a lot about my childhood—my beautiful, cookie-cutter childhood, and everything that defines it. I remember the curly headed, porcelain dolls that sat around tiny teacups I set on the floor for them; I remember the glass snow globes my papa bought for me that tinkled with sweet notes and whose snowflakes danced in the frame of a perfect, quaint village within; I remember the white, lace coverlets that draped across my bed at night and held me in their warmth until the rosy fingered dawn reached across the wood floors of my room. These are the emblems of my childhood—the things that hold memories.

Things. That is the word that defines much of my life. It’s all contained in things…objects.

I look at the communities we have been to: Dharavi, the rural villages in Gujarati, the slum in Ahmdebad, ESI, Manav Sadhna, and I realize the lack of worth in materials and objects. The people value love, friendship, gratitude, cleanliness, beauty, truth, and compassion more than the objects and things that I so valued as a little girl growing up in my material world.

And still now, I find flaws in our western society’s love and obsession with objects, for after a few years, the things we value so highly and protect so greatly, such as iPads or computers or cars, grow old.

The porcelain dolls I once lovingly cradled in my arms each day have been tossed up into the attic, forgotten; the snow globes that often lulled me to sleep have a thin film of dust over them; the coverlets I slept with are dirty and worn thin.

So often, the things we love and swear to cherish forever get old…or we get old. They become useless to us as they lose their purpose and as we find less entertainment in them.

To many of the people we have met in India, especially in Ahmdebad, materials and objects possess very little of their love. Their possessions are fewer and so their love for others and the things that do matter is greater. They open their hearts to strangers, and I have never experienced such a friendship with people I have only known a few days. They love with every fiber of their being, for they are not weighted down by the unnecessary baggage of love for possession.

Materials and things don’t really matter—or at least, they shouldn’t really matter. They come and go, they grow old and outdated, and they take up a place in our hearts where friends, family, and nature should be.

Now, I’m not saying to stop loving your iPhone or childhood teddy bear or BCBG dress, just don’t let them define your life. Let strangers into your heart; eat every grain of rice off your plate; talk to your family at dinner rather than fiddle with your iPhone.

There’s so much potential for beauty, love, compassion, and truth (the values of Manav Sadhna). Letting go of some of the objects that constitute our daily activities can help redefine our lives.